IBM and Airtel team to bring secured edge cloud services to Indian enterprises

Indian telco teams with IT giant with aim of using network of edge datacentres to help businesses address critical business needs with greater efficiency, making it easier for companies to process workloads where their data resides

The edge is seen as the where the future lies for enterprise communications, especially in the manufacturing and automotive industries. To enable large enterprises across multiple industries to accelerate solutions that deliver new value to their clients and operations securely, and to facilitate such capacity to businesses in India, leading local premier communications solutions provider Bharti Airtel is to work with IBM to deploy its edge computing platform.

Airtel boasts 358 million subscribers in India, and the new edge solution will encompass 120 network datacentres across 20 cities. It will be deployed as a hybrid environment based on IBM Cloud Satellite and Red Hat OpenShift, in a move that the companies say will extend secured and open cloud services wherever data resides. This can help improve business performance and customer experience by reducing latency while addressing data security and sovereignty requirements – which is critical as workloads increasingly shift to the edge.

IBM noted that the business value delivered by edge computing could be significantly enhanced when combined with 5G. In India, where 5G is expected to be rolled out later this year, it has the potential to create a cumulative economic impact of $1tn by 2035, according to data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).

Airtel’s solution is based on IBM Maximo Visual Inspection for AI-enabled quality inspection. IBM Consulting is leading the systems integration for the IBM platform. Through this hybrid cloud platform and IBM Consulting’s industry expertise, IBM and Airtel Digital engineering teams will build use cases for Airtel’s 5G connectivity and IBM’s hybrid cloud capabilities to address the pressing business issues faced by enterprise clients, according to the companies.

“As India gears up to experience 5G, we see a massive opportunity to help businesses across industries transform how they deliver goods and services,” said Ganesh Lakshminarayanan, CEO of enterprise at Airtel Business. “We have the largest network of edge datacentres available in India under the Nxtra brand, and we will leverage our work with IBM to help Indian businesses address their critical business needs with greater efficiency, making it significantly easier for companies to process workloads where their data resides.”

As it was making the partnership announcement, IBM also revealed that Maruti Suzuki India, said to be the country’s largest passenger car maker, intends to use the edge platform to increase accuracy and efficiency for quality inspections on the factory floor. By deploying this platform, Maruti Suzuki expects to boost quality control and ensure its data remains protected at the edge.

“At Maruti Suzuki, we continuously strive to meet the highest quality standards by ensuring our processes and quality control are well above industry standards,” said Rajesh Uppal, senior executive director for HR and IT at Maruti Suzuki. “Technology is a key enabler in this journey, helping boost quality, efficiency and deliver the next-gen user experience. We are excited to work with Airtel Business and IBM to set an even higher benchmark and explore the vast possibilities of deploying AI and analytics at the edge to augment the expertise of our workforce.”

IBM believes that harnessing Airtel’s 5G connectivity and highly secured edge computing capabilities will enable enterprises to deploy and manage workloads in near-real time. Targeted industries that the two firms say will particularly enjoy reduced latency, high availability and increased connectivity speeds include telecommunications, financial services, healthcare and government.

“As businesses – particularly those in regulated industries – work to modernise their infrastructures, they need to be able to do so in a way that enables them to stay compliant, without becoming overburdened by their compliance obligations – regardless of where their data resides,” remarked Howard Boville, head of IBM Cloud Platform. “Teaming with Airtel to bring IBM’s hybrid cloud offerings to their Indian multi-access edge compute customers will help them embrace the opportunities presented by 5G and edge, like innovating with greater speed and security.”

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