Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Announcing telco edge computing and hybrid cloud report 2020

As I am ramping up towards the release of my latest report on telco edge computing and hybrid cloud, I will be releasing some previews. Please contact me privately for availability date, price and conditions.

In the 5 years since I published my first report on the edge computing market, it has evolved from an obscure niche to a trendy buzzword. What originally started as a mobile-only technology, has evolved into a complex field, with applications in IT, telco, industry and clouds. While I have been working on the subject for 6 years, first as an analyst, then as a developer and network operator at Telefonica, I have noticed that the industry’s perception of the space has polarized drastically with each passing year.

The idea that telecom operators could deploy and use a decentralized computing fabric throughout their radio access has been largely swept aside and replaced by the inexorable advances in cloud computing, showing a capacity to abstract decentralized computing capacity into a coherent, easy to program and consume data center as a service model.

As often, there are widely diverging views on the likely evolution of this model:

The telco centric view

Edge computing is a natural evolution of telco networks. 
5G necessitates robust fibre based backhaul transport.With the deployment of fibre, it is imperative that the old copper commuting centers (the central offices) convert towards multi-purposes mini data centers. These are easier and less expensive to maintain than their traditional counterpart and offer interesting opportunities to monetize unused capacity.

5G will see a new generation of technology providers that will deploy cloud native software-defined functions that will help deploy and manage computing capabilities all the way to the fixed and radio access network.

Low-risk internal use cases such as CDN, caching, local breakout, private networks, parental control, DDOS detection and isolation, are enough to justify investment and deployment. The infrastructure, once deployed, opens the door to more sophisticated use cases and business models such as low latency compute as a service, or wholesale high performance localized compute that will extend the traditional cloud models and services to a new era of telco digital revenues.

Operators have long run decentralized networks, unlike cloud providers who favour federated centralized networks, and that experience will be invaluable to administer and orchestrate thousands of mini centers.

Operators will be able to reintegrate the cloud value chain through edge computing, their right-to-play underpinned by the control and capacity to program the last mile connectivity and the fact that they will not be over invested by traditional public clouds in number and capillarity of data centers in their geography (outside of the US).

With its long-standing track record of creating interoperable decentralized networks, the telco community will create a set of unifying standards that will make possible the implementation of an abstraction layer across all telco to sell edge computing services irrespectively of network or geography.

Telco networks are managed networks, unlike the internet, they can offer a programmable and guaranteed quality of service. Together with 5G evolution such as network slicing, operators will be able to offer tailored computing services, with guaranteed speed, volume, latency. These network services will be key to the next generation of digital and connectivity services that will enable autonomous vehicles, collaborating robots, augmented reality and pervasive AI assisted systems.

The cloud centric view:

Edge computing, as it turns out is less about connectivity than cloud, unless you are able to weave-in a programmable connectivity. 
Many operators have struggled with the creation and deployment of a telco cloud, for their own internal purposes or to resell cloud services to their customers. I don’t know of any operator who has one that is fully functional, serving a large proportion of their traffic or customers, and is anywhere as elastic, economic, scalable and easy to use as a public cloud.
So, while the telco industry has been busy trying to develop a telco edge compute infrastructure, virtualization layer and platform, the cloud providers have just started developing decentralized mini data centers for deployment in telco networks.

In 2020, the battle to decide whether edge computing is more about telco or about cloud is likely already finished, even if many operators and vendors are just arming themselves now.

Edge computing, to be a viable infrastructure-based service that operators can resell to their customers needs a platform, that allows third party to discover, view, reserve and consume it on a global scale, not operator per operator, country per country, and it looks like the telco community is ill-equipped for a fast deployment of that nature.

Whether you favour one side or the other of that argument, the public announcements in that space of AT&T, Amazon Web Services, Deutsche Telekom, Google, Microsoft, Telefonica, Vapour.io and Verizon – to name a few –will likely convince you that edge computing is about to become a reality.

This report analyses the different definitions and flavours of edge computing, the predominant use cases and the position and trajectory of the main telco operators, equipment manufacturers and cloud providers.

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