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VMware Exec Warns of Telecom Service Disruption 

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BARCELONA — As cellular data surges, energy bills rise and power becomes limited in Europe, one VMware executive warns parts of the cellular network will go down this winter. 

“The shortage of energy is here to stay. It might be in Europe today, but it will definitely be a worldwide issue that we must grapple with,” Sanjay Uppal, SVP and general manager of the Service Provider and Edge Business Unit (SEBU) at VMware, said in an interview with EE Times on the sidelines of the recent VMware Explore conference last month.

VMware works with cloud service providers (CSPs) and telecoms to optimize services and reduce power consumption at data centers and cellular networks. Uppal believes those efforts will help alleviate the situation. However, “they are not like quick fixes that you can do tomorrow,” Uppal said.

The continuous rollout of 5G cellular networks will bring some power savings, but only once standalone 5G (3GPP Rel. 16 and above) is implemented everywhere. Additionally, data traffic is growing exponentially, already reaching 110 exabytes per month, according to the Ericsson Mobility Report. This increase in data traffic further increases power consumption on the network and connected devices.

Uppal argues that the justification for investments in new technologies has shifted from pure productivity improvement to operational efficiency and cost savings. Some telecoms using VMware services are starting to power down customers’ routers when not in use and adapting their network power to demand.

He believes that VMware vSphere 8 is going to have a significant impact on power consumption, helping with workload consolidation. These optimizing technologies, Uppal says, could result—in some cases—in up to 50% energy savings.

A Q&A with Sanjay Uppal:

Good morning, Sanjay. Great to see you again in Barcelona. During yesterday’s press conference, I asked you about network management and power consumption. Can you elaborate on that?

Sanjay Uppal, VMware

Thank you, Pablo. If you look at the entire area of power consumption, ICT is growing the fastest among all sectors. So, as we discussed yesterday, it has grown more than 200% in the last 10 years or so. 

Now the effort is to reduce power consumption from an ICT standpoint—and there are three main segments of this: what happens in the data center, in the endpoints, and in between. 

Now, in the data center, virtualization provides workload consolidation; it enables more efficient use of the hardware. So, that is one area. This is also true of what it is running on the edge. So, if you are in a cell site, factory floor, or branch office, you can also have workload consolidation.

For the endpoint, when it comes to homes, what telecoms are beginning to look at right now is how to intelligently turn devices on and off based on whether they are getting used or not. One France-based telecom operator is looking to intelligently turn the set-top box or the cable modem [at their customers’ homes] on and off when it is not in use.

Then, on the network side, when you look into the radio access network, we can turn certain spectrum bands on and off depending on how that cell site is being used dynamically. There is an abstraction layer of software called the Ran Intelligent Controller (RIC). The RIC can control the radios, and you can execute many types of control. One of our partners, Cohere, does spectral efficiency on the RAM. So, we have integrated their software on top of our RIC. We have run three trials with it in different operators, and they have improved spectral efficiency in the range of 30- 60%.

Those potential improvements sound great, but it would take time to implement them everywhere. Meanwhile, there is an energy crisis happening right now, especially in Europe. What can we expect on the telecom side?

We know that in Europe, this winter, parts of the network will go down. I mean, many, many of the operators have said that in some cases, the power utilities are asking governments, ‘Should we leave the networks on, or should we leave the homes on?’

Because there is not going to be enough power for everything, the improvement in spectral efficiency will allow the networks to be up for more extended periods because they are consuming less power. 

But all of these are not quick fixes that you can do tomorrow. It is going to take some time to get it out there. But we believe that the shortage of energy is here to stay. It might be in Europe today, but it will be a worldwide issue that we must grapple with. So, having energy consumption as one of the factors in selecting information technology is going to become increasingly important. 

High inflation is another factor affecting markets and efficiency. It is happening worldwide. This, together with the energy crisis, and the possibility of a recession, involves investments. Is the current situation affecting technology adoption roadmaps or investment in technology from companies such as VMware?

The justification for the investment could be made, even six months or a year ago, purely based on productivity improvements and innovation. Now, the rationale needs to be on operational efficiency and cost savings. 

Whenever we go and sell to the enterprise or the telco, we talk about modernizing the network. We used to talk about upgrading the network for velocity, speed, and agility. Now we talk about modernizing the network not just for that, but also you will get power savings, and you do not have to hire as many people because it is pretty hard to find talent. 

You also need fewer people because of the automation we have put in. Then, of course, things like energy and spectral savings. 

The project’s orientation has shifted, which means that internally to the telco or the enterprise, there are, you know, different budget centers that are looking for justifications of how to do this. But I am not finding any large-scale impact on our business yet.

We are not seeing that right now. We are not seeing a massive slowdown in projects that people are doing, which is very good because, in the last recession, there was certainly a slowdown. 

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