Ericsson is positioning itself as an edge-computing partner for big network operators

Ericsson is positioning itself as an edge-computing partner for big network operators

This post appeared on Aug 12, 2019 on Business Insider by Peter Newman

Swedish networking giant Ericsson is looking to ramp up the public profile of its Edge Gravity data processing and connectivity group, according to a recent FierceWireless interview with group CEO Kyle Okamoto.

The unit is positioning itself as a partner for network operators so they can offer computing and analysis — a key part of telecoms' efforts to expand their services and enterprise business portfolios — without needing to shunt data to public cloud services.

Here's what Ericsson's unit is doing: Edge Gravity is working with global telecoms to transform their B2B offerings using dedicated private fiber lines and edge-based data processing solutions.

The basic goal is to enable network operators — in partnership with a company like Ericsson — to serve as primary partners who meet most of an enterprise customers' computing needs, instead of only their data transmission requirements. The unit uses a range of edge computing tools and systems to help telecoms facilitate use cases like advanced VR and AR applications, autonomous vehicle support, and real-time analytics functions.

This approach can allow telecoms to take a larger share of revenue from enterprise customers. “Telcos and service providers were simply carrying [data] traffic the rest of the way” from a device to the cloud, Okamoto told FierceWireless, “but not really monetizing it, not really creating new revenue streams for themselves. But now, for applications that need high performance, we're getting in front of it.”

Instead of centralizing data operations, Edge Gravity uses distributed computing, so that data doesn't travel nearly as far or congest networks as much. And the three-year-old Ericsson group boasts a network of more than 50 wired and wireless telecommunications providers within its ecosystem from its earlier, less publicized ventures.

The bigger picture: Telecoms are striving to maximize their revenue shares from increasingly connected enterprise strategies, and offering a range of edge computing solutions can help set them apart from the competition.

By adding edge processing tools to their wireless networks, telecoms can bolster their services and reduce customers' reliance on cloud companies. If enterprise customers can use edge computing services offered by telecoms, they won't need to store or process as much data in the cloud.

Telecoms could develop their own edge computing systems to achieve this, but that can be a costly endeavor. Instead, they can use a ready-made solution from Ericsson's unit — or similar units at networking giants Nokia and Huawei. By working with a partner, a telecom can more quickly launch edge-based services and offer new products to their customers, in turn growing their revenue.

And developing these sorts of systems isn't just important for increasing revenue: With the growing volume of data that businesses will create — and the wireless data 5G networks will transmit — edge computing will be a key tool to maintain data infrastructure health.

Because edge computing performs processing on the fringes of a network, data doesn't need to travel increasingly burdened public fiber lines toward the cloud for processing. Cutting down on what needs to be transmitted preserves a telecom's resources, which will come under pressure as volume increases.

Ericsson has a global edge network built from service provider partnerships

Ericsson has a global edge network built from service provider partnerships

This article appeared on August 8 on FierceWireless written by Linda Hardesty, Editor-in-Chief, Telecom Group

Many people don’t realize that Ericsson has a global network — Edge Gravity — which is based on about 90 points of presence (PoPs) around the world, connected with private fiber links. Ericsson has created Edge Gravity via partnerships with its service provider customers. And, its lofty goal is to help service providers compete for enterprise customer revenue against such cloud giants as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

Edge Gravity has actually been around for about three years. When it was first created in 2016, it was called Ericsson’s Unified Delivery Network (UDN). But the company recently changed the name to Edge Gravity.

Ericsson has been a bit mum about this network until recently. In June, Ericsson hired former Verizon executive Kyle Okamoto as CEO of Edge Gravity. And he’s ready for the world to know about its existence and its purpose.

Edge Gravity is its own autonomous business with about 300 employees based in Santa Clara, California. It has one key stakeholder, which is Ericsson. But it has its own board of directors, and it runs its own finances and legal department. Okamoto said Ericsson created Edge Gravity as an “acceleration unit” and “there’s a clear mandate to grow this business.”

Edge Gravity is “facilitating an ecosystem” to help service providers deepen their relationships with enterprises and to monetize their networks for more than just connectivity, said Okamoto. “We’re really connecting enterprise application owners and consumer application owners to service providers to help them to participate in the revenue streams instead of just last mile connections.”

Ultimately, service providers would like to compete for more of the big bucks that public cloud providers such as AWS and Google Cloud are raking in. And Edge Gravity aims to help them.

Not another ‘dumb pipe’ era

Okamoto remembers the days when over-the-top video providers began offering their services on cable networks. The cable guys recognized the threat, and they didn’t want their networks to be just “dumb pipes.” Nevertheless, the OTT players have taken quite a bit of market share from cable video providers.

“These content providers would simply provide OTT on top of these networks that service providers had invested billions in to build with fiber and wireless,” said Okamoto. “Telcos and service providers were simply carrying that traffic the rest of the way, but not really monetizing it, not really creating new revenue streams for themselves. But now, for applications that need high performance, we’re getting in front of it.”

The Edge Gravity network

Currently, Edge Gravity counts more than 90 PoPs, with about 85% of those PoPs being in service provider networks and the rest being in carrier-neutral data centers. But Edge Gravity is working toward having 100% of its PoPs in service provider networks, and it wants to have hundreds of PoPs in total.

“It’s a hierarchal edge compute platform,” said Okamoto. “Some workflows need to happen at the far edge and some in a more centralized fashion.” The PoPs are connected by private fiber links, many of these links also provided by the service provider partners.

Okamoto thinks this platform has a leg-up on the big public cloud platforms in terms of edge compute because those cloud giants offer their services in a more centralized fashion, with two or three PoPs in a major geography. Edge Gravity is planning many more PoPs further at the edge.

Many of Edge Gravity’s service provider partners are headquartered in the Asia-Pacific region, including Telstra, SK Telecom, Singtel, KDDI, and NTT Docomo. Okamoto says much of the heavy-lifting has already been done by working with these Asia-Pac service providers because their network topologies include a lot of sub-sea cables and difficult geographies. It’s a lot easier to establish PoPs and fiber links on big land masses such as North America and Europe.

CDN and SD-WAN

Edge Gravity has already been working with some of these service providers to provide content delivery network (CDN) services.

Frost & Sullivan analyst Dan Rayburn said in regard to offering CDN services, Edge Gravity has gone after Asia as its first target market. “In the United States there are only a handful of carriers with more than 5 million subscribers, and the delivery of video is fairly prescribed,” said Rayburn. “But in Asia, it’s more fragmented. In Asia, Edge Gravity has built out what is essentially a CDN using ISP’s and operators’ last mile and footprint.”

In addition to CDN services, Edge Gravity is also being used as an underlay network for SD-WAN vendors to provide their services. The San Francisco-based networking startup Mode has partnered with Edge Gravity to deliver what Mode calls its software-defined core (SD-Core). It’s basically a virtual overlay network on top of Edge Gravity's physical network, which Mode provides as a private network-as-a-service. And a couple of SD-WAN vendors — Versa and Fat Pipe — are using Mode’s SD-Core technology to deliver SD-WAN services.

Craig Matsumoto, an analyst with 451 Research said of Edge Gravity, “They want to get in on edge computing. There are different startups that are trying to put in place the infrastructure that would be the edge. Most are borrowing from the carrier networks and CDNs.” One example would be Deutsche Telekom’s MobilEdgeX.

Edge Gravity is holding a Global Edge Forum conference in October in Silicon Valley to bring together service providers and enterprises to discuss edge trends.

Edge Gravity Aims for Hyper-Scale

Edge Gravity Aims for Hyper-Scale

This article first appeared on June 28, 2019 on Light Reading.

Edge Gravity is close to connecting to 100 content delivery network and service provider partners, but expects to scale much higher as the Ericsson-owned distributed edge cloud unit looks to greatly expand the reach of its platform worldwide.

“We are in hyper-scale mode right now,” Kyle Okamoto, Edge Gravity's newly appointed CEO, said. “We are all about executing on the mission, on the vision of expanding the edge as far and as wide and as deep as we possibly can with the service providers.”

Edge Gravity, a unit of Ericsson that launched last year and is designed to operate with the agility of a startup, expects to cross the three-digit mark with respect to CDN and service providers in the coming weeks. Examples of those on the current list, which stands at between 80 to 90, include Equinix, Limelight, Rogers Communications, KDDI, Hargray Communications, Mytel, Telenor, US Cellular, Veon, Optus, Taiwan Mobile, Telstra Corp., Vodafone, Bharti Airtel, SingTel, Telefónica, NTT DoCoMo, China Unicom, Chunghwa Telecom, Mobiphone and Telkom Indonesia.

But Okamoto, who took the helm of Edge Gravity on June 24 following several years at Verizon, including its Verizon Digital Media Services (VDMS) unit, considers that milestone merely a good start.

“I'm much more bullish than that,” he said. “I think it will be in the hundreds — the multiple, multiple hundreds — in the coming months. We have more demand than we can supply right now, which is a good problem to have in this entrepreneurial space. It's just a matter of us being able to scale up that supply.”

Okamoto said the high demand is indicative of the hunger the market has for access to edge compute on a global basis. But he notes that Edge Gravity and its partners are still exploring and experimenting with the various use cases.

Some of the initial, obvious ones include low-latency apps and services such as virtual reality, augmented reality and online gaming, particularly as Google fixates on that sector with its new Stadia offering. But Okamoto also sees that rapidly expanding into areas like smart cities and smart grids, fleet services and other aspects of industrial IoT, including connectivity in manufacturing facilities.

“There's a ton of these use cases that we're seeing customers start to offer,” Okamoto said. “They are all really trying to push the edge on how to simplify their operations and streamline.”

Edge Gravity also intends to tie into the 5G network evolution, which will lean heavily on edge computing to support apps and services that demand super-low latencies.

Riding the 5G wave
5G is an “enabler” for Edge Gravity, Okamoto said.

“I think about bottlenecks in the supply chain to go to the provider to a consumer,” he explained. “That last mile is typically something that has been an inhibitor in the past. I think 5G will completely eradicate that. It will also allow more distribution, so it will go wider and reach more remote areas.”

Okamoto said he was drawn to Edge Gravity because he likes the autonomy and agility that Ericsson is allowing — Edge Gravity is part of Ericsson's Technology & Emerging Business, and has its own sales and marketing teams and IT system/infrastructure. But Okamoto also believes Edge Gravity is poised to become a key player in what's still an emerging infrastructure market that will be a critical component of the 5G era.

“I think the market is ripe,” he said. “It's definitely the right time for a company like this to capitalize.”

Heading into the new role, Okamoto views do-it-yourself approaches by service providers as one of the biggest competitors that Edge Gravity faces.

That inherently means a “closed environment,” he said. Edge Gravity, by comparison, aims to provide an open, distributed edge cloud platform that enables various CDNs and service providers and app and media owners to co-exist.

Lessons from the early mistakes of OTT video
Okamoto likens the closed-to-open path with edge computing to the one taken by the video streaming market, which evolved as OTT became a force to be reckoned with. Early on, service providers tended to build their own, closed ecosystems with physical transcoders and storage bricks, DIY storefronts and app development for a multitude of streaming platforms.

“That didn't work out too well and now you see the landscape has definitely migrated,” he said. “We're charged with evangelizing in the market to push for that open platform and to prove that this is the best model. We don't want people to do the exact kind of mistake they've made in the past when it came to video.”

He also views the public clouds (from Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc.) as competitors to all in one way, shape or form, but also sees them as important parts of the ecosystem.

“A customer is not just going to want to put their content and applications on one cloud,” Okamoto said. “Even if that cloud is AWS and they have multiple availability zones, there are still outages. People are realizing that you can't be single-threaded when it comes to content delivery or with the cloud or the applications, and we can play a part in that.”

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Ericsson’s Edge Gravity Head Focuses on Service Providers

Ericsson’s Edge Gravity Head Focuses on Service Providers

This article appeared on SDXCentral on June 25, 2019.

Ericsson’s Edge Gravity organization, a business charged with building out an edge cloud ecosystem for service providers, has a new leader. Kyle Okamoto, formerly the chief network officer at Verizon Digital Media Services, joined the company this week to lead an effort designed to help operators diversify their service portfolio and gain more revenue from their network investments.

During a phone interview on his second day on the job, Okamoto described edge as a “high performance, low latency, very sensitive” layer for application delivery. Autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, gaming, and use cases not yet defined all fall under that umbrella, he explained.

There’s a lot of interest and activity in the edge, but Edge Gravity is unique because it’s an edge cloud platform that is multi-tenant and built exclusively around service providers, Okamoto said. “[Operators] are really the heart and soul of the partnerships that Edge Gravity has built a foundation upon” and it allows service providers to facilitate more revenue out of the work and investments they put into building out network infrastructure.

The organization has commitments from more than 90 network operators and more partners in digital media and content delivery. “Our engineers work with their engineers, our network teams work with their network teams, we find out how deep to go in the walled gardens of these networks to get the best bang for our buck, and we partner on the technology stack,” he said.

Edge computing is a “budding space” that shares similarities with the advancements delivered by HTML 20 years ago, and HTTP a decade ago, Okamoto said. “This is the next wave. … Service providers want to participate. They don’t want to be paying for the sins of the past.”

More Than a Pipe

For some operators that is still very much the present. When video providers like YouTube and Netflix gained popularity “[network operators] were simply a pipe, they were the infrastructure that these over-the-top video providers played on and were not participating in the value chain,” Okamoto said.

Edge computing presents operators with new infrastructure and a cloud platform to derive revenue more directly, Okamoto explained. “I don’t necessarily think that service providers are trying to control anything. I think they’re trying to create an environment where innovation can happen at their benefit, not their behest.”

Spectrum and network deployments are complex and increasingly expensive so it stands to reason that operators are eager to get more return on those efforts as they push toward 5G, he said. “You can’t just be in the business of laying fiber and standing up cell towers and charging people for data. You need to be in the business of enabling experiences and monetizing that with value-added services in the form of applications.”

Operators are approaching this period of network transition as an opportunity to pivot to and provide more innovative solutions that are enabled by that technology rather than simply building a network, Okamoto added. “I think that’s a very compelling paradigm shift. … Service providers are in an excellent position to lead the market on innovation and ideation rather than follow with infrastructure.”

Okamoto is also determined to bring more clarity to the world of IoT. “It’s some super, super vague three-letter acronym that hasn’t been really well defined,” he said. The entire industry is better served when these applications are called out clearly and in the context in which they will be delivered.

“Once they start to put a name on it, it’s a thing. It’s not a concept, it’s not an idea, it’s not a future thing,” he said. “I think there’s still a lot of things to come out of that vague IoT bucket that we will help our customers monetize.”

– Matt Kapko,

Former Verizon Exec Takes Helm of Ericsson's Edge Gravity

Former Verizon Exec Takes Helm of Ericsson’s Edge Gravity

This article appeared on Light Reading on June 21, 2019

Kyle Okamoto, an exec late of Verizon, took to LinkedIn to announce that he will open a new chapter in his career on Monday (June 24) as CEO of Edge Gravity. That's a new unit within Ericsson that is developing a global edge cloud network in partnership with data center providers, content delivery networks, cable operators, telcos and mobile service providers.

Okamoto is joining Edge Gravity following more than 16 years at Verizon. According to his LinkedIn profile, he most recently served as chief network office and VP of technology and operations at Verizon Digital Media Services (VDMS), a division focused on edge and video streaming management services that includes the Edgecast content delivery network.

Okamoto takes the role previously held by Marcus Bergström, who recently left to become CEO of Sweden-based Vionlabs, a startup that has developed a content recommendations and discovery engine “powered by emotions” and assisted by AI-generated metadata.

Okamoto steps into the lead role more than six months after the formal debut of Edge Gravity, a new unit at Ericsson that is working to install computing resources at the edges of the network, often inside the networks of cable operators and other ISPs, with a big focus on latency-sensitive services and applications.

As part of Ericsson's Technology & Emerging Business unit, the idea is to give Edge Gravity a large degree of autonomy and the kind of agility typically seen in more traditional startup companies. As CEO, Okamoto will be leading a unit with more than 200 employees.

