AT&T: 'True Mobile' Is Driving Cloud Edge

A new generation of mobility apps requires performance not available from conventional cloud.

Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading

November 15, 2017

3 Min Read
AT&T: 'True Mobile' Is Driving Cloud Edge

SAN FRANCISCO -- Structure 2017 -- "True mobile use cases" such as autonomous cars, augmented and virtual reality, industrial IoT and robotics require edge computing to meet their performance needs, an AT&T vice president says.

"Those types of capabilities have to have high bandwidth and low latency. That demand requires us to put our cloud at the edge," Amy Wheelus, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) vice president of cloud and D2 platform integration, said Tuesday at the Structure conference here.

For example, a customer might walk into a store, and be identified by edge systems at the store that recognize the customer's mobile device. The customer then receives AR/VR product display of real-time offers. The customer purchases a product and analytics go back to the cloud, which are used to predict future shopping. "It's a closed loop system," Wheelus said.

AT&T is in the midst of an ambitious, multi-year plan to convert its network from purpose-built hardware devices to a software architecture with an open source foundation, more suited to emerging cloud and mobile applications. (See AT&T's Donovan: Resistance to Change Is Futile .)

Figure 1: Photo by Mike Mozart(CC BY 2.0) Photo by Mike Mozart(CC BY 2.0)

Wheelus named five key factors driving change to network architecture. First, enterprises need to keep content at the edge of the network, to improve application performance. That means data from the edge is processed at the edge.

Enterprises need to maintain quality of experience, reducing latency and providing more efficient usage of network capacity, Wheelus said.

Networks need to separate hardware and software -- "decompose and disaggregate the access function" is how Wheelus put it -- loosely coupling both hardware and software to improve flexibility, Wheelus said. Indeed, when AT&T talks to its vendors, it tells providers who previously sold AT&T hardware to sell software instead.

And enterprises need to increase application resiliency, improving reliability by reducing transport between the customer and the cloud.

But the most important driver of edge computing is the business case -- those new mobility applications.

To achieve the network flexibility required by edge computing -- and by the exploding bandwidth demands of video and other emerging technologies -- AT&T is committing to an open source strategy. "We are committed 110% to an open source world," Wheelus said.

Last week, AT&T announced an AI open source platform (AT&T Launches New AI, Microservice Initiatives), and it's working with key open source projects, such as OpenStack, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, the Open Network Automation Platform, the Open Networking Foundation ONF, and the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). "The result will be an edge-focused network that can support low latency workloads along with high-performance workloads," Wheelus said.

Our colleagues at Light Reading have reported in great depth about AT&T's open source and cloud initiatives. Here are some of their key articles and video:

— Mitch Wagner Follow me on Twitter Visit my LinkedIn profile Visit my blog Follow me on Facebook Editor, Enterprise Cloud News

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

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