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VMware partners with the US Government on RINGS, a multi-sector Public Private Partnership to shape the future of communications.

By: David Tennenhouse & Kaniz Mahdi

As our world grows more interconnected, we are at the precipice of a new chapter in digital technology. The ever-increasing fusion of mass-scale connectivity, artificial intelligence, and autonomous machines will enable digital experiences unlike anything we’ve seen before. To get there though, we will need a different breed of communication networks than exists today. One that’s smarter, more reliable, and more secure. A network that can re-architect itself on the fly to adapt to newly discovered threats and constantly evolving needs.  

VMware is excited to partner with the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Defense (DoD) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on a historic Public Private Partnership that brings together technology leaders from cloud, networking and wireless industries to shape this next chapter of networking evolution. Resilient and Intelligent Next-Generation Systems (RINGS), is an industry first initiative that takes a multi-sector, multi-disciplinary approach to building the foundation for the future of communications. It is expected to provide $40 million in grants for advanced studies guided by multi-dimensional research vectors targeting various facets of this foundation.

These research vectors range from advancement of enabling technologies, such as terra-hertz communication, to embedded security, resiliency and scalability of the underpinning edge to cloud continuum, and discovery of new applications paradigms taking shape with the evolution of XR, such as the spatial web.

A Focus on Resiliency

As we move from 5G, to 6G and beyond, communications services will grow more tightly intertwined into our daily lives. As they do, it will become ever more important that these services are reliable and secure. One of the core goals of RINGS is to inspire innovation to drastically reduce the vulnerable attack surface of our critical systems. Indeed, while most current systems are built for performance first, resiliency second, RINGS will invert this inside-out model.

This philosophical shift aligns with VMware’s own vision for NextG, which we believe requires a different approach than those used in past generations. In fact, we recently launched the Open Grid Alliance, with our industry partners, which focuses on the need to rearchitect the internet from the outside-in, as opposed to the inside-out. We have long argued that resiliency cannot be bolted on after the fact. Rather, it must be a product of the security, adaptability, autonomy, and reliability that systems are baked in from the ground up – intrinsic security, software-defined control, and dynamic automation are the bedrock of our service provider portfolio. By entrenching these principles at the core of NextG innovation, RINGS will not only help create more secure communications networks, but it will also ensure the ease of continued growth and innovation for tomorrow’s services.  

We believe the key to improving resiliency is virtualization (see Kaniz’s recent blog on the topic). It is virtualization, after all, that abstracts away the complexities of heterogeneous underlying technologies and allows us to unify disparate services within a cohesive whole. Inside NextG systems, virtualization enables adaptation, federation, and optimization of heterogeneous elements to improve network resiliency and performance.

A Focus on Intelligence

As global communication networks evolve through 5G, 6G and beyond, the number of connections will increase exponentially. The network will need to become increasingly distributed to enable new services that are more customized and on-demand. At the same time, to deliver these next-generation services, networks will need to operate not just holistically but collectively. To this end, the RINGS calls for cooperative research innovation and which will most likely lead to the importance of open standards – critical pieces to enable universally autonomous networks.

The foundation of universal autonomy is intelligence—and not just intelligence that lives in a centralized data center or cloud, but intelligence that can be distributed anywhere and everywhere. It is this distributed intelligence that will allow us to bridge the gap between physical and digital worlds. It will enable us to progress from today’s networks, which are optimized for human-to-human and human-to-machine connections, to ones that facilitate autonomous machine-to-machine communication at massive scales. Across networks, clouds, and geographies, NextG systems will autonomously distribute intelligence everywhere, all the way to the user, to enable highly interactive immersive experiences merging digital and physical worlds.  

Ready to Engage?

As we lay the groundwork for unprecedented digital experiences of tomorrow, there has never been a more exciting time to be in the communications industry. If you would like to participate in shaping the next generation of communication networks, RINGS has issued its first call for proposals from the research community. Visit now to apply for grants, which are expected to be issued in early 2022. The NSF will also hold a webinar on RINGS for researchers who are interested in applying on May 27, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pacific. Check back here for the registration link, which will be posted as soon as it is available.

