Telefónica is the latest operator to forge a relationship with Deutsche Telekom's edge computing offshoot MobiledgeX.
Deutsche Telekom created MobiledgeX as a wholly owned, San Francisco-based standalone business at the start of this year and appointed former Ericsson cloud infrastructure expert Jason Hoffman as its CEO. (See DT Forms New Edge Computing Unit, Appoints Ex-Ericsson Cloud Guru as CEO.)
Within weeks, Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) had pledged to use the startup's software as part of the edge computing rollout that will support the German giant's 5G architecture. (See DT-Owned MobiledgeX to Power German Telco's Edge Rollout.)
Since then Hoffman has been engaging with multiple network operators, looking to get as many of them as possible to collaborate on edge computing developments, he tells Light Reading. "Our intention is to do what we're doing with as many operators as possible... if not all of them," says the CEO.
He's not ready to start divulging details of any active engagements, but he confirmed that Telefónica is already on board as a collaborator: The Spanish operator referenced MobiledgeX as an edge computing element on its slide deck as it unveiled its distributed cloud architecture stack, known as CTpd, at the recent Network Virtualization Europe event in Madrid. (See Telefónica Edges Closer to a Distributed Telco Cloud.)
"We haven't officially announced anything yet with Telefónica but it's nice that they are putting our logo on their slides. It's good to see operators that would normally be competing with each other working together," noted Hoffman.
The CEO needs more peers and rivals to sign up if he is to meet his own aggressive timelines. "By MWC 2019 our intention is to have everything rolled up into one effort with other operators… we need everyone pulling in the same direction," and that means building industry consensus and momentum in a different, more open way, without traditional standards body involvement.
Pretty much everything needs to be done differently, notes Hoffman, including the volume of code and documentation created just to take the industry one small step forwards. He says edge computing can't be regarded as just another infrastructure investment -- it needs to be considered as something that will make 5G possible and it needs to be planned with the needs of all potential users in mind.
Network operators "will, by default, build the edge for our own use, but that doesn't meet everyone's needs. We need to build it so that it makes a relationship with an OTT possible. We need to ask, how can we make the edge work for everyone? We, the telcos, need to be honest -- we don't ask our customers what we can do for them. We always do a bunch of stuff for us," noted Hoffman.
A case in point is the current edge projects. "We have some use cases already that we know about -- 5G radio as a VNF, packet core as a VNF, a virtual BNG -- but that's about it. We need to ask, what else will be running on that same footprint? Who might be interested in using [the edge computing capabilities] and why? Essentially what we are doing is solving a major distributed systems problem and what's important is getting systems in front of developers so they can build against it," and that's a different mindset to developing specifications and millions of lines of standards code, notes the MobiledgeX man.
"We are looking to meet the needs of developers, enable what developers need," rather than focus on the specifics of individual applications, he adds.
Ultimately, whatever MobiledgeX does will be fed back into the open source community, notes Hoffman. When that might start to happen, who might be involved and quite how the MobiledgeX gameplan will play out is impossible to predict right now, but things appear to be moving fast. Expect to hear more from this team very soon.
In the meantime, check out this interview with "The Hoff" from this year's MWC in Barcelona:
— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading