The Edge

Edge Computing Players Move Beyond Tower Locations

Federating the edge
And, to further goose the edge computing market, Vapor IO today announced its Kinetic Edge Alliance (KEA) with participation from the likes of Federated Wireless , StackPath, Linode, MobiledgeX Inc. , Seagate Technology LLC (Nasdaq: STX), Pluribus Networks , Packet , Alef Mobitech and Detecon International. The alliance is "committed to driving the broad adoption of compute, storage, access and interconnection at the edge of the cellular network, simplifying edge computing for the masses," according to the companies.

Importantly, this kind of federation in edge computing is what some analysts have been calling for in the space. "The answer [to the edge computing problem] seems to be some form of software edge-federation or edge-brokering layer, which can tie together a whole set of different edge resources, and hopefully have intelligence to deal with some of the network-access complexity as well," wrote analyst Dean Bubley of Disruptive Analysis in a recent post to his site. "I've been coming across various companies hoping to take on the role of aggregator, whether that's primarily for federating different telcos' edge networks (eg MobiledgeX), or helping developers deploy to a wider variety of edge-datacentre and other locations (eg Ori)."

However, to be clear, the only company in Vapor IO's new Kinetic Edge Alliance that's actually physically building the necessary edge computing data centers is Vapor IO. And Crawford acknowledged that the company would need to raise more money to reach its buildout goal of 30 metro markets.

Vapor IO isn't alone in trying to stimulate interest and demand in edge computing. EdgeMicro, for example, just last month built a test edge computing data center immediately outside of Flexential's massive data center in Denver. EdgeMicro's edge computing data center is basically a handful of computing racks stored inside a big steel shipping container, like the kind of shipping containers that can be placed on cargo ships, railroad cars or 18-wheelers, with power and fiber routed into it from Flexential's data center.

Companies that include Akamai, StackPath, BitBox, Cisco, Fiber Mountain, Flexential and Megaport are participating in the test (though EdgeMicro is financing the effort).

Startups like EdgeMicro and Vapor IO also aren't alone in the edge computing game. For example, Ericsson and Intel this week announced a new multi-year collaboration to align their ongoing development efforts in and around software-defined infrastructure, part of which includes the ability for service providers to "successfully deploy open cloud and NFV infrastructure, from centralized data centers to the edge." (See Eurobites: Ericsson, Intel Combine on Software-Defined Infrastructure for 5G.)

"It is about efficient distributed compute processing in 5G, which will be important for services at the edge," explained Strategy Analytics analyst Sue Rudd of the new Ericsson/Intel partnership.

"While edge discussions often focus on the workloads and locations, management is a big deal ... and it's critical to actually make it all work. Nice to see a focus on it," Peter Jarich, head of GSMA Intelligence, said of the deal.

Waiting on operators
While vendors continue to jostle for position in a market that many see as potentially explosive -- the global edge computing market is expected to post a compound annual growth rate of 41% through 2023, according to the latest market research report by Technavio -- there's one thing they all agree on: They need operators to participate.

"It's certainly our desire to onboard the mobile network operators," Vapor IO's Crawford said. "I think that we've got a really solid offering for the mobile operators."

He added: "We're here with an olive branch to anybody that sees the kinetic edge as being a viable solution to solving their first-party or third-party customer requirements, the telcos included."

Similarly, EdgeMicro's Pettine said that he's working to ink interconnection deals with mobile operators for edge computing services. He said such interconnections are critical to prevent mobile data requests from first traveling to an operator's central switching station and then to their ultimate destination. For example, he said that, without an interconnection deal, an EdgeMicro computing request in Denver could first be sent to AT&T's switching center in Dallas, thus completely eliminating the latency speed gains obtained by physically locating an edge computing processing center in Denver.

Although operators like AT&T and Verizon have demonstrated their interest in edge computing services, so far EdgeMicro and Vapor IO haven't been able to sign deals with big mobile carriers. Thus, it remains to be seen whether operators like Verizon and AT&T will agree to play ball with edge computing vendors -- and if so, how.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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