There are two distinct things going on in the world of IT. The first is the huge growth of a small number of mega-scale cloud computing vendors. Amazon Web Service, Microsoft Azure, and Google’s Cloud Platform hold an ever-increasing proportion of the world’s data. It’s almost like the apocryphal comment about the world needing, maybe five computers is coming true.

While that is going on, there is a counter-trend going on as well – that of processing increasingly moving towards the edge. The rise of mobile devices, increasing ubiquity of connectivity and a demand for ever faster processing and analysis has created a dual approach – bulk processing and storage happens in the megascale clouds, while discrete operations which need to be fast or happen alongside operations at the coalface are starting to happen out there in the field.

It is, perhaps, a more pragmatic and mature approach towards the Internet of Things (IoT). Rather than just ingesting data, and delivering outputs to the edge, the future of the IoT includes a healthy dose of processing actually occurring at the edge.

Everyone is moving to the edge

There is a huge focus from all vendors to deliver this opportunity – the large public cloud vendors are doing specific solutions (both AWS and Microsoft have standalone edge devices designed to process data where it resides. Hitachi created a new group, Vantara, to leverage this opportunity. While many legacy vendors have missed out on the public cloud opportunity, edge processing and IoT more generally is an area in which they can still be relevant.

An opportunity for telcos?

It is worth reflecting on just how much relevance telecommunications companies have lost in recent years. The dual trends of IP telephony, alongside these public cloud vendors increasingly hosting the data of relevance, has heightened telcos’ concerns that they are losing their edge. It is for this reason that Ericsson’s investment into Realm is a fascinating development. Ericsson is, of course, a huge provider of technology solutions to telco companies. As such, it has a very real need to ensure that it delivers the tools to allow telcos to compete into the future.

Who is Realm?

Realm started off back in 204 as a mobile-specific database. Since that time it has extended into being a platform which delivers the Realm Mobile Database as well as the Realm Object Server. The focus of Realm as a company is to deliver solutions that allow makers of mobile applications to ensure seamless experiences for their users – this includes live data synchronization and offline application availability.

So, about that cash?

Realm is announcing a new strategic investment round from Khosla Ventures and Scale Venture partners but, more important, from Ericsson. As part of the deal, Realm and Ericsson are working together to develop cloud services at the network edge. Ericsson obviously saw a company with very real pedigree working at the edge – the Realm database has been installed more than 3.5 billion times within applications including Starbucks, SAP, eBay, Intel, and Alibaba. Couple this with a “serverless” compute platform, the Realm Mobile Platform, and you have a logical extension for the 5G network technology that Ericsson is developing. The rollout of 5G will heighten the need for capabilities to be delivered closer to the edge of the network.


Let’s face it, hardly a day goes by that we don’t have an announcement of some mega-vendor making a strategic bet on a new company. This deal is no different, but I would suggest there is more reason for it to be a success. Ericsson needs to speedup the rate at which it offers value across the network and powers process on the edge, the investment it is making in 5G will, ironically, heighten the need for solutions such as this. I’m looking forward to seeing some combined products and solutions coming to market.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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