Reimagining the Edge with an Open Grid

VMware is pleased to congratulate Kaniz Mahdi, Vice President of Advanced Technologies, on being named among the “Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology” by the 2021 National Diversity & Leadership Conference. At VMware, Mahdi is responsible for crafting our long-term vision for tomorrow’s distributed edge. In this role, she explores some of the most challenging—and interesting—ideas that will define tomorrow’s digital experiences. As part of this work, she is spearheading VMware’s participation in the newly announced Open Grid Alliance.

In today’s technology landscape, all the action is happening at the edge: 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR/VR), connected vehicles, and so on and so forth. The list of interactive applications enabled by distributed edge computing keeps getting longer. And yet, when we look closely at many of them, we reach an unavoidable conclusion: There is no single location for the edge: It’s nowhere, but everywhere. 

To unleash transformative innovations at the edge, what we need is a fungible edge. One that stitches together the right level of compute resources, in the right place, at the right time, driven by the application’s intent. As exciting as emerging edge technologies from hyperscale cloud providers and telecommunications service providers might be, the truth of the matter is that it’s near impossible for one technology provider to deliver this vision; the edge is just too distributed, too dynamic, and too heterogenous for a singular service provider to tackle it all.

 A truly fungible edge is best delivered when stakeholders at all levels of the hardware and software stack work collaboratively to build the end construct. VMware is working with technology leaders across multiple industries to make this vision a reality, and it’s about to upend the way we think about the edge—and eventually the Internet itself.

The Case for the Open Grid

If you’ve read my recent blogs about the ATIS Next G Alliance and the work being done to prepare for 6G, you’ll notice a common theme: Today’s networks just can’t do some of the things we need it to do to unleash tomorrow’s most innovative applications. The Internet was designed for almost exactly the opposite of what those applications require. That is, it’s built from the inside out, with most intelligence delivered from huge, centralized data centers. But now, billions of things generating petabytes of data are pulling the Internet’s center of gravity to the edge.

These internet-connected things are not just the low power sensors of yesterday, these are the voice assistants of today, the robo genies of tomorrow, and highly interactive XR gadgets embedded in our automated lives of the near future.

In my 6G blog noted above, we introduced a stepwise plan for evolution of the edge by bridging the wireless, cloud and networking industries with an open ecosystem approach. This approach would enable the vastly interactive experiences of the 5G era while also paving a way for the fully immersive experiences being shaped by the fusion of XR with our daily lives. A quick recap of our stated ambition:

  1. Begin by virtualizing the data center to build a logical pool of adaptive compute resources spanning multiple geographies.
  2. Compliment this by virtualizing the networking to make the network invisible to the user.
  3. Next, virtualize the edge, bringing together disparate providers in a compute grid that provides just the right level of compute, in the right place, at the right time, driven by the application intent.
  4. With the compute grid in place, take on the more interesting challenge of virtualizing the control to enable universal autonomy with an ‘intelligence grid’, our ultimate ambition with the Open Grid.

This is a significant undertaking that is not possible with just one company, or one industry, or an academic institution. It will require deep collaboration across the wireless, cloud and networking industries in concert with industry ecosystems and the academia. To this end, we’re happy to announce the launch of the Open Grid Alliance.

Welcome to the Open Grid

The Open Grid will be a software-defined system that stretches across the globe to support multi-cloud services via fungible resources that are employed when and where they are needed, on demand, and with guarantees and SLAs. The Open Grid combines all of the necessary components to support the next generation of applications. It contemplates the complete stack, from the fiber in the ground to the AI and applications that deliver value to the end user.

The Open Grid Alliance brings together industry’s best and brightest to attack this problem. The alliance will advance a manifesto and a set of guiding principles for the formation of an Open Grid. This includes the basic infrastructure elements such as compute, connect, and store, but also the sophisticated time-sensitive capabilities needed for real-time sense and act. Crucially, this vision won’t involve just one provider’s technologies. It will combine many technologies and vendors working together in a neutral framework where all participants can benefit from their contributions, while individual stakeholders can innovate in unique and differentiated ways.  

An Analogy with the Electric Grid

You can think of the Open Grid as similar, in some ways, to the power grid.

