It's a good sign that a market shift is transformative when big-name companies start aligning to tackle new problems collaboratively. Such is the case with Ericsson and Intel, two companies that say they have joined forces to help accelerate the media industry's push toward IP and software-defined everything.
Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) announced a new partnership today that is pursuing three areas of development: the move toward 5G and the delivery of media to more devices; the evolution toward cloud-based infrastructures, and specifically how datacenters can be optimized for the media industry; and improvements to video processing that increase both efficiency and performance levels. It's an ambitious collaboration, but also one that's not particularly well-defined or differentiated yet. For example, the two companies have worked together for years, and have even collaborated on some of these specific technology areas before. So what's new this time around?
Intel's General Manager of Visual Cloud Solutions Jim Blakley says that what's unique about the partnership announced today is that it marks the first time Intel and Ericsson have approached these media and mobility themes from a "full solution point of view." While there should be some near-term products and deployments coming from the partnership, the bigger goal is to help the industry solve new challenges in media delivery over the long term.
"Nobody likes to wait five years for a result," says Blakley, "but we'll focus on solving some of the nearer-term problems -- the latency delay, video quality, virtualization, media workloads -- as soon as possible so that we can help those service providers as they move toward a virtualized infrastructure for media. We'll try to find those areas where we can have quick returns, but this is a long-term industry transformation, and so we expect that there will be activities between the two companies in all time horizons: near-term, mid-term and long-term."
Ericsson and Intel do offer a couple of concrete details on their partnership, such as plans to combine the Envivio video software assets that Ericsson acquired last year with Intel's upcoming Xeon processors for the software-defined data center. (See Ericsson Beefs Up TV Biz With Envivio Buy, AT&T Deal.)
The companies are also connecting Ericsson's Hyperscale datacenter system with Intel's Rack Scale Design. (See Ericsson, Intel Target Telco Data Centers.)
However, more broadly, Ericsson and Intel just expect their joint solutions to be relevant to many of the activities their customers have planned in the coming months and years... whatever those activities are.
Blakley notes that video specifically creates new challenges for network service providers both because of the large size of video files and the difficulties inherent in ensuring a quality user experience. Those issues are coming to a head at the same time that service providers are also trying to move away from purpose-built hardware and toward software-driven services. With all of those factors in mind, Ericsson and Intel believe they have the expertise to help customers improve their media management and delivery operations.
"At a macro level, from our perspective we see the real perfect storm in this intersection between the shift to mobility, how that's impacting media, and the cloud opportunity overall," says Ericsson's head of media marketing and communications Simon Frost. "So I think mobility, media and the cloud are the driving forces that we see... [and] I think we're extremely well-placed with major technology partners like Intel to address those challenges in very unique ways."
Ericsson and Intel also acknowledge that there is a lot nobody knows yet about where networking and the media industry are headed. For example, Frost points to 5G saying that he expects the primary use case for 5G to be mobility, but that the role of the next-generation technology could actually be more disruptive as a fixed wireless alternative to gigabit wireline networks.
Blakley adds that the industry is already seeing some new media applications on the horizon including augmented and virtual reality, but that it's impossible to know what else could be around the corner.
"You'll often hear Intel talk about our virtuous cycle," says Blakley, "which is new applications leads to new deployments and new growth in the industry. And I think we're going to see the same thing here."
If there is a virtuous cycle at work in the media industry, both Ericsson and Intel are determined to be a part of it.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading