Nokia today announced that its next-generation 5G AirScale Cloud RAN solution based on vRAN2.0 will be commercially available this year with general availability expected in 2021, following a series of successful trials. Nokia’s first-generation 5G AirScale Cloud RAN based on vRAN1.0, which has a virtualized Central Unit (vCU), has been in commercial operation on a mmWave network in the U.S. since early 2019. Nokia’s new vRAN2.0 solution introduces a virtualized Distributed Unit (vDU) as well as a Fronthaul Gateway. The result is a fully cloudified and disaggregated 5G base station that provides scalability, low latency, high performance and capacity, as well as several network architecture options, to meet ever-increasing market demands. The solution helps operators to generate revenue from new 5G services as well as to enable flexible end-to-end network slicing, meet IoT requirements and bring the overall benefits of cloud computing to Radio Access Networks (RAN).
The first Nokia 5G AirScale Cloud RAN solution with a vCU in vRAN1.0 configuration was taken into large-scale commercial use in the U.S. in 2019. Since then, Nokia has evolved the solution to vRAN2.0 configuration with a Distributed Unit (DU) running on General Purpose Processor (x86)-based computing with hardware acceleration in Layer 1 (L1).
Nokia has now successfully completed end-to-end 5G data calls in a full end-to-end system consisting of Nokia Cloud Packet Core, Nokia 5G AirScale Cloud RAN in vRAN2.0 configuration with full baseband in Cloud, Nokia Fronthaul Gateway, and a commercial 5G device. Both real-time and non-real-time sensitive baseband computing across vDU and vCU ran in x86-based Nokia AirFrame Open Edge Servers and Nokia AirFrame Rackmount Servers. Standard off-the-shelf Intel Vista Creek hardware acceleration was used for specific parts of the real-time sensitive L1 computing in the vDU. This helps to boost the performance even further without impacting the fully cloud-based implementation. Since 2018, Nokia Bell Labs has been working on the potential of using Graphics Processing Units for hardware acceleration, and Nokia expects these ‘vRAN3.0’ solutions to become mature in 2022.
Nokia’s 5G AirScale Cloud RAN solution is also specifically designed to reuse the existing network assets. For example, Nokia’s Fronthaul Gateway solution offers an evolution path for operators to upgrade existing CPRI-based radios to eCPRI-based AirScale 5G Cloud RAN. It can run as a standalone unit or fully integrated with the vDU on an optimized Nokia AirFrame Open Edge Server, which is the first x86-based product in the world built and tailored for edge cloud and far edge cloud deployments of Cloud RAN.
The 5G AirScale Cloud RAN solution supports all architecture options, offering mobile and converged operators with a choice of RAN deployments: vDU and vCU can be co-located at a central or regional edge cloud; the vDU can be decentralized to an edge or far edge cloud, or the vDU can be located even at the cell site. Such flexibility is of paramount importance due to varying topologies and transport network needs even within the same network. Nokia’s 5G AirScale Cloud RAN software runs both on top of Nokia CloudBand and third party cloud infrastructure software stacks to provide maximum flexibility.
With the vDU moving closer to the edge, 5G AirScale Cloud RAN enables operators to make full use of the low-latency capabilities of 5G and enables services that benefit from such low latency and ultra-reliability, such as IoT applications. It also supports Nokia’s end-to-end network slicing, from RAN across transport to Core.
With a fully cloudified vCU and vDU, Nokia 5G AirScale Cloud RAN brings the overall benefits of cloud computing familiar from IT and Core networks to RAN: pooling, scalability, elasticity, agility, uniformity, and automation. Operators can also deploy other network functions and services at the edge, on top of the Cloud RAN deployment. For example, this can be used for Mobile or Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) implementations that benefit from the proximity of content and processing close to the point of use.
Nokia 5G AirScale Cloud RAN has been architected for Open RAN (O-RAN), splitting the base station into Radio Unit (RU), Distributed Unit (DU), Radio Access Point (RAP, a combination of RU and DU), Centralized Unit (CU), and O-RAN compliant interfaces between these elements. It also includes the RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) concept to take advantage of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) capabilities to optimize the radio and system performance.
Ed Gubbins, Principal Analyst at GlobalData, said: “Cloud RAN has the potential to fundamentally transform mobile networks, making them more agile and dynamic and allowing operators to be more nimble in activating new services and revenue streams. Nokia has been more proactive and consistent in driving Cloud RAN technology than its peers, and the launch of its fully cloudified 5G AirScale Cloud RAN solution is only the latest example of its commitment.”
Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia, said: “The next-generation Nokia 5G AirScale Cloud RAN is a true innovation that will transform mobile networks and provide operators with the flexibility they need to meet the customer demands in the evolving 5G era. Its flexible architecture offers speed, coverage, capacity and low latency as well as the opportunity to generate revenues immediately.”
AWS launches Amazon Honeycode, a no-code mobile and web app builder
AWS today announced the beta launch of Amazon Honeycode, a new, fully managed low-code/no-code development tool that aims to make it easy for anybody in a company to build their own applications. All of this, of course, is backed by a database in AWS and a web-based, drag-and-drop interface builder.
Developers can build applications for up to 20 users for free. After that, they pay per user and for the storage their applications take up.
“Customers have told us that the need for custom applications far outstrips the capacity of developers to create them,” said AWS VP Larry Augustin in the announcement. “Now with Amazon Honeycode, almost anyone can create powerful custom mobile and web applications without the need to write code.”