In the power grid, energy is generated and transferred from many sources (wind, solar, traditional power plants, etc.). When you need electricity to turn on your light, you flip the switch, and the electric grid provides what you need. Meanwhile, the rest of the pooled energy – collected from many sources including consumers – remains available for other consumers to get what they need.

The Open Grid will bring the same approach to distributed edge computing. It will act as a neutral marketplace where diverse participants publish their available compute resources, as well as their services and requirements. Then, when a user or application needs those resources, the Open Grid will stitch them together dynamically and extend “one-hop” connectivity wherever it’s needed.

With the Open Grid, developers won’t have to worry about underlying infrastructure components. They’ll just express the application’s requirements, and the Open Grid will meet them. Consumers will get better services, since their applications can access far more available compute resources. Enterprises will get better distributed technical capabilities. And cloud and telecom service providers will gain new revenue streams as well as new tools to stitch together next-generation experiences for their customers.

Open Grid Experiences

What can you do with the Open Grid? The possibilities are limitless. Of course, it becomes much easier to access state-of-the-art compute capabilities anywhere and everywhere. This will be particularly important in places farthest away from major urban hubs, or in markets like Europe and the Middle East, where many more parties are involved in the infrastructure underpinning new services. But the Open Grid can do much more.

There are new technologies emerging which create massive distributed digital representations of the physical world. Effectively, the Open Grid becomes the plumbing for ubiquitous, highly accurate global real-time AR experiences. Or, more prosaically, imagine a next-generation sports stadium that offers state-of-the-art digital experiences for tens of thousands of spectators—at least, on gameday. What happens to all those edge resources on the many days of the month when the stadium sits empty? With the Open Grid, that spare edge compute capacity can be reallocated, even as the system ensures the stadium always has the guaranteed resources it needs.  

Stay Tuned

We’re just at the beginning of the Open Grid journey. Given the hidden complexities of systems at hand, and the breadth of scope, this initiative is likely to unfold over many years, but it’s starting right now.

Today, VMware joined with Vapor IO, Dell, Drivenets, MobiledgeX, and Packet Fabric to officially launch the Open Grid Alliance. We’re taking concrete steps to reimagine the edge and unleash the next generation of immersive experiences with the Open Grid, and we’re hoping you’ll join us for the journey.

Be sure to learn more by reading the press release and visiting www.opengridalliance.org.


  • TITLE – Building the Open Grid
  • DATE/TIME – April 27, 2021 | 10:00AM CT – 10:45AM
  • Cole Crawford, Founder & CEO of Vapor IO, and myself, Kaniz Mahdi, Vice President Advanced Technologies of VMware, discuss our vision for the Grid, the founding of the Open Grid Alliance, and the applications that Grid technologies and the Grid ecosystem will enable. 


Evolving 5G as we Pave a Path Toward 6G 

In my last blog, I talked about VMware’s participation in the newly formed ATIS NextG Alliance. If you follow the research community around wireless technologies, you’ll note that this is just one of several industry organizations focused on upcoming wireless generations—commonly referred to as “Beyond 5G” (B5G). Already, we see B5G/6G initiatives launching from 3GPP, IEEE, ITU, the 6G Flagship Program in Europe, China’s new 6G satellite program, and several others. All of which raises the question: If we’re still in early days of deploying 5G, why is there already so much activity around what comes next? Let’s take a closer look.

Evolution of the Next Big G

Let’s start by looking at it from a pure wireless generation evolution perspective. Tradition holds that every generation introduces a new service concept. To support the new concepts, groundwork is laid for aligned evolution of radio and other essential elements. It isn’t until the next generation comes along that the work needed for full-scale adoption is completed. This pattern can be traced all the way back — cellular telephony introduced in 1G saw mass adoption in 2G, packet data was introduced in 3G, but full benefits weren’t reaped until Long Term Evolution of the architecture with 4G.

Another notable observation here is that mass adoption of almost every new wireless service introduced by 3GPP in the past has been led by an over the top phenomenon. Apple App Store being the 3G surprise, and the rise of the hyper scale cloud in early 2000s created a demand side pull for massive broadband. In turn, this enabled mass dissemination of compute which gave rise to services like uber – unthinkable without this powerful duo at play.