Last month, Edge Gravity, which will grapple with companies such as Deutsche Telekom-backed MobiledgeX, said it counted 22 edge computing sites globally, including 11 locations in the US.

In addition to working with Equinix and Limelight, Edge Gravity's announced partners include Limelight Networks, Rogers Communications, KDDI, Mytel, Telenor,  Veon, Optus, Taiwan Mobile, Telstra Corp., Vodafone, Bharti Airtel, SingTel, Telefónica, NTT DoCoMo, China Unicom, Chunghwa Telecom, Mobiphone and Telkom Indonesia.

– Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Ericsson Boasts of Progress in CDN-to-Edge Pivot

Ericsson Boasts of Progress in CDN-to-Edge Pivot

This article appeared on Light Reading on May 16, 2019.

Ericsson launched a content delivery network in 2016 called the Unified Delivery Network (UDN) that created a federation of participating service providers, including Telstra and Vodafone. That effort survived Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm's cost-cutting efforts over the past few years, as well as his sale of Ericsson's media business.

Then, late last year, Ericsson rebranded UDN into an edge computing play called Edge Gravity that operates like a startup within Ericsson. Edge Gravity retained the 80 or so operators that had signed up to participate in the UDN, and now is working to expand the number of operators participating while concurrently working to sell Edge Gravity services not only for content delivery but also for edge computing.

“It's real edge stuff happening now,” said Yves Boudreau, the CMO of Ericsson's Edge Gravity. “It's a market that's being created.”

Perhaps the best signal of Ericsson's progress in the edge computing market is its agreement with CDN provider Limelight. For roughly a decade Limelight has operated as a traditional CDN, but in recent years the company has been working to rejuvenate revenues by expanding into related areas including video game streaming and edge computing. Limelight said it would partner with Ericsson late last year, and the company recently announced that it expects 30% year over year revenue growth in the second half of this year, mainly driven by the $7-9 million it expects to generate through its Ericsson Edge Gravity partnership.

“Ericsson knows how these carrier networks work and operate … Ericsson can get up inside these [service provider] networks where we can actually have capacity built inside the network, which can improve latency quite a bit,” said Ersin Galioglu, VP of strategic initiatives at Limelight, adding that Ericsson knows networks while Limelight knows how to make deals with content providers.

Limelight and Ericsson aren't the only players in the CDN space now targeting edge computing: “We have the ability for our customers to run applications on our edge platform. We're increasing the investment there,” said Akamai's Tom Leighton on a recent conference call with investors.

What kinds of companies are buying the edge computing services sold by the likes of Limelight and Ericsson? Real-time video game streaming is certainly one.

Olivier Avaro, CEO of Blacknut, said that the company launched its video-game streaming service in Europe at the beginning of 2018, offering access to around 200 gaming titles for roughly $13 per month. The company plans to expand into the US market in the third quarter of this year through Ericsson's Edge Gravity.

Using Edge Gravity “is really going to improve the stability and performance of the service,” explained Blacknut's Avaro. He said Edge Gravity will help Blacknut reduce user latency by a factor of two, to around 30 ms. Reducing latency, and thereby reducing jitter, gives players the “feeling that the experience is stable and robust,” he said.

Atlanta-based startup Haste is also working with Ericsson on a low-latency service for service providers and targeted to PC gamers. And Network Next is hoping to launch a similar service for video-game companies through a partnership with Limelight.

“The gaming space has been interesting for us,” acknowledged Limelight's Galioglu.

Edge computing has other applications besides gaming. Other applications include drone scanning and gunshot detection. But gaming is certainly the application that's generating the most hype considering Google's planned Stadia launch and Microsoft's ongoing testing of its Project xCloud game streaming service.

The transition from CDN to edge computing hasn't been completely smooth for Ericsson. For example, the company in 2016 boasted that Paramount Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox were among the companies that had joined its CDN. When questioned about those two media giants this week, Ericsson referred questions to Limelight and Limelight referred questions back to Ericsson.

Nonetheless, Ericsson's Boudreau boasts that Edge Gravity represents part of the vendor's attempts to ensure its service provider customers can remain relevant in an increasingly tumultuous telecom industry. “It's not just about the AT&T network anymore. It's about the Verizon network, the AT&T network, the T-Mobile network, the Vodafone network, the Telstra network — it's about a global network. And so when people try to access those networks ubiquitously across the world, but they're all operated by a thousand different operators, it makes it quite challenging to leverage and harness the potential of those networks. So how can we help?”

As Boudreau explained, Edge Gravity is a way for Ericsson to get access into carrier networks through a revenue-share model that then helps operators fund the construction of additional infrastructure — infrastructure that Ericsson is surely happy to supply.

Edge Gravity currently counts around 22 edge computing sites globally, including 11 locations in the US. Those sites are mainly inside Equinix data centers connected through Ericsson's MPLS network. But Boudreau said Ericsson's goal is to grow the number of computing sites within the Edge Gravity network by adding operators' existing computing sites into the service. For example, he said AT&T currently counts 5,000 central office computing locations, each of which could be added into Edge Gravity's edge computing service. Doing so would essentially create computing locations that are more geographically dispersed, thus lowering latency by moving computing resources physically closer to end users.

However, Boudreau acknowledged that Edge Gravity faces an uphill climb in its efforts to entice operators to join its cause. He said operators in the US have been hesitant to sign on to Edge Gravity. Currently, TDS Telecom and U.S. Cellular in the US are listed as supporting Edge Gravity, and Boudreau said Ericsson is working to add additional operators, but he declined to provide details.

