Microsoft is working with AT&T to bring ultra-low-latency edge compute to joint customers. Its Azure Edge Zones are local extensions of the Microsoft Azure cloud. They’ll bring compute, storage and networking closer to end users. And Microsoft is planning to work with other operators soon, including Rogers, Telefonica, Vodafone Business, SK Telecom, Telstra, Etisalat and NTT Communications.
Microsoft is also stressing a 5G angle with the edge compute announcement. It said that the Azure Edge Zones will connect Azure services directly to 5G networks in the carriers’ data centers.
“We were the first public cloud to announce 5G integration with AT&T in Dallas in 2019, and now we're announcing a close collaboration with AT&T on a new Edge Zone targeted to become available in Los Angeles in late spring,” wrote Corporate Vice President for Azure Networking Yousef Khalidi, in a blog post.
In July 2019, AT&T named Microsoft as its preferred cloud provider for non-network applications with a plan to move those applications to Microsoft Azure. Microsoft, in turn, threw its support behind AT&T's efforts to consolidate its data center infrastructure and operations.
For its Azure Edge Zones, some of the first use cases that Microsoft plans are remote meetings and events, online gaming and the internet of things.
In addition to partnering with carriers, Microsoft will also deliver standalone Azure Edge Zones in select cities over the next 12 months.
Azure Edge Zones will deliver consistent Azure services across cloud, on-premises, and edge using the same Azure Portal, APIs, development, and security tools. Microsoft says it will deliver a variety of virtual network functions (VNFs), including 5G software, SD-WAN and firewalls from some of its partners including Mavenir, Nuage Networks from Nokia, Metaswitch, Palo Alto Networks, and VeloCloud from VMware.
Telco, cloud partnerships
Telcos and cloud providers have been creating symbiotic relationships for a while now. Carriers, including telco and cable, have thousands of last mile endpoints that the cloud providers lack. By partnering with telcos, the cloud providers can get their services closer to end users. From the service provider perspective, they can bring big cloud compute and applications to the edge, for the benefit of their enterprise customers.
Recently, AT&T and Google said they were working together to blend AT&T's edge network, including 5G edge computing solutions for enterprises, with Google Cloud's expertise in Kubernetes, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics. The two companies intend to jointly-develop a portfolio of 5G edge compute solutions that can be delivered on a global scale, both on the edge and in the cloud.
In addition to announcing its partnership with Microsoft in July 2019, AT&T also announced an expanded two-way relationship with IBM at around that same time. IBM will continue to provide AT&T Business with open source systems, which IBM mostly inherited from its acquisition of Red Hat. And for its part, AT&T said it would provide IBM with software-defined networking (SDN) expertise. In addition, AT&T Business will move more of its applications to the IBM Cloud.
In May 2018, Verizon named Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its preferred public cloud provider. Verizon said it planned to move 1,000 business applications and database systems over to AWS.
And in December 2019 at AWS re:Invent, Verizon and AWS announced a partnership for Verizon to bring cloud compute closer to its 5G network edge by teaming with AWS. Verizon will use AWS Wavelength, Amazon’s new cloud platform designed for edge computing, to make it easier for developers to create and deploy low latency applications.
At least one European operator has also announced a cloud partnership. In November 2019, the Vodafone Group said it had partnered with Google Cloud to host its big-data analytics platform. The Vodafone Neuron big-data analytics platform serves as a data lake for Vodafone’s AI and business intelligence.