& cplSiteName &

Operators Must Cloudify at the Edge

Mari Silbey

Matt Haines has done time in the cloud. He was in the business when centralized cloud computing took off in the early part of the decade, and he's watching the cycle of product and standards development repeat itself today as the cloud drifts inevitably outward toward the network edge.

The difference this time around is the players involved, and the fact that they can learn from the lessons of their forerunners in the centralized cloud movement.

"The reality is everybody today, all the operators today, actually do edge work; they just tend to do it in special-purpose appliances and applications that sit out at the edge," says Haines, referring to the specialized equipment and workloads that network operators manage out in the field. "And so the conversation I keep having is: Why don't we start to consider those as general-purpose cloud resources?"

Now a fellow at Accenture -owned Interactive Broadband Consulting Group LLC (IBB) where he leads the Cloud and Software Transformation practice, Haines spent several years first as an engineering vice president for HP Cloud Services, and then as a cloud services vice president for Time Warner Cable.

Matt Haines, Fellow at IBB Consulting Group
Matt Haines, Fellow at IBB Consulting Group

With IBB, he's preaching the idea that operators who are leading development at the network edge can and should apply the principles pioneered by established cloud providers. Instead of building out single-purpose equipment systems, operators should be considering deployment of commodity hardware with software architectures that are flexible enough to be leveraged for all kinds of applications.

"When you think about what a cloud is," Haines says, "it's really this ability to provision it on demand and schedule something out on to it that I haven't had to work out with you [the application provider] ahead of time... Why don't we start to transition that [cloud model] into your own use of what you do today at the edge?"

Conveniently, network operators are already investing in increasing their edge capacity. They're adding fiber, distributing network features to increase local availability and virtualizing functions to optimize the use of network resources. As operators make these network investments, comments Haines, they should also be taking a long view on how those enhancements can be put to use in the future.

"Pretty soon," notes Haines, "you're at the point where you can sell capacity in your edge [sites], in your 500 or 5,000 edges based on how close it is to a customer, and deploy it exactly the way I would deploy it to a public cloud."

For cable operators, one component of this process is today's move toward distributed access architectures. Cable companies are spending money to push cable modem termination system (CMTS) functions out to the edge of the network at the same time they extend fiber deeper and exponentially increase the number of optical nodes they deploy across their subscriber territories.

"Right now as all the companies continue to push ... more and more capacity into the fiber transition point to handle the build-outs for faster, faster speeds and so forth, this is the right time to think about how we start to look at those resources as turning them into cloud," say Haines. "And turning those [resources] into a cloud is really a software exercise of putting down the layer of software that is the cloud software, the OpenStack stack that sits there that all of a sudden turns commodity hardware into something you can provision a virtual machine or more likely a container into."

"Eventually," he adds, "you get to where you're provisioning capacity and applications out to those edges, [some of which] aren't your applications because you're selling to somebody else just like the public cloud companies do today."

For more cable market coverage and insights, check out our dedicated cable content channel here on Light Reading.

Is this idea of a cloudified edge something that others in the industry are also thinking about? Absolutely.

Consider how content delivery network company Qwilt Inc. is working with operators to architect software nodes into their last-mile networks. Qwilt has built these nodes to run on off-the-shelf hardware, and the nodes can be programmed to accommodate content from a wide range of providers across a wide range of access network types. Each node becomes a resource at the edge for content delivery, which operators can use for their own purposes or, at least theoretically, as an asset in negotiations with partners and customers for edge capacity. (See Qwilt Starts Caching on Verizon Edge.)

Or consider Senet . The service provider has created a system for managing and billing out capacity on a global virtual Internet of Things (IoT) network. The concept is that any entity can own a part of that virtual network by installing standardized low-power wide-area network (LoRaWAN) gateways. The capacity enabled by those gateways can then be employed by the owner to deliver IoT applications, or sold off to customers with applications of their own. (See Senet Virtualizes Worldwide IoT Network.)

There are a growing number of applications that can take advantage of storage, computing and connectivity resources at the network edge -- from video delivery, to applications that analyze local behavior (think connected traffic cameras) to latency-sensitive IoT services like asset tracking. And the more these applications develop, the more edge network resources they'll need.

"What we're about to witness is the same cycle that... we saw in what I would call the centralized cloud area," says Haines.

Demand is growing and solutions are proliferating. And if network operators want to take advantage of the cycle this time around, they'll need to cloudify at the edge sooner rather than later.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

(1)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
11/28/2017 | 9:38:26 PM
Classic edge computing
This is exactly what AT&T is doing and other telecom operators as well - edge computing, with the "edge" loosely defined. 
Featured Video
From The Founder
Light Reading founder Steve Saunders grills Cisco's Roland Acra on how he's bringing automation to life inside the data center.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
March 20-22, 2018, Denver Marriott Tech Center
March 22, 2018, Denver, Colorado | Denver Marriott Tech Center
March 28, 2018, Kansas City Convention Center
April 4, 2018, The Westin Dallas Downtown, Dallas
April 9, 2018, Las Vegas Convention Center
May 14-16, 2018, Austin Convention Center
May 14, 2018, Brazos Hall, Austin, Texas
September 24-26, 2018, Westin Westminster, Denver
October 9, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
October 23, 2018, Georgia World Congress Centre, Atlanta, GA
November 8, 2018, The Montcalm by Marble Arch, London
November 15, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
December 4-6, 2018, Lisbon, Portugal
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
Federal Funds for Broadband? Unlikely
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 2/12/2018
Has Europe Switched to a Fiber Diet? Not Yet...
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, 2/15/2018
Net Neutrality: States' Rights vs. the FCC
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 2/13/2018
Will China React to Latest US Huawei, ZTE Slapdown?
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, 2/16/2018
IBM, Microsoft Duke It Out Over Chief Diversity Hire
Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 2/15/2018
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

A CSP's digital transformation involves so much more than technology. Crucial – and often most challenging – is the cultural transformation that goes along with it. As Sigma's Chief Technology Officer, Catherine Michel has extensive experience with technology as she leads the company's entire product portfolio and strategy. But she's also no stranger to merging technology and culture, having taken a company — Tribold — from inception to acquisition (by Sigma in 2013), and she continues to advise service providers on how to drive their own transformations. This impressive female leader and vocal advocate for other women in the industry will join Women in Comms for a live radio show to discuss all things digital transformation, including the cultural transformation that goes along with it.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed