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Leading Lights 2020 Finalists: Most Innovative Edge Computing Strategy

Accedian, AlefEdge, Altran, Mutable, Red Hat, SK Telecom, Vapor IO, Volterra and ZTE all make the cut for crafting compelling edge computing strategies for an exploding market.

Alan Breznick

August 12, 2020

9 Min Read
Leading Lights 2020 Finalists: Most Innovative Edge Computing Strategy

There are few things hotter in today's tech world than edge computing, with companies of all shapes and sizes seeking ways to bring powerful Internet functionality as close as possible to users at the very tip of their networks.

That's not surprising because edge computing offers the potential to completely transform the whole underlying architecture of the Internet from the huge, centralized data centers of yesteryear to a much more distributed storage and computing structure in the future.

Although it will undoubtedly take vast sums of money to carry out this historic transition, there's clearly no turning back. Indeed, Jupiter Research projects that the total annual spend on mobile edge computing alone will reach more than $11 billion by 2024, up from an estimated $1.3 billion last year.

In the spirit of this quest, Light Reading presents some of the leading companies working to bring web functionality to the lowly network edge. The nine finalists for Most Innovative Edge Computing Strategy this year are:

  • Accedian

  • AlefEdge

  • Altran

  • Mutable

  • Red Hat

  • SK Telecom

  • Vapor IO

  • Volterra

  • ZTE

The Leading Lights winners, along with this year's Light Reading Hall of Fame inductees, will be announced online on August 21 during a special video presentation on www.lightreading.com, one month before the start of the Big 5G Event.

Figure 1:

Here's a closer look at the nine companies that made the short list for Most Innovative Edge Computing Strategy this year:

Accedian and the MobiledgeX ecosystem
Accedian has teamed up with MobiledgeX, a company that made the Leading Lights finalist list last year, to offer what they claim to be "an assured, attested and scalable high-performance edge cloud environment" for enterprises and their customers in the 5G world. The joint solution combines MobiledgeX's Edge Cloud software platform with Accedian's suite of service assurance, monitoring and data analytics tools to help enterprises deliver their applications and services securely and with high performance across the globe, without the need for a federated, aggregated global edge.

On its own, MobiledgeX, a wholly owned subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom based in Silicon Valley, has already deployed its Edge-Cloud R1.0 software in several locations at the edge of DT's domestic network in Germany. Now, thanks to this partnership, the two companies aim to help other CSPs deliver new 5G edge services and applications safely and securely to commercial customers in the rest of the world.

AlefEdge – The Manhattan Project with an Open Autonomous Edge
A returning Leading Lights finalist from last year, AlefEdge is a seven-year-old firm that seeks to enable 5G-style applications to work over 4G technology. Based in New York City, the company has already picked up a huge head of steam, with live deployments that have served tens of millions of users and delivered more than 3 billion edge sessions.

AlefEdge's "Edge-in-a-Box" strategy makes use of open edge software APIs and common frameworks to create what it calls "an Open Edge Economy," where all APIs are vendor-neutral and share a common framework across deployments. Once customers come onboard, they receive a set of the open edge APIs, allowing them to choose the region where they roll out their edge services.

Altran – Edge Computing Solution (ENSCONCE) for Multi-Operator Federation
Altran has embraced edge computing in a big way. For one thing, the huge French engineering and R&D company, which was acquired this spring by Capgemini in a $4.1 billion deal, has been working with major telcos like Telefónica, KT, China Unicom and Telstra to support new services based on multi-access edge computing (MEC). Federated multi-access edge computing establishes separate channels that can interconnect MEC systems between each carrier so they can deliver the same 5G services regardless of region or carrier.

For another, Altran has teamed with CableLabs on a unique edge computing initiative in the cable industry. Deployed by CableLabs as part of its open-source Project Adrenaline, the initiative focuses on spurring hardware acceleration and middleware software to enable operators to build and manage edge networks and to smooth the path for apps that can run on them. While the initial effort is cable-focused, the broader aim is to apply the resulting open source platform to multiple industries while still staying aligned with Kubernetes.

Mutable – Public Edge Cloud
Mutable bills itself as "an Airbnb for Servers." That's because the two-year-old company works with cable operators, telcos and enterprises that have underutilized servers, connecting them with small, innovative companies that can tap into those existing compute resources at a lower cost than if they had to build or run the server equipment themselves. As a result, Mutable enables developers of such emerging next-gen apps and services as AR/VR, drones, remote gaming, remote surgeries, autonomous vehicles and smart cities to take advantage of higher bandwidth, lower latency and greater security.

The startup, which raised $1.5 million in seed funding earlier this year, claims to have signed server-space deals with a number of undisclosed MSOs so far. It has also launched Mutable Marketplace, a curated platform for vendors with edge solutions to facilitate product demonstrations and turnkey deployments to cablecos and telcos through the Mutable Cloud. Over 20 edge service providers have set up profiles on the marketplace so far, including Parsec, Plume and Teltoo (now part of Haivision).

