VMware combines SASE and edge management in new orchestration platform, announces private 5G service

Combining things to make them easier to manage and secure is a recurring theme at this week’s VMware Explore conference in Las Vegas. To that end, VMware is announcing a single console for its SASE platform and edge stack to enable unified management of edge networking, security and compute infrastructure.

SASE – secure access service edge – is a way to provide security and networking to end users and manage it in the cloud. It’s grown in popularity since the pandemic as employees were sent home to work and companies scrambled to figure out how to get them connected.

But, despite the word “edge” in the acronym, SASE has traditionally not extended to actual edge devices. VMware is looking to change that with the release of VMware Edge Cloud Orchestrator, which replaces VMware SASE Orchestrator and will provide unified management for VMware SASE and VMware’s Edge Compute Stack.

“It’s an industry-first offering to bridge the gap between edge networking and edge compute,” says Wendy Brown, director of integrated product marketing for VMware SASE and Edge. It will help enterprises plan, deploy, run, visualize and manage their edge environments, she says, helping them run edge-native applications.

According to VMware, edge deployments are normally proprietary integrations of custom hardware and software. The new software-defined edge, by comparison, is intelligent, programmable, and scalable.

There’s often a lack of reliable connectivity from the edge to a central data center or cloud, a lack of IT expertise at the edge locations, and the need to scale these edge deployments to, potentially, thousands of sites across different domains and geographies. Those are the problems that VMware Edge Cloud Orchestrator is aimed at solving when it’s released later this spring.

At launch, the platform will support VMware Cloud Web Security, VMware Edge Network Intelligence, VMware SD-WAN, and VMware Secure Access. Later, it will also support VMware Edge Compute Stack, VMware Private Mobile Network and VMware SD-Access (formerly known as VMware SD-WAN Client).

VMware Edge Cloud Orchestrator will be able to manage either VMware SASE or VMware Edge Compute Stack separately, and will be included with either purchase, Brown says. “But when managed together, organizations achieve greater efficiency in managing services, infrastructure, and applications,” she says. That’s because they use common management workflows, user permissions, and architecture.

One company that stands to benefit from the platform is Audi, the German car manufacturer owned by Volkswagen.

“Audi wants to take factory automation to the next level and benefit from a scalable edge infrastructure at its factories worldwide,” said Jörg Spindler, the company’s global head of manufacturing engineering, in a statement. “Audi’s Edge Cloud 4 Production will be the key component of this digital transformation, replacing individual PCs and hardware on the shop floor.”

The ultimate goal is to increase factory uptime and make it easier and faster to roll out new applications and tools on the production line, Spindler said. The company plans to use the VMware Edge Compute Stack and the VMware Edge Cloud Orchestrator to have a scalable way for Audi to operate its distributed edge infrastructure, manage resources more efficiently, and lower operations costs, he said.

Audi isn’t the only company deploying edge computing. According to IDC, it’s become a key element of many digital transformation initiatives. Worldwide spending on edge computing is expected to reach $208 billion this year, an increase of 13% over 2022, IDC projects.

The largest part of spending in edge this year will go toward services, comprised of professional and provisioned services, IDC predicts. That includes connectivity services, followed by software as a service and support and deployment services. That makes this VMware announcement very timely.

VMware gets into the 5G private network space

Last year, VMware showcased a preview of a new managed private 5G service. Now, VMware says the product will be released some time this fall. “The exact date will be announced as we get closer,” Brown says.

VMware Private Mobile Network is a fully managed private mobile networking service, which will be available in both 4G and 5G versions, fulfilled by service provider partners.

At launch, partners will include Betacom, Boingo Wireless, and Federated Wireless. “We do intend to add more service providers and telcos to this list,” says Brown.

VMware Private Mobile Network is developed on top of VMware’s SD-WAN infrastructure, includes an embedded distributed 4G/5G core, and integrates tightly with the company’s RAN partners, including Airspan.

The result is a multi-tenanted, cloud-based, fully managed private 5G service, says Brown.

This isn’t VMware’s first foray into 5G. This spring, VMware announced a partnership with Dell and AT&T to simplify 5G edge deployments.

That is separate from today’s VMware Private Mobile Network announcement. “VMware is partnering with companies like Dell Technologies to provide a virtualized compute infrastructure for them to deploy their own private 5G service,” says Brown.

VMware’s role in that project was just to provide the virtual compute infrastructure, she says. “Dell provides the hardware and ATT brings the private 5G solution. Our relationship with AT&T is purely focused on the MEC layer.”

VMware has also been providing virtualized network functions to telcos since 2015, she says.

The VMware Telco Cloud Platform is a standardized virtual infrastructure that telco customers can use to run their macro wireless networks and cable networks, she says.

“Boingo is collaborating with VMware to enhance our managed private 5G networks that connect mobile and IoT devices at airports, stadiums and large venues,” says Derek Peterson, chief technology officer, Boingo, in a statement. “VMware’s Private Mobile Network simplifies network integration and management, helping us accelerate deployments.”

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