StackPath gears up to take on hyperscalers at the network edge

StackPath is working with Cox Communications and Juniper Networks, among others, to enable applications and services at the network edge. (Pixabay)

StackPath has bold aspirations to take on hyperscale cloud providers by building out edge compute locations for companies such as Juniper Networks and Cox Communications.

StackPath thinks about the edge differently than major cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Project and Microsoft Azure. For starters, 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.

StackPath, which has a global network of 45-full stack edge locations or points of presence (POPs), is a cloud agnostic alternative to the major public cloud providers. StackPath was founded five years as more of a security provider that analyzed traffic flows, but it changed its tack a few years ago.

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"The company began to see a really cool opportunity for edge, and so a few years back, we started to acquire some different properties or assets from different companies," said StackPath's Arash Marzban, vice president of product. "There are a couple of CDN providers in the form of Highwinds and MaxCDN that were acquired by StackPath. There was a company called Server Density that was a server monitoring or platform monitoring company that was acquired and also Fireblade, which was a web application firewall company.  All of these were brought together because strategically they made up some of the foundational pieces like security interconnect and computing platform capabilities that would enable StackPath to shift or really pivot to being an edge computing company.

"I don't mean edge computing in the sense of being able to provide services at the edge like a CDN provider does, but more of a version of the big public clouds, AWS or others. But living in a different environment."

Arash Marzban

StackPath separates the control and data planes by using its intellectual property and software to run workloads in CDNs at the edge in "a dynamic or software defined manner," according to Marzban.

On Tuesday, StackPath announced that Will Charnock, who was formerly co-founder and CEO of PacketFabric, had joined the company as its new CTO.

In March, Dallas, Texas-based StackPath wrapped up a  $216 million Series B funding round led by Juniper Networks and Cox Communications to bring its total to $396 million. StackPath has a two-pronged strategy for taking on the large public cloud providers while enabling vendors and service providers with new edge-related services.

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.

RELATED: Juniper Networks exec: How carriers can build a better telco cloud without large cloud providers

Juniper, which is integrating its Contrail cloud platform with StackPath, along with StackPath and the service providers, could offer an edge compute platform, manage it, operate it and gain revenues from it.  

By working with StackPath, service providers don't need to give up revenue opportunities to the large cloud providers, or endure the cost of building out their own edge compute capabilities. Marzban said StackPath's cloud-native edge compute platform could be used at cell towers, central offices, cable headends and even individual nodes, all without compromising valuable last mile service provider connections by partnering with the large public cloud providers.

"When we do our typical exploration and hunting, we really landed on edge computing as kind of a significant evolution of network performance and security for the cable industry," said Cox's Josh Sommer, vice president of new growth and development. "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 the reason the investment and partnership with StackPath emerged was StackPath's vision mapped "incredibly well" with Cox's in terms of where edge compute is headed and how cloud use was transforming.

"StackPath was one of the only companies that was actually in market with scale, running important application workloads in a distributed manner," Sommer said. "So that got our interest and then we had discussions with the management team that was incredibly experienced with a proven track record and a strong cultural fit."

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.

RELATED: Microsoft, AT&T create edge compute zones

With workloads, data and applications moving to the cloud, which has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, service providers, such as AT&T and Telefónica, are forming edge cloud partnerships with AWS, Azure and Google to build out their edge compute networks for 5G services and IoT applications, among others. Marzban said StackPath could provide the same sort of applications and services as those cloud providers, but with the addition of its edge CDNs. StackPath could also work with Cox and Juniper to manage and operate the edge compute services.

"We're going to be one of the very few, if not the only one for a while, providers that can go from full rack or multi rack deployments filling a data center all the way down to a single node, and you still get the oversight management, integration and the experience as you would if you're using a hyperscalar," Marzban said. "You're going to be spinning up VMs, spinning up serverless or containers in order to execute and drive your applications. So that's hopefully going to be one of our differentiators in this process.

"We're not just trying to be another provider that sells VMs on a webpage, but really trying to be the company that empowers the world to build the edge out."

While StackPath hasn't announced any customers outside of the Cox and Juniper Networks, Marzban said "a company that originated as a large bookstore runs on our network." Based on the array of its products and services, Marzban said StackPath already has a large customer base.

While it may be hard to imagine that AWS, Azure and Google would give up market share to StackPath unopposed, Marzban said if they do decide to come directly at StackPath that "means we're doing something right."

Through its partnerships with vendors, enterprises and service providers, StackPath plans to add more POPs in Latin America, India, Europe and the Middle East without taking on large investments directly.

"Where we're heading is really honing in on that edge compute layer, and making sure that we try to fulfill a vision and market of providing a platform for edge computing that can empower everyone from service providers to enterprise companies, particularly in the media and gaming spaces," Marzban said.

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