In that respect, Ericsson sits in relatively the same position as other edge computing hopefuls, such as MobiledgeX, that are working to collect and unify edge computing sites from wireless operators into a cohesive and comprehensive edge computing service that can then be sold to cloud gaming companies and other developers and customers. So far though, heavyweights like AT&T and Verizon appear to be keeping their edge computing options open rather than signing on with any one particular vendor. Already Verizon has promised to launch its own mobile edge computing service later this year.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies,

Edge Cloud - Powering Digital Transformation

Equinix Builds ‘Network Edge’ for Global NFV

This article appeared on Light Reading on Feb 27, 2019

Equinix is launching a global NFV infrastructure as a foundational building block in its strategy to partner with enterprises and service providers in the transition of enterprise workloads to the public cloud.

Equinix has launched its network functions virtualization infrastructure (NFVi) platform in Silicon Valley, California, as well as Washington DC, Amsterdam and London, with plans to bring Singapore and Sydney, Australia, online soon. The initial use cases are virtual router and firewall virtual network functions (VNFs) from Cisco and Juniper, with SD-WAN VNFs in the pipeline from those vendors. Equinix is also working with security vendors Palo Alto Networks, Fortinet and others, Equinix says.

Equinix sees NFV as an extension of its core mission of providing network-to-network connectivity for enterprises, telcos and other communications network service providers, and cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, Jim Poole, Equinix VP of business development, tells Light Reading.

“The value of Equinix lies in positional value,” Poole says. “We sit between networks and the cloud. We create a physical PoP that is a neutral control point between a corporate network and the cloud network.”

The NFVi platform launched in private beta in October, and public beta in December. A limited release will come later this year, with a plan to go into general availability in September, Poole says. Initially, the program will be available to enterprise customers, with general availability to both enterprises and operators in the third quarter.

“The goal is not to replace operators. If you're a big enough enterprise customer — the global 200 — you come directly to us, but we would be just as happy if customers come to us through an operator,” Poole says. Equinix's core enterprise customers are organizations large enough to essentially run their own carrier networks for internal use, and those are the initial users for Network Edge. Later, Equinix hopes to provide point-and-click capabilities that will enable its carrier customers to offer the VNFs as white label services to their own enterprise customers.

Beyond virtualized router, firewall and SD-WAN, Equinix exploring operator-specific VNFs, such as virtual EPC, IMS and MNO core functions. “Ninety percent of all mobile traffic today terminates in a cloud,” Poole says. Equinix sees its position between cloud and operator data centers as ideal for running those kinds of VNFs.

Initially, Equinix is running the VNFs on OpenStack. Poole declined to name the vendor. “We may not stick with them,” he says. Equinix is also considering supporting containerized VNFs with Kubernetes, and bare metal.

In addition to working with enterprises and carriers, Equinix also serves vendors who are transitioning from hardware to recurring services business model. For example, it's providing space, power and interconnect services for Ericsson's Edge Gravity and Nokia Wing Internet of Things orchestration platforms, Poole says. Ericsson and Nokia provide hardware and software.

Equinix sees its interconnection capabilities as a platform enabling it to offer new kinds of services to enterprises, cloud providers, telcos and other communication network providers. For example, Sentara Healthcare provides a customer portal accessible via Amazon Echo smart speakers that connect to both Azure and AWS, with Equinix at the center. Equinix also provides Sentara with access to Microsoft 365, SAP and Salesforce.

– Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading

Ericsson must not waste potential of Edge Gravity with narrow telco focus

Ericsson must not waste potential of Edge Gravity with narrow telco focus

This article appeared on ReTHINK Wireless Watch on Nov 20, 2018

The place that edge compute will play in the telco’s network, and its business model, is a topic we have been tracking with interest this year. While there is a strong logic to convergence of compute, storage and connectivity – all in locations close to the user to improve service response times – it is not clear that operators will always take the leading role in deploying and monetizing edge networks.Many industrial and IoT applications will rely on edge locations that go far beyond the sites and central offices in a telecoms grid, and as some of those sectors look for edge cloud resources on a global scale, the real power may lie with organizations that can aggregate physical assets from many owners – not just operators – and create a scalable, flexible, virtualized platform.A large operator could perform this role, as could a webscale provider like Amazon, or an industry-specific player, such as GE in the heavy manufacturing segment. Another type of company which could take on this powerful coordination and orchestration role is the equipment vendor. Nokia is combining its network and cloud products with its orchestration and virtualization software to form the basis of various edge-oriented cloud services for industries, with or without the involvement of operators (see lead item).

And Ericsson is responding with Edge Gravity, its own take on a strategy which seeks to exploit its expertise at the intersection of networks and the cloud, while keeping the plum role in the value chain for itself, not its telco customers.

Edge Gravity is an extension of the Swedish company’s Unified Delivery Network (UDN) initiative, which has its own roots in the firm’s acquisition of Microsoft MediaRoom in 2013, as the foundation of a push into the media business. Ericsson has pulled back from that sector considerably, offloading a controlling stake in the division to an equity firm in January.

However, it is clearly looking for ways to harness some of the technology assets more widely, and there is a logical progression from the original UDN, launched as an integrated content delivery network (CDN) in early 2016, and Edge Gravity. For many telcos, after all, the most immediate application of edge compute is to support CDNs that are closer to the users and can deliver lower latency, higher quality mobile video.

