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Azure private MEC—A thriving partner ecosystem

Posted on 30 August, 2022

Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Azure for Operators

In June of 2021, Microsoft introduced Azure private multi-access edge compute (MEC), a solution that enables operators and system integrators (SI’s) to deliver high performance, low latency connectivity, together with IoT applications at the edge, helping to deliver the next wave of digital transformation. This is made possible because Azure private MEC combines network functions, applications, and edge-optimized Azure services to deliver high-performance, ultra-low latency solutions.

This year at Mobile World Congress, Microsoft announced Azure Private 5G Core, which is available as part of Azure private MEC. Azure Private 5G Core enables deployment and management of 5G core network functions on an Azure Stack Edge (ASE) device, as part of an on-premises private mobile network for enterprises. The 5G core network functions connect with 4G and 5G radio access networks (RANs) and SIM solutions from a growing list of solution partners, providing secure, high performance, low latency connectivity. In this way, Azure Private 5G Core dramatically simplifies the deployment and operation of private networks for a variety of use cases.

With just a few clicks, organizations can easily deploy a customized set of selectable 5G core functions, and a variety of applications on a small edge-compute platform, at tens to hundreds of locations, within minutes. RAN deployments can also be managed from the cloud with common observability across the network. SIMs can be securely configured and deployed from the cloud without exposing them to manual operations. In this article, we highlight a few partners from within our ecosystem, and the solutions they’re developing across a variety of industries.

Microsoft partner ecosystem

As enterprises shift to the cloud, the demand for cloud solutions and services is at an all-time high. As a result, the partner ecosystem is integral to the Azure private MEC strategy. Microsoft’s technology partners represent a tremendous opportunity for collaboration while driving growth.

“A recent study shows that for every dollar our cloud generates in revenue in the local region, our local partner ecosystem generates as much as nine additional dollars. Our customers are using the power of the cloud to generate even more revenue. That means even more local economic success. That’s at the core of what we do.”Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

Operators and system integrator (SI) partners building certified Azure private MEC offerings get full access to our ecosystem of Industry4.0 and Network ISVs to develop complete solutions for a wide range of customer outcomes, simplifying procurement, deployment of management, and monetization of 5G edge for enterprise customers. Application ISVs benefit from a consistent onboarding experience with established tools and resources, while working with a fully featured platform to develop ultra-low latency applications. Partner solutions are then distributed via Azure Marketplace, easily scaling distribution.

Azure private MEC partner solutions

Our GTM partners are actively developing solutions that utilize their proven technology on Azure private MEC to help enterprises meet digital transformation goals. Below are a few recent examples of innovative solutions that have been created for the manufacturing, transportation, and logistics industries.

Video analytics enables simultaneous real-time quality inspection of 100 iterations

Accenture has developed a solution to improve quality monitoring processes for the manufacturing industry, leveraging AI and video analytics over 5G and boosting overall productivity using cameras and sensors to increase quality assurance testing throughput and improvements in defect detection. 5G’s ultra-low latency and high throughput make it possible to have rapid access to high volumes of data, enabling manufacturers to use analytics to help identify defects, and dynamically test based on real-time conditions, improving scrap rates and total cost of quality in the process.

“A large car manufacturing company wanted to take advantage of 5G technology to enhance their production quality, meet compliance effectively, and increase manufacturing plant efficiency. Partnering with Microsoft, Accenture leveraged video analytics asset Solution.AI for processing to build a solution that was developed using Azure Private MEC. One of the priority use cases was quality inspection. In this scenario, the solution captures images of the moving vehicles on the assembly line, processes the images in real-time using 5G network and solution, and alerts the monitoring team and allows the inspection team to analyze the data in real-time to facilitate faster remediation. The solution has enabled the automobile manufacturer to perform immediate quality inspection boosting their quality accuracy, enhanced safety, compliance, and production efficiencies. As a result, they can simultaneously visualize more than 100 iterations of the same model. It gives them a more flexible and efficient production line to better serve customers with their unique needs.”—Mark Rogers, Accenture Microsoft BG Communication & Media Lead

Protecting frontline workers’ safety with real-time video analytics

Avanade, a leading provider of digital, cloud, and advisory services works closely with enterprise clients and Microsoft to develop private network solutions to protect workers in hazardous environments, using real-time analytics. By leveraging 5G’s wide coverage and reliability characteristics, Avanade’s private networking solution provides the foundation for industries to transform their operations, addressing today’s production challenges around worker safety and enhanced operational processes.

