Cox targets the edge for the next evolution of network performance and security

Cox Communications brings several value propositions to the edge compute space, including working with a developer community. (Pixabay)

In the mad scramble to get to the network edge, Cox Communications is solidifying its strategy around network performance, the cloud and security. 

In March, Cox and Juniper Networks led a $216 million Series B funding round in Dallas, Texas-based StackPath, which brought StackPath's total to $396 million. Service providers, such as Cox, could use StackPath to offer "edge infrastructure-as-a-service" to third-party application developers, which would allow the service providers to capture all of the service revenue while the app developers generate their own revenues by offering their apps via a marketplace.

Such an arrangement, which would use StackPath's 45 global points of presence, could also cut out the large cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services, Azure and Google Cloud Project, while allowing Cox to benefit from its last mile connections to its business and residential subscribers.

Cox's Josh Sommer, vice president of new growth and development, said he is constantly on the lookout for new growth and development areas for the cable operator. After conducting its research and due diligence, Sommer said Cox landed on edge computing as a key pillar going forward because it, along with the move to the cloud, represents a significant evolution of network performance and security for Cox and the cable industry.

"We think that we very much can be a part of that in order to enable these better experiences for these residential customers that we have that are important to us, but also to offer these same experiences to our business partners, and especially the developer community that we're starting to build so they can then offer it to their customers," Sommer said. "I think edge can manifest in multiple ways. It can happen on in devices. It can happen on base stations. It can happen in the infrastructure edge and it can happen at POPs.  

"Cox defines it very much within the access network. So the infrastructure edge within our facilities as well as within that last mile before you hit the base stations or our actual customers. It's getting as deep in the network as possible, but focused on network edge versus in devices or that regional POP."

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For both its residential and business customers, Sommer said Cox was creating a new developer ecosystem as part of its edge compute strategy with StackPath. 

Sommer said Cox wasn't ready to divulge the details of its work in creating a developer community, but Cox's interest is "incredibly high" and Cox has "beachfront property" to deliver on its edge compute vision. Sommer said creating a broad developer ecosystem is very much of interest for Cox in order to provide new revenue generating services and applications to both residential subscribers and Cox Business customers.

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Driven in part by 5G rollouts, there has been a gold rush for partnerships between service providers and cloud providers. In April, Microsoft announced it was working with AT&T to bring ultra-low-latency edge compute applications to joint customers. While StackPath sees itself as competing against the large public cloud providers, that's not necessarily the case for Cox.

"I think we're more complimentary to the existing cloud ecosystem," he said. "A developer would be able to leverage the existing centralized cloud, and then for certain workloads that need heavy compute or need to be processed closer to where the customer is, they could leverage our infrastructure to be able to do that.

"The broad developer ecosystem is very much of interest to us in order to be able to deliver these experiences for their customers. We also obviously have a significant commercial business already established and they are hungry for these edge computing capabilities as well."

Cox Business, which was among the early pioneers for offering commercial services in the cable industry, has more than 355,000 customers and yearly revenues of around $2.5 billion.

StackPath brings content network delivery (CDN) capabilities to its edge compute portfolio along with virtual machines (VMs), containers and serverless, as well as edge services web application firewall (WAF), managed DNS, service monitoring and DDoS protection.

"We believe edge computing is the convergence between virtual machines, containers, serverless, CDNs, WAFs (Wide Area File Services,) managed DNS, and DDoS protection," Sommer said. "We can't forget about security.  We think security is a real strong value proposition within the edge use case. Obviously, Cox has a strong reputation from a security perspective today."

Combining Cox's security with StackPath's would enable a targeted, location-centric type of security, as well as improved privacy, according to Sommer. It would also provide better security for containers and customers' workloads.

Sommer said there's a lot of interest from the cable industry ecosystem in general for edge computing.

"I'll speak for Cox, but you can maybe think of it from a cable perspective," he said. "What we bring to the edge really involves this proximity to the customer and the ability to manage heterogeneous networks from a wireless and wireline perspective. Another is our ability is to make it really simple for businesses and developers to build on the edge and take a lot of their centralized applications and workflows and deploy those into a very distributed environment without a lot of complexity. 

"And then the last thing, which I think a clear differentiator, is around transport costs, especially around egress. It's being able to improve and decrease overall transport costs and generally being able to improve the direct transit for a lot of these services. The infrastructure edge, and the depth in which we can take the edge, just continues to amplify these value propositions."