Edge Gravity is presented as a far broader platform though, with the potential to support many latency-sensitive or personalized applications that benefit from being closer to the device. The idea is to use UDN-type underpinnings to create a virtualized, global network of edge cloud assets, linked to data centers, and each other, via the wired or wireless networks of more than 80 operator partners. These include MNOs, wireline telcos and cablecos, said Ericsson, and in future might also add private and industrial network providers.

The initial foundations of Edge Gravity are built around a core of 22 central locations,  based in Equinix data centers and on Ericsson’s own servers and MPLS backbone. The software stack is mainly open source, using OpenStack and Kubernetes. These are connected to the edge networks supplied by over 80 partners. These will offer rack space, power, connectivity and other capabilities depending on location and requirement. The combined network has about 4Tbps of capacity so far.

Among the service providers on that list of 80+ are Vodafone group, China Unicom, Telstra in Australia, Canada’s Rogers, Telefonica group, NTT Docomo of Japan and Bharti Airtel of India.

“Rather than selling to the service providers, we are making them suppliers to us,” Yves Boudreau, CMO for the Edge Gravity unit told LightReading. “They can’t act globally as a webscale company can. This is our attempt to help our customers and the service providers come to the table collectively.”

Edge Gravity is part of Ericsson’s Technology & Emerging Business unit, which focuses on new activities housed in ‘accelerated units’ – designed to have the autonomy to behave more like start-ups. It is the first unit to use this model, and so mimic the norms of the cloud and web worlds rather than telecoms. Boudreau said it was harnessing the agility enabled by virtualization and resource flexibility, to drive global scalability.

The firm expects a wide range of companies, in sectors from content delivery to smart cities to automotive, to want to use the edge cloud platform. It might support their internal decision making (for instance, predictive maintenance in near -real time for a transport operator) or allow them to deliver new or improved services to their own customers (e.g. better video and low latency gaming) without having to build their own edge clouds.

Initial customers include Limelight Networks, which will use the network to expand the reach of its content service; Net Insight, and two start-ups, Haste and Mode. The former has built a low latency service for gaming, and the latter has developed algorithms to accelerate the decision-making process for routing low latency requests, in applications such as collaboration.

This is a similar model to that pursued by the webscale providers, and the ideas of elastic scalability, and global aggregations of cloud resources, are familiar from AWS and Azure. But the cloud giants are not necessarily the best placed to extend the model they dominate to the edge. Their power has rested on investing in vast data centers, but in many areas, their ability to access edge sites is inferior to that of telcos or other enterprise types. That is not to say AWS and others will not seek to keep pole position by turning themselves into the orchestrators of many others’ edge cloud and connectivity assets, but they are not the only game in town.

Nokia has worked extensively with AWS in the edge area, particularly on integrating its MEC capabilities with the Amazon unit’s Greengrass developer and cloud services ecosystem. That has raised the prospect of an alliance between these two companies to pool their respective strengths and offer a powerful combination in the edge cloud, almost certainly confining operators to a supporting role.

Ericsson could leverage Edge Gravity for a similar strategic relationship, or try to dominate the whole value chain itself.  It will experiment with various value chain positions, first within the starting segment of content delivery, and then moving into other, more industrial applications. In its first model, it will charge fees to the content provider for the edge CDN resources that should improve the quality of delivery, and therefore customer satisfaction. It will then share part of those fees with the connectivity provider.

Ericsson, at its recent Capital Markets Day, was keen to emphasize that efforts like Edge Gravity do not signify a return to the diversification strategy of its previous CEO, Hans Vestberg, now at Verizon. Current CEO Börje Ekholm reversed that approach, triggering the sale of the media business and a pull-back from enterprise expansion, especially activities which might involve selling directly to vertical sectors, rather than via operators.

So Edge Gravity, despite its potential to be the starting point for an AWS-style business that looks well beyond telcos, is clearly positioned in the traditional, telco-driven market of content delivery, and was positioned by Ericsson as part of a cautious move into “close adjacent markets”.

It is clinging to the change of heart it announced with Ekholm’s plan – to stop targeting enterprise customers directly, by contrast with Nokia and Huawei (though Nokia has also, in public statements if not behaviour, pulled back from appearing to challenge its own core customers). In 2017, Ericsson said: “We will build our IoT business with service providers, addressing industries based on use cases. We will continue to address clients outside of the telecom industry through our service provider customers.”

However, the risk is that, if it sticks too rigidly to that mantra, it will be confined within the same limitations as its main clients. In the edge, a platform like Edge Gravity has the potential to support broad new revenues based on a whole new position in the value chain. But just as telcos’ approach and assets leave them stuck with video delivery as their main edge compute service, rather than higher growth applications in industrial spaces, so Ericsson could clip its own wings in the same way with tactics that are too narrowly focused on telcos.

That is why, for now, Ericsson’s hopes of financial turnaround remain heavily – probably too heavily – reliant on 5G contracts. So far, it remains confident of its strategy, as do the markets – Ericsson’s shares have gained 50% in value this year. Ahead of the Capital Markets Day in New York, the firm raised its sales target for 2020, citing a 5G-driven increase in telco capex from 2019, gains in market share, as well as new revenues from the “adjacent” sectors. It maintained its target of a 10% operating margin across the entire business but raised its sales goal to SEK210-220bn ($23.4bn to $24.5bn), up from SEK190-200bn ($21.2 to $22.3bn).

Ericsson now expects its overall addressable market to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of between 1% and 3% between 2018 and 2022.

