Five good reasons to consider wireless WAN for edge computing
Edge computing and cloud technology are opening up new opportunities for CSPs and enterprises alike, bringing processing power and storage ever closer to where data is being generated and consumed. If you’ve been considering (or implementing) an edge computing strategy, you’re most likely already familiar with private edge and public edge, and the capabilities they can support. But by extending your considerations to the edge capabilities of the wireless router, you can expand the edge continuum and unlock all new possibilities for enterprises, both in mobile and fixed scenarios.
Wireless WAN and edge compute capabilities in one
Using 4G or 5G connectivity via a SIM card in the router, a wireless WAN connects various local networks – to each other, to headquarters, to cloud servers and beyond. It can act as a primary standalone connection, connecting assets in places where wires can’t go, or are insufficient, or act as an additional form of transport.
Cellular connectivity is ideal also for failover connectivity, providing link diversity (or alternative connectivity points) to keep critical services such as healthcare, power generation and manufacturing operational and online in what would otherwise be downtime. Reliable connectivity in the face of unforeseen events and natural disasters is already a vital function – and it’s one that will become even more crucial as climate change causes more extreme weather events across the globe.
The benefits of wireless WAN routers go beyond just connectivity, with the ability to provide application execution capabilities close to an enterprise’s application and devices, essentially enabling light computing at the edge. In this way, Cradlepoint’s wireless WAN routers act as an edge compute device – a purpose-built, multifunctional connected device to support the applications and needs of an enterprise.
It not only connects through cellular to an existing public or private network, it also manages and extends connectivity to other local devices, including via Ethernet, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. With its own built-in compute power and connectivity, the router enables multiple applications to be run directly on the Cradlepoint router, thus converting the location itself into a reliable, secure and agile edge point, ready to connect workers, sites and devices.
Where once you would have needed to deploy a PC, router, firewall, switch and more, now everything is brought together into one compact solution: the Cradlepoint router. Of course, the capacity for running applications is not unlimited – it’s not a large server, after all. But the possibilities for locally-executed, centrally managed applications to create value for enterprises – particularly across multiple distributed locations – are endless.
Why is wireless router edge so valuable for enterprises?
New services and use cases are already being realized by some enterprises, benefiting from on-site computing, filtering and pre-processing of data, real-time responsiveness, and low-latency applications. As discussed in our business strategy for successful edge implementation blog post, identifying demand-driven use cases and taking early action to secure those opportunities will be vital for successful edge implementation – so now is the time to learn why wireless routers should be part of your edge strategy – with real-world examples of use cases and solutions already being deployed.
Reason 1: Innovative new enterprise use cases
Wireless WAN routers and their device edge capabilities open up a whole new world of innovation, where simple applications can provide new capabilities and added value. One prime example of this is the artificial intelligence (AI) engine that German start-up BEEBUCKET successfully deployed on a Cradlepoint router.
Leveraging the router’s edge capability to host an application close to where data is being created, they were able to process large quantities of video data down to text-based information. This information could then be used to drive computer vision for object detection, tracking, recognition and re-identification for a range of advanced use cases including city traffic supervision, public transport monitoring, connected and smart cities, and visual quality assurance in manufacturing. By processing all the information locally and sending only the necessary data to the cloud, they were able to save – not only on streaming all the data to the cloud, but also by limiting the need for data use and computing in the cloud.
Reason 2: Flexibility for varied or changing business needs
One of the key benefits of edge at the wireless router is the flexibility it affords for enterprises to meet their business needs – both now and in the future. Not only is the hardware itself purpose-built to suit the connectivity needs of the enterprise, there’s also the seemingly limitless, scalable possibilities of the applications themselves.
Cradlepoint NetCloud Manager – a cloud-based management application – provides a tool for enterprises to deploy, manage and monitor applications on their 4G and 5G routers. They can either deploy a wireless WAN network themselves, or hire from a hosting partner. This means that any application (within the limitations of the compute resources available) can be run at the wireless router and updated over time. New applications can always be introduced into the existing infrastructure and framework at any time, to serve the enterprise’s changing needs. NetCloud’s container orchestration service also makes it very easy to update and manage applications at scale.
When it comes to growing or scaling across multiple locations and sites, the routers and their applications can all be managed centrally. Enterprise customers can have a controlled replicated environment in each one of their offices. Routers can also be automatically configured in a group policy to pull a certain container, deploying the same applications on each. The easy setup and installation means a pilot for initial testing can easily be implemented, then scaled up once the application and use case has been proven.
Motor City Wash Works, a global manufacturer of automated car washes, offer turn-key as-a-service connected car washes that include everything from the car wash equipment to integrations with point-of-sale (POS) systems and security cameras. This results in an interesting and complex mix of retail and industrial use cases, blended in one IoT-focused business where downtime comes with a high price tag – in other words, an ideal scenario for edge computing at the wireless router.
