AT&T, Dell, VMware provide wireless MEC for enterprises

AT&T is working with Dell Technologies to target large enterprises with a multi-access edge compute (MEC) solution that includes private wireless. The new offering is called AT&T MEC with Dell APEX.

Fierce Wireless spoke with Doug Lieberman, senior director of global solutions and co-creation services with Dell Technologies Telecom Systems Business, about the new technology.

We asked why the product was called AT&T MEC rather than AT&T private wireless. Lieberman said it really is focused on the mobile edge compute needs of larger enterprises. AT&T can supply its mobile packet core for the private wireless component. But if an enterprise already has a private wireless network, this MEC solution can work with that as well.

Dell points out that 4G and 5G, using licensed spectrum with cellular technology, offers advantages over Wi-Fi such as more inherent stability, more predictable latencies, higher reliability and greater range with fewer access points.

Lieberman said the whole purpose of AT&T MEC with Dell APEX is to leverage the combination of cellular technology at the edge along with MEC functionality, which is “really a very, very smart router that understands, not just packets, but data flows.”

The MEC technology is smart enough to know where data should be processed. Sometimes there’s an urgency to process data, and so the MEC platform will process that locally. Other times, the data can be sent to the cloud for processing.

In the case of an urgent need, Lieberman gave the example of data from security cameras. If something illegal is happening, that data needs to be processed immediately and locally so that action can be taken. But in other cases, such as analyzing long-term trends, that data can be sent to the cloud.

The MEC solution uses Dell’s APEX platform, which brings together Dell hardware and software along with VMware software for an edge cloud that’s delivered as-a-service.

“When you buy APEX you get hardware and software integration and upgrades,” said Lieberman. “This cloud offering is very much a joint partnership to deliver cloud in a box.”

AT&T can sell AT&T MEC with Dell APEX throughout its North American and South American footprint.

Dell’s work with telcos

Dell’s Telco Systems business is led by Dennis Hoffman.

Lieberman, who reports to Hoffman, said, “We’re working on all routes-to-market with telcos. The wireless MEC announced today is focused on helping telcos serve their large enterprise customers.

A different team at Dell is focused on building solutions that transform a telco’s own network, using disaggregated services. Earlier this year, that group said it was working with Red Hat as part of Dell’s infrastructure block program.

Infrastructure blocks are software modules that come pre-installed on Dell servers to provide telcos with everything they need to establish their own cloud infrastructure. 

Lieberman said Dell’s infrastructure blocks are about the telco edge. Whereas the wireless MEC announced today is about the enterprise edge.