In January, a group of operators formed a Forum called the 5G Future Forum. The group of operators wanted to set out interoperable standards for the way developers could interact with “5G and mobile-edge computing-enabled solutions.”
The Forum’s founding members, América Móvil, KT, Rogers, Telstra, Verizon and Vodafone, said it would focus on the “creation of uniform interoperability specifications” to improve speed to market for developers and multinational enterprises working on 5G-enabled solutions. In addition, Forum participants would develop public and private marketplaces to enhance developer and customer access to 5G, and will share global best practices in technology deployment.
Although the Forum doesn’t formally carry the word Edge within its title, the edge is very much the target environment for this codification or interoperability. The idea was to make it easier for enterprises and developers to engage with the telco edge, so that applications requiring mobile edge resources or presence could be deployed and behave in a more uniform manner.
Today, another group was formed, this one called the Telco Edge Cloud. The Telco Edge Cloud is being formed by another group of operators – China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, EE, KDDI, Orange, Singtel, SK Telecom, Telefonica and TIM.
These operators say they will develop “develop an interoperable platform to make edge compute capabilities widely and easily available.”
A press statement said: “The platform to be developed in 2020, will make local operator assets and capabilities, such as latency, compute and storage available to application developers and software vendors enabling them to fulfil the needs of enterprise clients.”
The Telco Edge Cloud will be “supported” by something called the Operator Platform Project. This is a GSMA-led project that will form the specification basis for the Telco Edge Cloud.
The Telco Edge Cloud itself will not reinvent any new edge environment. Instead, it will leverage existing technology solutions; as appropriate, including, but not limited to, aggregation platform solutions such as MobiledgeX, or the interconnection mechanisms developed as part of the GSMA MultiOperator MEC experience.
MobiledgeX is an edge cloud environment that has just released version 2.0 of its Edge-Cloud platform, which “expands support beyond public carrier networks to include enterprise/private networks”. According to MobiledgeX, “Edge-Cloud R2.0 aggregates edge processing power across multiple enterprise on-premise and telecom network locations, and presents them through one common interface that application developers and independent software vendors (ISVs) use to design, deploy and manage their applications.”
The company was founded by Deutsche Telekom, so it is not surprising to see DT as a member of the Telco Edge Cloud group.
The edge platform takes away the responsibility for the management and delivery of that edge environment from operators. Edge aggregators act as a marketplace between developers and the mobile operators, managing the relationship with the developers and paying to telcos based on usage.
The rationale for the role of the edge aggregator is that operators need to expose their capabilities to software developers used to writing for cloud-based workloads. An aggregator like MobiledgeX can give developers the ability to consumer telco resources within their workflows in a cloud native way but also in a way that recognises the code must be deployable in different edge environments and geographies.
At first sight the two Forums reflect two different approaches, the aggregator model and something more vertically controlled by the operator. A third way which will also be part of the mix is telco partnerships with the hyperscalers. How AWS, Google Cloud and Azure are integrated, or otherwise, as part of the telco edge is a different problem to wrestle with.
MobiledgeX CMO Geoff Hollingworth told TMN in a discussion earlier this year: “Clever telecoms are placing multiple bets. The good thing about edge computing is that it is going to happen because every single player has recognised it needs to happen. That includes hyperscalers, telecom mobile operators and all the vendors. So the only question is how should it happen. And it’s not a one size fits all market.
“What we are saying to all operators is that the only wrong strategy is to do nothing. Please do not academically talk about this for two years because in the next two years the market will have formed in the real word and you will have no leverage or understanding. If I were a CSO I would be very scared to choose one strategy when no-one is really sure how this market will turn out. Place a couple of bets and learn from them.”