With edge via Cradlepoint routers and NetCloud Container Orchestrator (a tool that supports Docker containers), Motor City Wash Works were not only able to process large quantities of industrial automation data, but also translate it and transmit the relevant information to each car wash management team via dashboards. They were also able to securely encrypt and protect their customers’ credit card data while maintaining integrations with a number of POS platforms, and operate seamlessly with reliable connectivity, even if total communication loss were to occur.
Reason 3: Mobility – edge solutions on the move
In addition to being rolled out across many sites or locations (as mentioned above), wireless routers are also a prime solution for portable or dynamic sites and locations – providing connectivity, data processing and management capabilities in mobile settings or vehicles, such as ambulances or mobile health services, pop-up stores, public transport, planes and more.
Transdev Sydney Ferries, for example, needed a higher-quality, more reliable solution to stream and download the CCTV footage from their ferries that they use to ensure the safety of their crew and around 15 million customers per year.
Cradlepoint’s wireless edge together with several 5G ruggedized routers on select vessels and wharves were able to deliver clear and accurate footage and help point data as well as real-time location information from the vessels to their centralized operation control room, while also providing primary connectivity for onboard public announcements, passenger information displays, and corporate Wi-Fi.
Reason 4: Save on installation and operational costs
Wireless router edge can be accessed with pre-packaged, low-footprint solutions, lowering installation, hardware and tool subscription costs that would otherwise need to be sourced separately. IT capabilities are included, the routers and applications can be easily managed from a central location and deployed in a zero-touch fashion, meaning only lean IT and maintenance support is required. As application workloads can be moved to the wireless router and basic data processing or filtering undertaken there, there is no need to send all the raw data to the cloud, saving on bandwidth and network costs.
Teams at construction and property company Taylor rely on cloud-based collaboration tools for file sharing and video calls across their multiple office and project sites. Their previous 4G and fixed-line solutions required a high level of IT support and knowledge to operate, and increased the time required to relocate worksites. When the time came for them to upgrade, Australian CSP Telstra recommended Cradlepoint’s 4G LTE wireless branch solution, configured, deployed and managed in the cloud using one platform. The solution not only reduced IT support and setup time at a new site down to minutes, it also resulted in a 60 percent reduction in infrastructure costs across the 40 sites.
As edge deployment matures, improvements in automation and optimization will continue to build on these benefits and cost reductions. An overall edge strategy for CSPs looking to gain an advantage might be to start with Cradlepoint, then later expand their network and private edge portfolio, unlocking additional benefits from their networks through features like traffic routing to optimize network latency, adding further value to their networks.
Reason 5: Simplification and security
A simple, all-in-one solution has benefits to the customer beyond just that of cost. Peace of mind, saved time, reduced maintenance and support, easy installation to name a few. With wireless broadband, integrated security and edge computing in one box, things really are fuss-free with these pre-packaged solutions. You also have the advantages of privacy and control inherent with keeping the data processing local – in your country, region or on-premise, instead of sending it to a central client.
When it comes to WAN edge security, Cradlepoint delivers on three different levels. Firstly, on the local device itself, there are security processes already built in, such as zone-based firewalls. With an added license they can add application-aware security, Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS), and Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), and next generation firewalls. If a customer was looking to build their own solution, they would have to build all those security elements.
Next is the delivery of the edge applications. Through Cradlepoint’s existing management plane, these are already encrypted. TLS certificates are already on the box from the manufacturer. A customer can use the management plan security to deliver the configurations and the applications that are already built there, they don't have to go and build that out themselves. The only security they need to worry about is the actual application they are building, or if they are using something open source. Security isn’t easy, so having it all built in means a lot less cost and worry!
Finally, if you look at the wider network and consider the context of 5G, we already know that security and privacy are pivotal to 5G networks. We already have zero-trust principles built into 5G – as this recent blog on resilient 5G states, it is the most capable platform for managing digital security and change. So, enterprises can deploy these solutions and enjoy peace of mind when it comes to security of their digital systems and information.
Empowering enterprises to own their edge
These emerging innovations and use cases are just a taste of what is possible with edge computing at the wireless router. These expanded capabilities enable CSPs, managed service providers (MSPs) and partners to create differentiated solutions for their customers, either by using custom-made applications or applications off the shelf. This expands their offering from just selling connectivity, to allowing for solutions to be built and delivered that are tailored to the customer’s needs.
There is some real innovation happening in the ecosystems around application development for this space too. CSPs who want to take advantage of this opportunity need to be working collaboratively within their ecosystems to identify the problems enterprises face that could be solved with these unique capabilities. Is there a large retail company that needs a more streamlined solution for managing data across their many sites? Perhaps a maintenance service where large quantities of IoT data or video processing, or unnecessary site visits are costing them time and money?
Ultimately, edge computing at the router offers another, potentially more accessible opportunity as part of the edge continuum, complementary to on-premise edge with private networks, and the operator edge. It is a valuable resource, a tool that CSPs can use to unlock additional use cases – and access another location where applications can be run close to the data source, and where enterprises can be empowered to build and create a device-based edge tailored for their needs.
Find out more about how Cradlepoint Wireless WAN Edge solutions are accelerating the adoption of 5G and Wireless WAN Networking, enabling valuable new revenue streams.
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