Japanese internet giant Rakuten to set up edge computing hub in Belfast

Pictured at Queen's are Stephen McCabe, the university's business alliance manager; Professor Karen Rafferty, head of the school of electronics, electrical engineering and computer science; Dr Blesson Varghese, who will lead the project; and Stuart Campbell, business development manager at the centre for data science and scalable computing at ECIT.
Gary McDonald Business Editor

BELFAST is to play a key role in supporting a Japanese e-commerce giant to roll out the world's first end-to-end fully virtualised cloud-native mobile network to millions of users.

Rakuten Mobile, Japan's newest mobile network operator, is collaborating with Queen's University to set up an edge computing hub, which will be based in Belfast.

Edge computing is a next generation computing model and will revolutionise the way society uses the internet, and it impact every internet user in the world as it will become the way the web works behind the scenes.

The collaboration at Queen's will be spearheaded by Dr Blesson Varghese, lecturer in the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a Fellow of the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT).

He said: “Currently, processing of all data we generate usually happens on geographically distant clouds. As billions of devices are getting connected to the internet, we need more sustainable and scalable architectures for computing. They must not solely rely on distant centralised clouds.

“Edge computing will bring certain services of applications closer to the users on the edge of the network. This will make applications more responsive, reduces bandwidth demand in the network core.”

The key mission of the project is to make edge computing a reality. At the hub, a team of PhD students and a post-doctoral researcher will research and develop the underlying approaches for safely delivering edge services, efficiently managing the end-to-end activities of an application, and continuously monitoring the infrastructure to allow an application to seamlessly adapt to changes.

Dr Pierre Imai, head of research and innovation at Rakuten Mobile, said: “We aim to be the most technologically advanced telecommunications provider in the world, and to achieve this, we have established a new lab to make a truly autonomous network a reality.

“Through our collaboration with Queen's University we have the opportunity to work with leading researchers in the edge computing field, and the results should allow us to provide a better service and a greater level of convenience to our customers.”

Dr Varghese added: “In a society where we rely heavily on gadgets and apps for everyday activities, edge computing is vital if we are to ensure the internet's future efficiency. This academic and industry collaboration will allow Queen's and Rakuten Mobile to develop cutting-edge research and lead the area.”

The Japanese firm already has a presence in Northern Ireland, where it to set up a fintech software development centre at Ormeau Baths three years ago, creating more than a dozen jobs

Rakuten Inc. has more than one billion customers worldwide and offers a variety of internet and financial services in 200 countries.

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