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Service Provider Cloud

Lumen takes Microsoft Azure partnership to the edge

If Lumen and Microsoft were dating, this might be the point where Lumen offers Microsoft a key to its apartment, an available drawer in a shared dresser and its own toothbrush.

Lumen Technologies, formerly CenturyLink, has identified Microsoft Azure as its preferred public cloud provider for enterprise customers' workloads, and will incorporate additional enterprise application capabilities from Azure to Lumen's platform. The feeling is mutual – Microsoft has in turn named Lumen a preferred partner that will support Azure globally via Lumen's networking, infrastructure and managed services.

Paul Savill, SVP of product management and services for Lumen, explains that denoting Azure as a "preferred partner" doesn't equate to exclusivity – Lumen continues to work with a number of cloud service providers and Savill says Lumen is committed to supporting enterprises' multi-cloud environments.

"We felt like Microsoft was a great partner opportunity for us," says Savill. "We had many joint mutual interests in terms of the enterprises we were pursuing and finding we were looking to each other as technology partners more and more." Savill says expanding the partnership with Microsoft made sense as Lumen was gaining more Azure certifications and adding more of Microsoft's applications within Lumen's managed services platform.

"Microsoft will be deploying the Azure HCI edge stack onto the Lumen edge and we'll be pursuing joint enterprise opportunities together with extending Azure capabilities through the Lumen edge and with Lumen networking technologies," adds Savill. The Azure Stack HCI is a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) operating system that is available as an Azure service and includes security, performance and feature updates, according to Microsoft.

Lumen says customers of both companies will be able to run Microsoft Azure services closer to the data source by utilizing Lumen's edge computing services; Lumen claims its edge nodes are designed to meet 95% of US enterprise demand within 5 milliseconds of latency. In addition to providing more Azure services to customers, Lumen will utilize Azure, Microsoft Power Apps and Microsoft 365 E5 Security & Compliance internally.

The two companies have several future go-to-market projects planned, which will be supported by resources from the Lumen Edge Experience Center. Lumen CTO Andrew Dugan hinted at the collaboration with Microsoft and the Edge Experience Center in an interview with Light Reading contributor Sue Marek late last year. Marek says the Denver-based Center is "where customers, partners and vendors can remotely deploy edge compute technologies on Lumen's platform and test them in a live networking environment with real-world conditions." Dugan likened the Center to one of the nodes that the company has deployed around the country, but says this node is not available to commercial traffic.

The future collaborations Microsoft and Lumen are working on at the Lumen Edge Experience Center include:

  • An Azure deployment running in the Lumen Edge Computing nodes globally for low-latency and high-bandwidth use cases for Azure customers. "We used that center to test and certify different configurations for Azure edge cloud that could be deployed across the Lumen edge network, and on top of that, applications that customers are interested in deploying in edge environments that can be compatible with different Microsoft solutions as well," says Savill.
  • Private 5G network services that use Microsoft and Lumen's cloud-native software capabilities, as well as Lumen's fiber network and edge computing resources. Lumen says this project will improve wireless network performance for customers and push workloads closer to the end user. "We have already completed testing of Microsoft's Affirmed technology services in that Edge Experience Center in a variety of configurations that enable us to do deployments of private 5G networks at customer campus locations," explains Savill.
  • Other enterprise-focused services that utilize Microsoft's software and cloud services to improve business workload performance at customers' locations.

Lumen's network includes nearly 450,000 global route miles of fiber and over 180,000 on-net buildings connected to global edge nodes. In addition, Lumen says it has 350 data centers globally, and 2,200 third-party data centers in North America, Europe & Middle East, Latin America and Asia Pacific.

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— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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