The company said about SEK5bn ($560m) of its projected sales increase in 2020 would come from anticipated favorable currency movements; and another SEK2bn ($220m) from Red Bee Media, a broadcasting and media services company. The rest would come from higher than expected network sales. Ericsson is now guiding for revenues of SEK141-145bn ($15.7 to $16.2bn), up from an earlier forecast of SEK128-134bn ($14.3 to $4.9bn). The midpoint of that range would represent an increase of nearly 12% on 2017’s network sales.

Ericsson also said it would target sales of SEK41-43bn ($4.6 to $4.8bn) from digital services and SEK23-25bn ($2.6 to $2.8bn) from managed services for the 2020 fiscal year. In fiscal 2017, those units delivered SEK41bn ($4.6bn) and SEK24.5bn ($2.7bn) respectively.

Caroline Gabriel, ReTHINK Research

Cox Tests Premium Low-Lag Gaming Service

Cox Tests Premium Low-Lag Gaming Service

This post appeared on LightReading on April 26, 2019.

In a move that will likely raise the hackles of network neutrality advocates, Cox Communications has begun to trial a low-latency gaming tier in Arizona for broadband customers who get speeds of at least 100 Mbit/s (downstream).

The trial offering, called Cox Elite Gamer, sells for $14.99 per month for two licenses (allowing two users in the home to use the low-latency capability). Additional licenses — up to five per account — run an extra $4.99 per month. Cox confirmed that Cox Elite Gamer is a white-labeled version of WTFast, a service based out of Canada that currently retails for $14.99 per month, or $149.90 for an annual subscription (roughly $12.49 per month).

Cox said it intends to run the trial for three months, and will later evaluate the results to determine next steps.

According to Cox, the new low-latency service provides “enhanced routing to gaming-related Internet endpoints,” and is an optional add-on to Internet service but is not in itself an Internet service. The service, it adds, selects an “optimized” Internet path for each gaming session initiative by customers to reduce jitter and ping spikes and, more generally, to create a more stable connection to gaming servers.

Per some fine print posted online, Cox Elite Gamer is for PCs only. The company also mentions that, compared to standard Cox Internet service, users on the new gaming-optimized offering will experience up to 34% less lag, 55% fewer ping spikes and 45% less jitter.

Despite the fact that WTFast already offers the product in the direct-to-consumer retail segment, Cox's white-label version of the product will likely get some attention from network neutrality advocates as the “Save the Internet Act” aims to reverse the FCC's rollback of past rules.

However, Cox stressed that Cox Elite Gamer steers clear of network neutrality concerns in part because it does not prioritize gaming traffic ahead of other traffic on the MSO's network and does not boost the speed of any Internet traffic travelling its networks.

“This offering would be permissible regardless of regulatory environment as it does not alter speed in any way nor does it prioritize any traffic over others on our network,” a Cox spokesman said in a statement. “Cox Elite Gamer solves a problem with deficiencies in the public Internet, NOT our network. No customer's experience is degraded as a result of any customers purchasing Cox Elite Gamer service as an add-on to their Internet service.”

Low-latency gaming an emerging ISP opportunity
Cox's trial is likely the front edge of a larger trend, as cable operators and other ISPs are expected to explore premium low-latency services tailored for gamers that can aid with retention and create an important new revenue stream that extends beyond moving consumers to higher speed tiers.

A startup called Haste is also pursuing this opportunity. Alongside its retail offering, Haste has also been discussing how its low-latency gaming service, which recognizes gaming traffic and sends it along the four fastest and most stable paths available to the gamer servers, can be bundled with broadband services.

Last fall, Haste CEO Lynn Perry said those talks were at the “early stage,” and followed Haste's participation at last year's CableLabs Summer Conference in Keystone, Colo. “What we've heard is that they [the service providers] want to have an answer to that [latency issue], and that they're a possible solution to latency, which has become more and more important” as online gaming continues to increase in popularity.”

Perry also stressed that Haste sidesteps network neutrality concerns. “We are using the Internet as the Internet is, without any prioritization,” she said then. “We're just taking over the game packet and volleying it along the points-of-presence that we have.”

Haste is also a partner of Edge Gravity, a unit of Ericsson that is combining a core network of data centers with the last-mile networks of partners that include cable operators, telcos and mobile service providers. The roster of providers includes Rogers Communications, Telstra Corp., Bharti Airtel, Telefónica , NTT DoCoMo, China Unicom and Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd.

Edge Gravity is emphasizing the low-latency gaming business opportunity for partners. In an online study conducted last fall with 1,500 adult gamers (including 1,000 in the US), Ericsson found that the group is receptive to paying for a premium, low-latency service – 21% said they are “very likely” to purchase the concept, and 35% said they would be “somewhat likely.” Just 8% fell into the “very unlikely” camp.

Of that group, online lag was the most commonly cited frustration with online gaming, followed by game freezing and “dying” and having to start over. However, another issue was the money they are spending on online gaming, which seems to partly counteract the desire to pay more for an optimized, low-latency gaming service.

And there's a big variance over what consumers might be willing to pay. A study from Van Westendorp found that the acceptable price range is between $10 to $24.75 per month among US consumers, with $18.50 per month viewed as the “optimal” price.

And offering a low-latency option could help out ISPs in the customer service arena, as 53% of gamers tend to call the ISP to resolve lag-related issues, and just 24% reach out to the game maker.

Of note, CableLabs is working on new low-latency features for DOCSIS, but has not revealed any new specifications tied to that work.

