The opportunity for an edge-native connectivity platform to support industrial transformation

24 February 2023 | Research

Gorkem Yigit

Perspective | PDF (16 pages)

"CSPs will need to provide an industrial edge platform (IEP) to fulfil Industry 4.0’s compute and connectivity requirements but will face competition from established companies in different parts of the Industry 4.0 value chain."


Industry 4.0 represents a monetization opportunity for CSPs

Four global megatrends are pushing industries to transform their outmoded approaches to automation by applying new technologies such as cloud, data/AI/analytics, IoT, digital twins and 5G networks to improve process efficiency and effectiveness. Global uncertainty, sustainability, ageing populations and government policies are driving industries to overhaul their manufacturing systems, production lines and logistics relationships. Enterprises want to build more flexibility, resilience and innovation into their industrial processes with the help of Industry 4.0 technologies. Connectivity will be critical to emerging industrial transformation use cases. Reconfigurable manufacturing, digital twins and autonomous mobile systems will rely on ultra-low-latency networks for their operations. As the industrial world becomes highly instrumented, millions of sensors will need to be connected to an increasingly ubiquitous layer of AI/ML models and algorithms that industries will use for real-time insights. As a result, CSPs have an opportunity to provide the digital infrastructure that will underpin industrial transformation. They can supply zero-trust, cloud-native enterprise networks and the edge clouds that will not only run cloud-native network functions (CNFs) but also the industrial software that is being disaggregated from industry-specific operational equipment and refactored as cloud-native applications. CSPs that build programmable digital infrastructure to support industrial transformation will be able to monetize the capabilities within it, including low-latency, deterministic routing, hyper-accurate positioning, support for massive numbers of sensors, security features, edge compute and the abstraction of different industrial network domains to provide end-to-end private network slices.

Industrial transformation will be supported by a new edge platform

This paper describes the industrial edge platform (IEP) that Analysys Mason believes CSPs will need to provide to fulfil Industry 4.0’s compute and connectivity requirements. It expands on the capabilities of such a platform, including its ability to deliver software-defined, zero-trust connectivity that spans network domains and multi-access edge computing (MEC). The platform will feature open APIs and AI/ML-driven management and orchestration so that it can be extended to support network innovation in future and customised to support customers’ required network experience. This report points out that CSPs are already investing in the components of such a platform although they have not necessarily brought them together into a single solution yet. The cloud-native 5G network, particularly deployments that implement 5G Advanced features, will be a key component of an IEP solution, complemented by CSPs’ edge cloud locations that support their 5G networks, security and the big data/AI/ML environments they are putting in place to analyse network telemetry data but which are also needed by industrial use cases.

CSPs must act quickly to assure themselves of a place in the Industry 4.0 value chain

CSPs will face competition for the IEP from established companies from different parts of the Industry 4.0 value chain which want to expand their service portfolios and influence. Systems integrators, industrial equipment and applications vendors and new entrant service providers will pursue this opportunity, often through partnerships. To accelerate their market entry, CSPs will also need partnerships to help them to assemble and integrate multiple IEP components. CSPs will first need to decide which part of the Industry 4.0 value chain they wish to participate in and then develop an ecosystem accordingly. CSPs that wish to provide digital infrastructure will nevertheless need assistance to build a platform that can deliver cloud-based private 5G networks and automated network slices at attractive price points for enterprises. CSPs will need help from partners to master cloud-native software and skills and prepare their own organisations to work with cloud-native automation. If CSPs want to move further up the value chain so that they can deliver industrial use cases, they will need an expanded ecosystem that can supply them with industry-specific expertise and applications. Selecting the right ecosystem partner(s) for the IEP will be critical to CSP speed and success in addressing the Industry 4.0 opportunity.

The opportunity for an edge-native connectivity platform to support industrial transformation