Like similar tools, Honeycode provides users with a set of templates for common use cases like to-do list applications, customer trackers, surveys, schedules and inventory management. Traditionally, AWS argues, a lot of businesses have relied on shared spreadsheets to do these things.
“Customers try to solve for the static nature of spreadsheets by emailing them back and forth, but all of the emailing just compounds the inefficiency because email is slow, doesn’t scale, and introduces versioning and data syncing errors,” the company notes in today’s announcement. “As a result, people often prefer having custom applications built, but the demand for custom programming often outstrips developer capacity, creating a situation where teams either need to wait for developers to free up or have to hire expensive consultants to build applications.”
It’s no surprise then that Honeycode uses a spreadsheet view as its core data interface, which makes sense, given how familiar virtually every potential user is with this concept. To manipulate data, users can work with standard spreadsheet-style formulas, which seems to be about the closest the service gets to actual programming. ‘Builders,” as AWS calls Honeycode users, can also set up notifications, reminders and approval workflows within the service.
AWS says these databases can easily scale up to 100,000 rows per workbook. With this, AWS argues, users can then focus on building their applications without having to worry about the underlying infrastructure.
As of now, it doesn’t look like users will be able to bring in any outside data sources, though that may still be on the company’s roadmap. On the other hand, these kinds of integrations would also complicate the process of building an app and it looks like AWS is trying to keep things simple for now.
Honeycode currently only runs in the AWS US West region in Oregon but is coming to other regions soon.
Among Honeycode’s first customers are SmugMug and Slack.
“We’re excited about the opportunity that Amazon Honeycode creates for teams to build apps to drive and adapt to today’s ever-changing business landscape,” said Brad Armstrong, VP of Business and Corporate Development at Slack in today’s release. “We see Amazon Honeycode as a great complement and extension to Slack and are excited about the opportunity to work together to create ways for our joint customers to work more efficiently and to do more with their data than ever before.”
Slack announces Connect, an improved way for companies to talk to one another
Virtual events are the new norm for product rollouts in 2020, with Slack taking to the internet earlier today to talk about a new part of its service called Slack Connect.
On the heels of Apple’s lengthy and pretty good virtual WWDC that took place earlier this week, Slack’s event, part experiment and part press conference, was called to detail the firm’s new Slack Connect capability, which will allow companies to better link together and communicate inside of their Slack instance than what was possible with its shared channels feature. The product was described inside of a business-to-business context, including examples about companies needing to chat with agencies and other external vendors.
In its most basic form, Slack is well-known for internal chat functionality, helping teams talk amongst themselves. Slack Connect appears to be a progression past that idea, pushing internal communications tooling to allow companies to plug their private comms into the private comms of other orgs, linking them for simple communication while keeping the entire affair secure.
Slack Connect, a evolution past what shared channels offered, includes better security tooling and the ability to share channels across 20 orgs. The enterprise SaaS company is also working to give Connect-using companies “the ability to form DM connections independent of channels,” the company told TechCrunch.
The product could slim down email usage; if Slack Connect can let many orgs chat amongst themselves, perhaps fewer emails will be needed to keep different companies in sync. That said, Slack is hardly a quiet product. During his part of the presentation, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield noted that the service sees up to 65 million messages sent each second at peak times.
According to the CEO, Slack Connect has been piloted for a few months, and is now available for paid plans.
Slack shares are off 3.8% today, before the news came out. Its broader company cohort (SaaS) are also down today, along with the market more broadly; investors don’t appear to have reacted to this piece of news, at least yet.
Apple has acquired Fleetsmith, a startup that helps IT manage Apple devices remotely
At a time when IT has to help employees set up and manage devices remotely, a service that simplifies those processes could certainly come in handy. Apple recognized that, and acquired Fleetsmith today, a startup that helps companies do precisely that with Apple devices.
While Apple didn’t publicize the acquisition, it has confirmed the deal with TechCrunch, while Fleetsmith announced the deal in a company blog post. Neither company was sharing the purchase price.
The startup has built technology that takes advantage of Apple’s Device Enrollment Program, allowing IT departments to bring devices online as soon as the employee takes it out of the box and powers it up.
At the time of its $30 million Series B funding last year, CEO Zack Blum explained the company’s core value proposition: “From a customer perspective, they can ship devices directly to their employees. The employee unwraps it, connects to Wi-Fi and the device is enrolled automatically in Fleetsmith,” Blum explained at that time.
Over time, the company has layered on other useful pieces beyond automating device registration, like updating devices automatically with OS and security updates, while letting IT see a dashboard of the status of all devices under management, all in a pretty slick interface.
While Apple will in all likelihood continue to work with Jamf, the leader in the Apple device management space, this acquisition gives the company a remote management option at a time when it’s essential with so many employees working from home.
Fleetsmith, which has raised more than $40 million from investors, like Menlo Ventures, Tiger Global Management, Upfront Ventures and Harrison Metal, will continue to sell the product through the company website, according to the blog post.
The founders put a happy face on the deal, as founders tend to do. “We’re thrilled to join Apple. Our shared values of putting the customer at the center of everything we do without sacrificing privacy and security, means we can truly meet our mission, delivering Fleetsmith to businesses and institutions of all sizes, around the world,” they wrote.