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.”