VMware drives cloud orchestration & operations at edge

VMware used its VMware Explore 2023 conference in Las Vegas this week to cover a raft of announcements. Among the key news items is the newly launched VMware Edge Cloud Orchestrator, a technology designed to enable organizations to deploy, manage and secure edge-native Applications and infrastructure.

The company reminds us that enterprises and service providers are working hard to deliver new edge computing estates and that Internet of Things (IoT) edge deployments today are proprietary integrations of custom hardware and software. All of which is leading to a new notion of a software-defined edge that is intelligent, programmable and scalable. 

The newVMware Edge orchestration technology has capabilities to orchestrate and manage multiple edge services at scale; the company has also brought forward a new retail edge industry solution to support customer engagement, loss prevention and point-of-sale transformation; and also (not quite available yet, but soon) the VMware Edge managed connectivity service, enabling wireless service providers to deliver private 4G/5G services to enterprises.

VMware Edge Cloud Orchestrator

“The growing demand for edge computing across industries is driving the need for automation and orchestration,” said Sanjay Uppal, senior vice president and general manager of service provider and edge division at VMware. “The VMware Edge Cloud Orchestrator is a powerful new tool that extends our proven network automation and orchestration capabilities to help organizations more securely and cost-effectively install, configure, operate and maintain their edge deployments. Building on our history of scaling edge networking from carriers to enterprise, VMware Edge Cloud Orchestrator is the first truly software-defined edge solution for scalable ‘end-to-edge’ infrastructure.”

VMware says that the challenge in achieving the goal of leveraging the edge effectively is the complexity across people, processes and technology. This includes a lack of reliable connectivity with a central datacenter or cloud location, a lack of IT expertise on-site at disparate sites and the need to scale deployments to thousands of sites, often across domains and geographic boundaries.

The news here then focuses on new and enhanced orchestration capabilities for the edge. VMware Edge Cloud Orchestrator (formerly VMware SASE Orchestrator), which will provide unified management for VMware SASE and the VMware Edge Compute Stack – an offering to bridge the gap between edge networking and edge compute. 

Plan, deploy, run, visualize & manage 

Enhancements to the orchestrator will help customers plan, deploy, run, visualize and manage their edge environments in a friction-free manner – allowing them to run edge-native applications focused on business outcomes. The VMware Edge Cloud Orchestrator (VECO) will deliver holistic edge management by providing a single console to manage edge compute infrastructure, networking and security.

VMware defines the software-defined edge as a distributed digital Infrastructure that runs workloads across a number of locations, close to endpoints that are producing and consuming data. It extends to where the users and devices are—whether they are in the office, on the road or on the factory floor. 

Enterprises need solutions to connect these elements more securely and reliably to the larger enterprise network in a scalable manner. VMware Edge Cloud Orchestrator is key to enabling a software-defined edge approach. VMware’s approach to the software-defined edge features right-sized infrastructure (shrinking the stack to the smallest possible footprint); pull-based orchestration (security and administrative updates are “pulled” by the workload); and network programmability (defined by APIs and code).

“Audi wants to take factory automation to the next level and benefit from a scalable edge infrastructure at its factories worldwide,” said Jörg Spindler, Global Head of Manufacturing Engineering, Audi. “Audi’s Edge Cloud 4 Production will be the key component of this digital transformation, replacing individual PCs and hardware on the shop floor. Ultimately, it will increase factory uptime, agility and the speed of rolling out new applications and tools across the production line. VMware Edge Compute Stack (ECS) and the VMware Edge Cloud Orchestrator (VECO) will offer a scalable way for Audi to operate a distributed edge infrastructure, manage resources more efficiently and lower its operations costs.”

VMware Edge Compute Stack 

Enterprises have come across and addressed edge computing use cases on shop floors, in stores, on oil rigs etc. 

According to IDC, edge computing has gone mainstream as the ability to distribute applications and data to field locations is a key element of most digital transformation initiatives. Worldwide spending on edge computing is expected to be $208 billion in 2023, an increase of 13.1% over 2022.

Building off the VMware Edge Cloud Orchestrator launch, VMware also unveiled new orchestration capabilities for VMware Edge Compute Stack based on Project Keswick. Keswick is available as a Technology Showcase today and allows edge administrators to work with VMware to develop use cases. Customers will benefit from simplified lifecycle management of virtual machine (VM)- and containers-based applications and infrastructure. The technology offers pull-based configuration with zero touch provisioning and supports GitOps principles for desired state management. With scalable deployment and operations capabilities, it will also help customers automate security updates across edge infrastructure and will be ideal for edges lacking a stable inbound network connection.

VMware Edge Compute Stack’s support for new and existing applications enables customers to consolidate hardware and modernize applications at their own pace. The low-latency architecture helps operate high-speed robotics as well as share GPU resources across applications. This reduces infrastructure and management overhead enabling customers to scale their edge operations for innovations today and in the future. VMware provides the reliability and resilience customers require to repeatably run the most stringent Operational Technology (OT) applications.

Supporting diverse use cases

Overall then, VMware says it offers enterprises the right edge solution to address diverse use cases at the right price. It is collaborating with customers to address the following edge use cases: Manufacturing – Support for autonomous vehicles, digital twin, inventory management, safety and security. Retail – Support for loss prevention, inventory management, safety, security and computer vision. Energy – Enable increased production visibility and efficiency, reduced unplanned downtime, maintain regulatory compliance; and, Healthcare – Support for IoT wearables, smart utilities and surgical robotics.