The Edge

Connect & Compute – Balance at the Edge

Smartphones and tablets did the early work of spreading computing intelligence around, and now it's time for networks to follow suit. From leveraging newer edge data centers to distributing more high-speed connectivity, operators are evaluating the upgrades they'll need to make to meet growing consumer demands.

But as always, there's a tricky balance to maintain. How do service providers subsidize infrastructure investments today when the applications that will produce new revenue from those investments -- like connected cars, augmented reality and telehealth -- don't necessarily exist yet? Or, at least, won't make a significant financial impact for many years to come?

Some of these investments are already happening. Wireless carriers are preparing for a wave of small cell rollouts, which the Small Cell Forum predicts will hit a rate of 11.4 million deployments annually in 2025. Meanwhile, cable operators are pushing fiber deeper into their networks, with some estimates suggesting that optical node deployments are on the verge of rising by a factor of eight or more. (See The Big Cable DAA Update.)

These investments are primarily about extending connectivity rather than the distribution of computing power, but the two components of network infrastructure will ultimately go hand in hand. And that's why both the financial and technological strategies driving operators' network upgrade plans deserve a closer look.

At the upcoming panel session on "Distributed Intelligence: What Will It Really Cost?" during Light Reading's Big Communications Event in Austin, Texas, executives from Calix Inc. (NYSE: CALX), EdgeConneX Inc. and Telia Carrier will discuss how operators need to be thinking about intelligence at the network edge, and how they can invest strategically to balance short-term and long-term needs.

Here's the panel description:

    Distributed Intelligence: What Will It Really Cost?
    One primary goal of distributing intelligence to the edge is to generate new revenue streams for network operators who have seen the value of their broadband connections flow largely to OTT content providers. This panel looks at how and where intelligence/IT infrastructure should go, based on the wide range of potential applications including video content storage and processing, gaming, IoT, telehealth, traffic management, connected cars and much more, and how network operators can connect vertical industries to its infrastructure in a way that makes good business sense.

This is not a new topic if you're a follower of Light Reading. We regularly cover the network edge, from content delivery optimization to the roadmap for 5G to the implications of moving cloud-based technologies out into the field.

But there are still many questions to debate.

Where should connectivity and computing overlap? What's the fastest way to ensure a return on new infrastructure investments? What killer apps have the biggest potential to fill service provider coffers in the future?

We hope you'll join us in person as we explore these questions and others. Bring us your own ideas and opinions too! You'll find us at the Big Communications Event.

Join us in Austin.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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