And Cox isn't the only broadband service provider looking into premium services tailored for gamers. Verizon is reportedly testing a performance-focused gaming service that is already running on Android TV-powered Nvidia Shield consoles and will eventually make its way onto Android smartphones. The Verge speculated that Verizon's offering is using software from Utomik.

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Ericsson Takes Startup Approach With 'EDGE GRAVITY'

Ericsson Takes Startup Approach With ‘EDGE GRAVITY’

This article originally appeared on Light Reading (November 14, 2018).

Without much fanfare, Ericsson has launched a new unit at the company, called EDGE GRAVITY, that operates a global edge cloud network that links together a core network of data centers with the last-mile networks of more than 80 partners that include cable operators, telcos and mobile service providers.

EDGE GRAVITY, unveiled in part via this Twitter post on November 9, is essentially the name of a new company within Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) that is tied to company's relatively new Unified Delivery Network (UDN) initiative. By putting compute at the edge — and inside the network of the ISPs themselves — EDGE GRAVITY has initially focused on expanding the reach of certain content delivery networks (CDNs) and supporting an array of latency-sensitive services and apps (more on that later). (See Ericsson Wants to Add Compute to CDNs and Ericsson Poised to Disrupt CDN Market.)

EDGE GRAVITY is part of Ericsson's Technology & Emerging Business unit, which focuses on new parts of the business — referred to as “accelerated units” — that Ericsson is trying to scale up in part by giving them a large degree of autonomy and startup-like agility. EDGE GRAVITY, for example, has its own sales and marketing teams and IT system/infrastructure.

EDGE GRAVITY is the first unit there that is using this new model, according to Yves Boudreau, Ericsson EDGE GRAVITY's chief marketing officer.

EDGE GRAVITY, which has been working on the project for more than a year, started by building a core network, on its own dime and using its servers, in Equinix Inc. (Nasdaq: EQIX) data centers and on its own MPLS backbone.

That core network, with 22 locations at present, has been connected to an edge network comprised of more than 80 last-mile network providers that EDGE GRAVITY has managed to sign on so far. Under that model, the service providers provide EDGE GRAVITY with elements such as rack space, power and connectivity.

That's a turn of the table of sorts. “Rather than selling to the service providers, we are making them suppliers to us,” said Boudreau, who also leads the partnership and ecosystem strategy at the unit. EDGE GRAVITY then works on a revenue share based on the traffic it brings to the network.

A representative list of those service provider partners include Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI), Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS), Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL), Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) (OTC: SGTJY), Telefónica , NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), China Unicom Ltd. (NYSE: CHU), Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd. (NYSE: CHT), Telkom Indonesia and Mobiphone. Boudreau, who presented on EDGE GRAVITY in mid-October at the EdgeNext Summit in New York, noted then that the service provider part of the edge cloud network is about half deployed.

EDGE GRAVITY then interweaves its network with a software stack that is open source “for the most part” using OpenStack and Kubernetes, Boudreau said.

Creating a global edge
Boudreau said EDGE GRAVITY idea came about as service providers struggled to exit their own countries and extend the reach of services while watching the likes of Amazon Web Services Inc. , Microsoft Azure and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) dent their revenues.

“They can't act globally as a web-scale company can,” he said. “This is our attempt to help our customers and the service providers come to the table collectively.”

Boudreau stressed that EDGE GRAVITY is not out to replace public cloud companies but rather to complement them and take advantage of a web-scale deployment model that allows customers to write software that will operate on EDGE GRAVITY's entire edge cloud network.

Boudreau estimates that EDGE GRAVITY's combined network has about 4 Tbit/s of capacity and that the number will rise rapidly as more partners are brought on board. That approach, he said, will enable the network to scale as data demands increase in a way that individual networks can't on their own.

“The only way we can keep up with that pace of traffic is really by doing it in partnership with operators,” he said.

Early use cases
Though deployment is still ongoing, EDGE GRAVITY has already signed on several partners such as Limelight Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: LLNW) and Net Insight AB (Stockholm: NETI-B), and startups such as Haste and Mode. (See Limelight Connects to Ericsson's Edge Cloud .)

Limelight is tapping into the network to expand its reach and tack on more capacity without handing to standup more infrastructure. The CDN angle was the “first and easiest” application for the new edge network, Boudreau said.

Mode, a startup in San Francisco, has developed software that accelerates the decision-making process for routing for services — such as collaboration software — that have stringent latency demands. The idea here is that Mode can boost the performance of its software by touching packets coming out of the operator network itself.

Haste, meanwhile, has built a low-latency service for gamers (with an eye toward other real-time apps) that it's also pitching to ISPs as a potential driver of new revenues.

Haste is now running in EDGE GRAVITY's nodes. While Haste also requires users to run the company's client on their gaming machine, the company is exploring ways to embed Haste into the network itself, company co-founder Adam Toll said at the same EdgeNext Summit event. (See Haste Sounds Out ISPs on Low-Latency Service for Gamers .)

In addition to getting current partners rolling, another priority for EDGE GRAVITY is to prepare to onboard another batch of apps and services that are optimized for this type of edge network.

Regarding cases of pushback, Boudreau notes that some companies argue that they are already doing this on their own, but on their own network. “But nobody wants to be on just one network. They want to be on all the networks that they can,” he counters.

Others, particularly smaller service providers, claim that they don't have the resources to pull this off. But that fits into a primary purpose of EDGE GRAVITY, he said, in that the company is in position to handle the heavy lifting that those providers can't handle on their own.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

 

 

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