Red Hat – Edge Computing Strategy with Red Hat OpenStack Platform
Red Hat's edge computing entry builds on the company's existing OpenStack Platform, which offers a common horizontal infrastructure across compute, storage and network footprints that can be centrally managed down to the edge. Leveraging this open platform, service providers can deploy network functions and applications anywhere so they can move them to the edge and back as demand dictates and centrally manage edge deployments with the same tools they use to manage core OpenStack deployments.

Vodafone Idea Limited (VIL) has rolled out a distributed edge computing platform in over 100 locations across India using the OpenStack Platform and other Red Hat technologies, making it the largest distributed cloud deployment in the country. As a result, Red Hat says, VIL's OpenStack-based pods can be distributed closer to end users, reducing latency and fostering better user experiences. VIL also uses the platform to deliver actionable insights to enterprise customers.

SK Telecom – Edge "hyper-collaboration" strategy for multi-cloud edge deployment and edge service innovation
Making its second straight appearance on the Leading Lights finalist list in this category, SK Telecom continues to impress with its multi-access edge computing strategy, especially for its nationwide rollout of 5G in South Korea. In one of its latest forays into this space, the South Korean telco has developed what it calls an "operator's tech asset and multi-cloud environment combined Hybrid MEC Platform," focusing on network and cloud computing combined technology, multi-cloud provisioning technology and low latency guaranteed hyper scaler cloud.

Among other things, SKT is also working with the major hyper scalers, offering an "Edged Multi Cloud Environment" that consists of AWS Wavelength and Microsoft Azure. In addition, it is teaming with such non-telco partners as MobiledgeX and Cast.era, a joint venture of Sinclair and SKT, to deliver value-added services like real-time overlay video to customers at the network edge.

Vapor IO – Kinetic Edge Exchange
Cracking the group of Leading Lights finalists for the third year in a row, Vapor IO continues to be on a roll. The five-year-old startup, which is seeking to build mini-edge computing data centers throughout the US, scored $90 million in Series C venture capital funding from private equity firm Berkshire Partners and cell tower giant Crown Castle earlier this year as it looks to cover the top 36 US metro markets by the end of 2021. So far, the vendor has built mini-data centers in Chicago, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Dallas.

As part of its ambitious expansion strategy, Vapor IO launched the Kinetic Edge Exchange (KEX), which it terms "the world's first software-defined system for interconnection in edge locations," in October 2019. The KEX is designed to let network operators, app developers, content providers and other users cross-connect using software-defined edge meet-me rooms, making it easy and cost-effective to exchange data near the network edge. Vapor IO says this will also speed up internet traffic, reduce backhaul congestion and deliver low-latency services in an edge-native 5G world.

Volterra – Volterra VoltStack and VoltMesh
A newcomer to the Leading Lights competition, Volterra is another relatively new startup that has crashed the edge computing market with ambitious plans to provide CSPs and enterprises with a platform for running workloads seamlessly on any combination of public and private clouds. Backed with more than $50 million in private funding, the company offers a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform for deploying applications across multi-cloud environments and boasts at least 30 customers.

Volterra's edge computing platform actually consists of two SaaS offerings: VoltStack and VoltMesh. VoltStack enables an "edge cloud" designed to scale to tens of thousands of clusters and locations with centralized orchestration, observability and operations to make it simpler to manage many distributed apps. VoltMesh is a cloud networking and security service that aims to connect edge sites to each other and public cloud providers seamlessly and with tight security.

ZTE – ZTE One-Stop Common Edge Solution
ZTE is another new Leading Lights finalist in the edge computing space. With its strong focus on 5G, the big Chinese vendor is offering up its One-Stop Common Edge Solution, which is integrated with base transceiver station (BTS), transport network, fixed network, MEC, battery and air conditioner packed in one cabinet to deliver "plug-and-play edge cloud" capabilities to commercial customers.

With all components installed in a modular manner, ZTE says its solution takes up relatively little space, can be deployed quickly and easily and can be flexibly placed in many different types of locations. Thanks to such traits, the company says it's now working with such major operators as China Mobile, China Unicom, China Telecom, and Orange to launch holographic projection video calls, AR/VR, local open face recognition, DPI recognition and analysis, cloud gaming and remote driving applications.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Alan Breznick

Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

Alan Breznick is a business editor and research analyst who has tracked the cable, broadband and video markets like an over-bred bloodhound for more than 20 years.

As a senior analyst at Light Reading's research arm, Heavy Reading, for six years, Alan authored numerous reports, columns, white papers and case studies, moderated dozens of webinars, and organized and hosted more than 15 -- count 'em --regional conferences on cable, broadband and IPTV technology topics. And all this while maintaining a summer job as an ostrich wrangler.

Before that, he was the founding editor of Light Reading Cable, transforming a monthly newsletter into a daily website. Prior to joining Light Reading, Alan was a broadband analyst for Kinetic Strategies and a contributing analyst for One Touch Intelligence.

He is based in the Toronto area, though is New York born and bred. Just ask, and he will take you on a power-walking tour of Manhattan, pointing out the tourist hotspots and the places that make up his personal timeline: The bench where he smoked his first pipe; the alley where he won his first fist fight. That kind of thing.

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