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Ericsson Takes Startup Approach With 'Edge Gravity'

Jeff Baumgartner
11/14/2018
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Without much fanfare, Ericsson has launched a new unit at the company, called Edge Gravity, that operates a global edge cloud network that links together a core network of data centers with the last-mile networks of more than 80 partners that include cable operators, telcos and mobile service providers.

Edge Gravity, unveiled in part via this Twitter post on November 9, is essentially the name of a new company within Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) that is tied to company's relatively new Unified Delivery Network (UDN) initiative. By putting compute at the edge -- and inside the network of the ISPs themselves -- Edge Gravity has initially focused on expanding the reach of certain content delivery networks (CDNs) and supporting an array of latency-sensitive services and apps (more on that later). (See Ericsson Wants to Add Compute to CDNs and Ericsson Poised to Disrupt CDN Market.)

Edge Gravity is part of Ericsson's Technology & Emerging Business unit, which focuses on new parts of the business -- referred to as "accelerated units" -- that Ericsson is trying to scale up in part by giving them a large degree of autonomy and startup-like agility. Edge Gravity, for example, has its own sales and marketing teams and IT system/infrastructure.

Edge Gravity is the first unit there that is using this new model, according to Yves Boudreau, Ericsson Edge Gravity's chief marketing officer.

Edge Gravity, which has been working on the project for more than a year, started by building a core network, on its own dime and using its servers, in Equinix Inc. (Nasdaq: EQIX) data centers and on its own MPLS backbone.

That core network, with 22 locations at present, has been connected to an edge network comprised of more than 80 last-mile network providers that Edge Gravity has managed to sign on so far. Under that model, the service providers provide Edge Gravity with elements such as rack space, power and connectivity.

That's a turn of the table of sorts. "Rather than selling to the service providers, we are making them suppliers to us," said Boudreau, who also leads the partnership and ecosystem strategy at the unit. Edge Gravity then works on a revenue share based on the traffic it brings to the network.

A representative list of those service provider partners include Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI), Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS), Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL), Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) (OTC: SGTJY), Telefónica , NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), China Unicom Ltd. (NYSE: CHU), Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd. (NYSE: CHT), Telkom Indonesia and Mobiphone. Boudreau, who presented on Edge Gravity in mid-October at the EdgeNext Summit in New York, noted then that the service provider part of the edge cloud network is about half deployed.

Edge Gravity then interweaves its network with a software stack that is open source "for the most part" using OpenStack and Kubernetes, Boudreau said.

Creating a global edge
Boudreau said Edge Gravity idea came about as service providers struggled to exit their own countries and extend the reach of services while watching the likes of Amazon Web Services Inc. , Microsoft Azure and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) dent their revenues.

"They can't act globally as a web-scale company can," he said. "This is our attempt to help our customers and the service providers come to the table collectively."

Boudreau stressed that Edge Gravity is not out to replace public cloud companies but rather to complement them and take advantage of a web-scale deployment model that allows customers to write software that will operate on Edge Gravity's entire edge cloud network.

Boudreau estimates that Edge Gravity's combined network has about 4 Tbit/s of capacity and that the number will rise rapidly as more partners are brought on board. That approach, he said, will enable the network to scale as data demands increase in a way that individual networks can't on their own.

"The only way we can keep up with that pace of traffic is really by doing it in partnership with operators," he said.

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