This year’s MWC (Mobile World Congress) in Barcelona was an exciting event for several reasons—perhaps most of all because it was a hybrid event that people physically attended. After the COVID-19 pandemic forced events to go virtual for more than a year, MWC 2021 was a sign that society is heading back toward normal. The hybrid format may also reflect a new trend in how companies and organizations handle tech events going forward. Themes from the event included all things 5G, as well as IoT (Internet of Things), AI (artificial intelligence), and edge computing and hybrid cloud. While there were hundreds of announcements at the 2021 event, this roundup focuses on two companies in particular: Intel and IBM.

At MWC 2021, Intel pushed its role in building out 5G and the edge, along with AI innovation. The company even held a virtual pre-event event called “Edge of Wonderful, Unleashing the Possibilities of 5G” that focused on the digitization of the economy and how the intelligent edge is reshaping businesses and industries. Intel released a survey that reveals five key findings on what businesses think about 5G, including the idea that a majority of IT decisionmakers believe the promise of 5G in enterprise is underrated. Respondents also said businesses plan to invest in 5G technology. However, many decisionmakers are still unclear about the benefits of 5G, especially those 55 and older, and cybersecurity remains a top concern.

Along with various customer and partner news, Intel announced additions to its 5G and edge product portfolios and unveiled its Intel Network Platform at MWC 2021. Intel describes its Network Platform as a technology foundation capable of reducing development complexity, accelerating time to market, and helping customers/partners leverage features in Intel hardware—from core to edge. Intel is also expanding its Agilex FPGA family and its Ethernet 800 Series family.

IBM also had a lot to say about 5G and edge at MWC 2021. The company announced it expanded its partner ecosystem to include more than 30 partners working together to deploy edge analytics and intelligent workflows for connected devices. It also announced IBM Cloud Pak for Network Automation, a new hybrid cloud AI-powered automation software for CSPs (communications service providers). The software helps deliver on the promise of 5G, IBM says, by reducing costs and delivery of services (allowing CSPs to scale new services in just days), as well as zero-touch operations. It’s worth noting that IBM recently tied up the Turbonomic acquisition, and Turbonomic’s network performance and assurance features will be built into IBM Cloud Pak for Network Automation.

Alongside Telefonica Tech, IBM also announced new hybrid-cloud solutions that leverage AI and blockchain to speed up enterprises’ digital transformations. The company is also furthering its partnership with Verizon to collaborate on 5G enterprise innovation. At MWC, IBM announced Verizon has selected it and Red Hat to help build and deploy an open hybrid-cloud platform that will be the foundation of its 5G core. Verizon says this open hybrid-cloud foundation will draw on the power of the open-source community while “retaining the architectural control necessary” to speed new features, offerings, and services to market. This partnership is both a sign of the times (e.g., telcos must position themselves to deliver on the potential of 5G or risk missing out) and a trendsetting move to help enterprise customers thrive in the hybrid-cloud era.

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