Unsurprisingly, the event found that most participants saw a collaborative role at the edge between hyperscalers and telcos, bringing the best of IT data center scale and telco network infrastructure. This thinking was backed up in many of the presentations, including those from BT’s Neil McRae and Verizon’s Beth Cohen.
However, there was limited sense from the presentations of what the edge network advantage really was, beyond providing more commodity connectivity and locations for other’s edge infrastructure. There was no real sense of what the new use cases were that would drive a real step change in telco’s investment in the public edge; and sorry, private deployment of customer uCPE as part of customer services does not really count.
Cloud economics 101
The economics of public edge are the same as public cloud:
- Maximize revenue and minimize infrastructure cost with multi tenancy;
- Minimize operational cost with mass automation and efficient power/cooling.
Get these right and the unknown use cases will use this infrastructure. Just like public cloud!
Delegate building the public edge infrastructure to others, like the hyperscalers, and you will never see value from these new use cases, beyond some more connectivity. Worse, the increasing move to software network functions means that higher layer network functions can readily be hosted on the hyper scale edge as part of these use cases.
Telco’s fragmented Edge – Internal and External still seen as distinct
Nigel Stephenson from VMWare made the most telling comment in the final panel. He noted an alarming survey where most CSPs still see customer edge distinct from network edge. Alarming because the economy of scale of cloud is jeopardised by this artificial separation.
Jehanne Savi, of Orange, called out the need for telcos to distinguish between internal and external drivers for edge investment. External edge infrastructure investment needs to balance profitability and critical mass. However, taking this a step further, alignment between the distinct drivers and internal/external edge business models is probably even more important. Alignment could drive very different and ultimately successful investment models:
- A shared edge data centre infrastructure for external and internal uses cases could make the difference in successfully providing a competitive and ubiquitous public edge.
- Alignment of internal/external drivers could enable investment in over-provisioning of uCPE devices, beyond immediate customer need, with spare capacity available for public far edge applications.
Telco can succeed at the edge.
Amazon leveraged it’s existing bookshop application infrastructure to create the foundation for AWS,. Telcos actually have the same opportunity to leverage their network investment, at the edge, to kick start their public edge cloud ambition. But only if they can join the currently fragmented pieces and differentiate across both network and edge IT.