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Industry Disruptor and Visionary Akshay Sharma Coins A New Term: Streaming Mixed Reality Video

October 21, 2019

Former top Gartner telecommunications infrastructure analyst turned independent technologist, advisor and developer Akshay Sharma sees convergence happening in every layer of every tech stack, as the transmission and sharing of data on newly virtualized networks is becoming faster at the edge, and smarter in the core.

He currently is a tech advisory board member to DevOps solutions vendor Kovair, UC/IoT vendor Unified Office, restaurant POS/CRM vendor Grubbrr, mobile video gaming provider Good World Games, and 5G Smart City solutions vendor LB-N: Local Broadband Networks with unique Edge Computing, CDN and Neutral Host offerings on Lampposts, which allows him to learn again from hands-on experience.

The dimensions of human experience are evolving at an unprecedented rate, and as 5G becomes the new reality, jumping off white boards into the most densely populated cities in the U.S. and globally, based on countless conversations with the top minds in the real time communications industry, Sharma sees massive potential for value creation in what he has recently coined “Streaming Mixed Reality Video,” or “SMRV.”

With his own next generation working in top tech companies today (his daughter was recruited by MagicLeap for example), Sharma has come to the realization that the combination of 5G, Mobile Edge Computing, Blockchain, Network Slicing and AI used in operations is turning “science fiction” into “scientific reality.”

“5G Mobile Digital Transformation with IoT will truly revolutionize many industries including video gaming, broadcasting of TV/Movies, with mobile carriers leading the way, using mobile edge computing and wireless asset management with AIOps, NetOps, DevOps and potentially Blockchain,” Sharma wrote in a recent paper laying out his case for SMRV, citing PWC’s latest findings in their Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2018–2022 report which says the fastest growth will be in digitally driven segments, with virtual reality leading the way, followed by over-the-top content (OTT).

Sharma believes the next revolution of connectivity will not be bound by the “pipe” they are regulated to utilize (Cable, SatCom, FTTH: Fiber to the Home, Cellular frequencies, etc.). “The IP video streamers are somewhat agnostic of the pipe, as their sessions can seamlessly flow across all broadband networks, devices, and shared across users,” Sharma says. “Whether it is sharing of Netflix or video gaming accounts, or multi-casting to big screen TVs including AppleTV and Google’s Chromecast, 4.5G/5G will enable convergence of Information and Communication Technologies (IT/CT) opening newer Telco-provided Enterprise applications with newer consumer services converging applications, networks, and data centers.”

Sharma is known for his ability to imagine creativity in the applications made possible by increasingly powerful and elastic networking (the fun stuff like VR), while also understanding the implications for the physical, logical and digital aspects of the infrastructure itself, and is bullish on what the “next-next networks” will look like after billions of dollars invested in the virtualization and cloudification by the world’s largest operators.

Sharma organizes his new world view as this:

  • Datacentric-services (Applications, Storage, Compute, Caching, video transcoding in the cloud), all on demand;
  • User-centric services (Privacy, real-time voice, video, collaboration) all on demand as users will likely want to share/collaborate media sessions, educational sessions, video games, across users, while interacting with them;
  • Network-centric services (bandwidth, latency, QoE: quality of experience, policy-based control like “turbo” experiences, with seamless session continuity across devices and networks, from low-power to power on demand);
  • Security services beyond firewalls, encryption, to content DLP: data loss prevention, to DRM: digital rights management all on the fly; and
  • Content on the fly: imagine immersive movies that allow for interactive AI, chatting, behavioral analytics of the users where the movie adapts to different scenes much like a video game, across users.

When asked how the industry will get there, Sharma said, “The telecom, datacom, and data center solutions are converging with programmable, and configurable applications, networks, data centers all increasingly dynamic. The problem, however, is traditionally the networks and software applications were deployed in isolation as historically these were separate companies, or managed in separate infrastructures, by separate teams.”

Sharma points to AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner and their investment in AR/VR/Mixed Reality firms like Magic Leap, and their deployments in 4.5/5G as evidence of a hyper-converged industry. “Alongside others like NTT Docomo with their 5G Tokyo Olympics deployment in 2020, including UltraHD streaming video, the big players are stepping things up and the payoff will be tremendous.”

“Soon we will have 5G Edge Clouds with Software Defined Everything, or SDX,” Sharma explained. “Think about it: Software Defined Wide Area Networks, Software Defined Networks with VNFs, Software Defined Video Functions, Software Defined Radios with programmable antennae, all here now and being deployed in a dynamic manner leveraging network slicing.”

While Sharma makes it sound obvious and even easy, he says there are major questions to be answered, including collectively as an increasingly interdependent software networking ecosystem.

“Do we virtualize everything and host it in the edge cloud? Do we leverage open source for everything? Do we containerize everything and leverage open API’s and connect systems with software middleware bus solutions?” Sharma asks.

“Virtualization for the sake of virtualization is an initial step, but hopefully it’s done to improve agility of newer innovative services being deployed, improve customer quality of experience with better analytics actioned upon ideally in automated workflows with AIOps, and to improve operational costs with more efficient usage of resources,” Sharma said.

“What we need is an Orchestrator of Orchestrators, with an Integrated workflow automation engine for NetOps and DevOps solutions, for dynamic launching of solutions,” Sharma opined. “Applications and Networks, leveraging holistic analytics, with AIOps, all in real-time, with SDx controls: SDN, NFV, SD-WAN, and future 5G services is well within reach when we get organized.”

Hypervisor-based network solutions with network function virtualization (NFV) combined with software-defined networking (SDN), 5G software-defined radio and mobile edge computing offering network slicing on demand will enable seamless roaming and dynamic delivery of UltraHD video and new AR/VR/XR experiences across a multi-screen continuum of devices and networks, Sharma predicts. “Software-defined, video-based solutions are in the early days of transforming core video operations and will coexist with software-defined edge routers, mobile packet core solutions, and newer cloud radio access networks (RANs), all being elastically controlled as needed, in newer pay-as-you-go monetization business models.”

In a future feature, we’ll share Sharma’s recommendations for CSPs, MSOs and CDN providers, including the requirement to employ AI and automation to support what he calls “turbo-experiences” without taking huge capital expenditure risks.

Arti Loftus is an experienced Information Technology specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the research, writing, and editing industry with many published articles under her belt.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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