“As we collaborate with our clients in preparing for 5G and emerging opportunities with next-generation connectivity and edge, a focus area has been worker effectiveness and safety. Many of our clients have frontline workers in mission-critical and dangerous locations like warehouses, ports, logistics facilities, and frontline mining, utility, and energy field sites and we have been working closely with Microsoft using private MEC services to bring worker safety as a service that leverages public and private wireless networks. Designed to enable reliable coverage in difficult areas, the solution provides a dashboard and operational tools for near real-time health and safety monitoring of workers, all delivered over a secure network from Microsoft's cloud to edge.”—Aaron Reich, Executive and Emerging Technologies lead at Avanade

Digital twins offer a bird’s eye view of how to improve worker safety

Cognizant, a company whose offerings help make buildings smarter, was striving to create a comprehensive, robust, and cost-effective solution to improve worker safety. Their holistic approach to enterprise private 5G network includes design, implementation, and management—as well as helping them implement innovative digital solutions using technology such as AGV/AMR, Vision AI, AR/VR, and digital twins to solve their operational challenges. Private 5G provides the ultra-low latency, device scale and reliability needed for these applications that Wi-Fi networks cannot guarantee.

“Cognizant’s solution for worker safety for oil and gas vessels and manufacturing environments uses off-the-shelf cameras and innovative visual behavior sensing software from its partner to create a digital twin of physical space. The solution provides a bird eye view of the space including location of workers using multi-camera field of view and raises alerts when a worker is in close proximity of a pre-defined hazard zone. In addition, the solution will provide information such as workers entering into unauthorized locations, or workers crowding into a space which can trigger alerts to the facility’s safety officer. The solution is to be available on Azure Stack Edge for deployment and will operate in a standalone mode in case of no connectivity between the vessel and Azure cloud.”—Anjali Deo, AVP & CTO Industry+, Cognizant

Reducing manufacturing costs with private networks

With 5G, it is possible to have critical communications over private networks in real time, allowing these applications to operate reliably and securely. 5G opens up new fields of application in industries where the performance of other wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi, previously fell short. Capgemini views this new communications standard as key to reducing costs and enhancing manufacturing processes in automated factory operations.

“By integrating and deploying 5G use cases based on private MEC, Capgemini is working closely with Microsoft to bring the end-to-end solutions facilitating the rapid deployment of private networks. Capgemini is innovating by providing customized Industry 4.0 use cases and business process modernization to support Intelligent Industries. Capgemini has a rich repository of industrial use cases leveraging its unique microservices library, which enables the acceleration of tailored use cases for its clients. As an example, Capgemini has developed Remote Assistance and guided procedure use case to support and help field operations and technicians for complex maintenance and repair in real-time. Using high definition 5G video calls, collaborative tools, and 3D procedures, the solution is integrating AR/VR and Object detection Software Components available off the shelf."—Fotis Karonis, Executive Vice President, Capgemini Group Leader 5G & Edge

Private 5G powers biosecurity to improve airport safety

Successfully restarting air passenger travel while restoring confidence in safety is vital to enabling the global economy’s recovery from COVID-19. HCL is taking advantage of private 5G to bring biosecurity to airports, speeding up passenger checkpoints like luggage handling and security screening.  Biosecurity applications will limit necessary human interaction, helping airlines manage worker shortages, high travel demand and increased health screening requirements.

“Our comprehensive approach for biosecurity at airports involves people tracking, crowd management, and location awareness using the Microsoft private MEC and HCL’s homegrown solution, UnlocSafe. This implementation has proven how 5G addresses integration and operational challenges in the Airport 4.0 roadmap.”—Srinivas Yerramilli, Director, HCL Technologies

Container condition monitoring creates smarter ports via 5G networks

Tech Mahindra’s “PORTNxT” portfolio of 5G and edge solutions leverages in-house expertise and partner platforms for MEC, analytics, and AI, along with solutions on Private LTE (CBRS), 5G and SDN/NFV to drive the next generation of shipping ports.

“Tech Mahindra’s ContainerSight, an AI-based video analytics solution deployed over cellular networks, helps logistics firms and port authorities generate real-time insight into a container's condition at the time of entry and exit from their facilities, eliminating false claims and avoiding reputation loss.”—Ranga Thittai, Vice President & Head Enterprise Network Service at Tech Mahindra

Looking ahead

As we move forward with Azure private MEC, we continue to work with our partners, helping them identify and validate industry use cases, while developing and distributing solutions to enterprises via Azure Marketplace and sales motions. This effort remains at the core of our strategy, with the above use cases validating the importance of our partner ecosystem and its ability to positively impact a broad array of industries. The insights gained from our partners are pivotal to evolving the private MEC solution to meet the needs of our partners and enterprises.

It’s easy to get started with Azure private MEC

As innovative use cases for private wireless networks continue to develop and industry 4.0 transformation accelerates, we welcome ISVs, platform partners, operators, and SIs to learn more about Azure private MEC.

Application ISVs interested in deploying their industry or horizontal solutions on Azure should begin by onboarding their applications to Azure Marketplace.

Platform partners, operators, and SIs interested in partnering with Microsoft to deploy or integrate with private MEC can get started by reaching out to the Azure private MEC Team.