5G is no different – only a bit broader in its original ambition. The previous generations have been focused on evolution of wireless systems for higher performance and bandwidth, improving the quality of experience for human centric communications and content consumption and entertainment. 5G is the first generation of wireless designed for highly interactive collaboration amongst ‘smart things’, be it humans, machines, cyber-physical systems or any combination of the above. Antiquated technologies underpinning currently prevalent Packet Data Networks (including the wireless networks) designed and optimized for remote human consumption are seriously challenged with the new service characteristics vectors being shaped with machine centric communication and collaboration.

Hence, a new plan, design and operations paradigm was envisaged for 5G with a few key elements deemed essential to a solid foundation for the unprecedented applications ecosystem anticipated with 5G. We’ve come a long way with implementation of these essential elements, thanks to the leadership from 3GPP global community and telecommunications service provider led efforts (e.g. massive broadband, cloud native 5G and pervasive connectivity) but much remains to be completed for some of the broader elements that sit at the cross section of wireless, networking and cloud.

Below is a rough score card of our progress on these essential 5G elements, in the order of maturity from left to right:

As service providers prepare for their initial 5G deployments, mainly targeting broadband access and New Radio capacity augmentation of LTE for network densification, the research community continues to unravel the more complex challenges. These challenges include areas around network programmability and autonomics which must be addressed before we are able to take a crack at Time Sensitive Communications – the most interesting element of the 5G foundation.

At VMware, we think it’s critical that someone like us—a company that has one foot in the world of service provider networks and the other foot in the cloud—help lead this new chapter of 5G evolution.


How VMW is shaping the new chapter of 5G evolution toward NextG

A 5G connected world is anticipated to be an ecosystem of interconnected intelligence components, systems and fabrics enabled with fusion of technologies that sit at the intersection of wireless, networking and cloud industries. VMware aims to bridge these somewhat disparate industries for unification of cross-sectional technologies that maximizes the interoperability while maintaining individual differentiation of each for a sustainable win-win for all.

We analyze below, foundational imperatives of this unification for 5G era, paving a path toward 6G:

  1. Virtualize the data center: We need the ability to adapt, federate, and optimize heterogeneous resources that span multiple physical data centers managed by disparate providers, across multiple geographies, as a unified pool of adaptive compute capabilities. 
  2. Virtualize the network: Next, we need to be able to adapt, federate, and optimize heterogeneous networks to enable distributed applications that span multiple providers, across multiple geographies such that the underlying networks become invisible to the application.
  3. Virtualize the edge: We need the ability to adapt, federate, and optimize heterogeneous platforms spanning multiple providers, across multiple geographies to enable a fungible edge that continuously optimizes itself to maintain QOE across vastly interactive, highly mobile, distributed applications.
  4. Virtualize the control: Finally, we need to be able to adapt, federate, and optimize heterogeneous entities contributing to collaborative controls applications that are distributed across multiple intelligence agents that span multiple providers and geographies, ultimately leading to universal autonomy with complete virtualization of control.

We realize that this is a significant undertaking that can only be successful with a strong collaborative effort bringing together best and brightest of all the relevant industries. We are developing a world-class ecosystem to help unravel these challenges in a real-world setting. With the unique combination of our long-standing leadership in virtualization and our deep expertise in service provider and data center networks, VMware is perfectly positioned to drive harmonization across wireless, cloud and networking industries. And, we are already doing it through our participation in cross-functional industry groups like 5G Americas, ATIS NextG Alliance, 5G Open Innovation Lab and many others.

These NextG imperatives align closely with the major initiatives VMware is pursuing right now. Today, we’re partnering with our key customers to enable edge-to-cloud virtualization underpinned with our multi-cloud 5G edge platform. We’re also building a new generation of network controls and intelligence to lay a solid foundation for the most ambitious goal of tomorrow’s networks: universal autonomy. When the industry comes together to realize universal autonomy, VMware will be right in the thick of it.

Join us in our journey toward 6G by leaving comments on this blog and following us on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Want to know more about what we’re doing in 5G? Watch this video.