Colt tees up proof-of-concept trials on new network edge nodes

Colt Technology Services has booted up network edge nodes across five cities in order to kick the tires on next-gen applications and services.

The network edge nodes in London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Tokyo and Singapore—the Singapore build is being finalized—provide the infrastructure for Colt's customer edge and network edge offerings.

"The edge is like a continuum, and everyone is washing their problems with the edge these days," said Colt's Peter Coppens, vice president of the product portfolio. "The way we define edge is that we have two types of edge. We have the network edge, and the customer edge. The network edge is really where our points of presence are located. We have hundreds of points of presence globally. That's what we call the network edge.

"And then the customer edge, that's where in the past we put customer premises equipment. Think small Cisco CPE routers on the end of a legacy MPLS connection in the past. That's what we define as the customer edge."

Coppens said Colt has offerings and applications across both the customer edge and network edge. Colt has rolled out its network edge to a large number of its global POPs.

"We now have server farms in the main key POPs globally," Coppens said. "And from that network edge, we are then delivering the service features capabilities as a network offering.

"So here you can think about virtual routers, virtual firewalls, virtual cloud routers to interconnect with Amazon, and Microsoft, etcetera. So that's really network-based functionality that we deliver from that network edge. "

At the customer edge, Colt has deployed white boxes servers of various sizes and processing power that include a software virtualization layer from Adva.

"And then on top of that virtualization layer, we then put our functionality in software that can be, for example, Colt's virtual router, or a Colt on demand capability based on Versa," Coppens said. " So it could be the Colt virtual router, or the Colt SD-WAN capability, that's Colt maintained, operated and configured."

The second family of applications that Colt can put on top of the customer edge is functionality that Colt installs for the customer via service chains.

"So with the service chaining, we do the initial configuration and then we hand it over to the customer, and the customer will do all the software config, the parameterization of that virtual network function," Coppens said. "At the moment we are supporting Checkpoint, we are supporting Palo Alto and we have a long list of further capabilities that we are going to launch in that same structure."

The third option for customer edge would include allowing customers to install their own applications. Colt is in the proof-of-concept stage for the third option.

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"We're starting to launch some of our network edge nodes," Colt CEO Keri Gilder said in a December interview with FierceTelecom. "These are very exciting because the personality that they bring to the mix is going to enable a more software-defined, NFV delivery mechanism that will enable some of our first proof-of-concepts in the network edge.

"We're doing some proof-of-concepts on the customer edge around robotics, 5G and holographics for some of the next generation capabilities that could be coming into the mix in the next 18 to 24 months."

For the third customer edge offering, Coppens mentioned POCs that included IoT and smart building capabilities. Coppens said Colt's goal with the third pillar of customer edge was to carve out server compute power to let customers add their applications as they see fit. For example, Colt is conducting a POC for a smart elevator application.

"They are not interested in running software, but its part of their offer," he said of the elevator POC. "So they need something to run it on, and that could be that custom edge capability.

"So the network edge is not a far concept that has some slides. It's real, and it has been delivered on the customer edge of these three families. One and two we are doing live. We have those capabilities. We're doing POCs for our customers on the third."

Every app needs a business case

Coppens said Colt has the technological wherewithal to provision the third option at the customer edge, but the question remains whether customers want it.

"We know that this works. Commercially, we know that we can do it," Coppens said. "It's also not just about commercial and marketing stuff. It's really on the boundary between both. It's trying to see if such a proposition flies. We know that the culture is there. We know the commercials are there. But if you put it all together, do customers really want and need it?

"It's a whole ecosystem that you're building up. Colt delivers the connectivity. We deliver the white server and the platform. Then you have the application provider, like Palo Alto, and maybe that specialized elevator software. Then you have the end customer, and sometimes even an integrator in the mix. So does that whole ecosystem fly? It's more like market acceptance testing than anything else."