We believe edge is not just technology, but an ecosystem where businesses can participate and leverage their existing assets and investments to generate new experiences and new revenue streams.
The edge gives developers a new architecture that enables important new categories of applications (e.g., IoT, autonomous systems) as well as enabling more usable (hence better) client/server (device/cloud) applications.
MobiledgeX is building a developer-friendly, multi-tenant, on-demand set of edge services to enable the deployment of applications, application components and services much nearer to connected users and devices than is possible with today’s centralized cloud services. From a developer perspective, the goal of MobiledgeX and the edge ecosystem is to make sure any edge services offered seamlessly integrate into existing ways of developing and do not add any additional operational burden than already existing in best practice cloud-based design workflows.
Our most important differentiation is our business model, not architecture, which is based on a federation of mobile operator partners that host the server resources we leverage. By initially focussing on the global cellular infrastructure, we are able to provide on-demand resources for cellularly connected applications and devices and leverage the rich server assets already in the cellular infrastructure (unlike the Internet, cellular networks are coordinated by a computer-based control plane).
Our software will be released as an open source project in the coming months, following our previous announcement here, and that release will serve as the primary technical documentation.
The MobiledgeX platform enables code execution at the edge in familiar architectures (e.g., Kubernetes). We deploy code dynamically to an optimal location based on the location of the connected device, using a declarative specification of objectives provided by the developer. Intuitive APIs give access to functions including telephony, user authentication, local context given the user’s dynamic location and orientation, and collaboration with other nearby users or devices.
From an architectural perspective, the MobiledgeX system is designed to integrate easily and non-disruptively with common cloud systems and platforms as well as cloud based telecom infrastructures such as NFV and MEC.
We are currently executing the code live in a number of cloudlets around the world and on various infrastructures. And we have a number of application customers and use cases that are benefiting today from cloudlet execution and operation.
The edge enables a new class of devices where the processing capability of the device can be augmented by close server resources at the edge. The edge provides a developer friendly resource that give these augmented devices functionality agility, and enables device makers in partnership with mobile operations new opportunities to quickly respond the emerging marketing opportunities.
The modern smartphone began with the introduction of the iPhone and (as importantly) the App Store. Before that, the devices and user applications were controlled separately by each mobile operator. The idea of an App Store opened up opportunities enormously but largely disintermediated the mobile operators and in doing so made it more challenging for a device manufacturer to take advantage of the mobile operator assets (including the subscriber relationship).
The edge enables new opportunities and reinvigorates the ability of device makers and mobile operators to collectively address subscriber device and service market opportunities by adding device support services nearer the device than has been possible in the past, and my integrating those services with the existing cellular infrastructure (e.g., to benefit from independent location and user authentication, to collaborate with other nearby users and devices, to take advantage of the commercial relationship with the subscriber).
Device makers can create more immersive and intelligent experiences, without adding cost to the device and challenges on form factor and battery life. With edge device makers get a broader design palette with the opportunity to use edge resources to augment device resources without diminishing battery life and potentially creating whole new classes of software and hardware experience.
The edge enables cloud providers to address the biggest single limitation—the network connection to the user. CDN’s do that to a limited extent already. The edge lets CDN services improve in quality as well by being nearer to the edge user.
Enterprise cloud computing began in earnest in the last 20 years with the emergence of web based SaaS applications (e.g. Salesforce, Peoplesoft) and with the consolidation of branch server applications into data centers after to Dot Com bust (as a means of reducing operating costs by consolidating expert staff). Internet bandwidth in the day was adequate to let remote data center applications substitute for local server applications.
The migration to modern cloud computing accelerated with the introduction of AWS in 2006 offering on-demand virtual computer resources enabling application developers to operate without dedicated server resources and quickly scale capacity with growing demand. The use of cloud computing has continued to grow since then.
Cloud computing applications have always been limited by the quality of the network connection (bandwidth, packet loss, latency and jitter) between the user and the applications. CDN’s based on web content caching have been part of the use of the web for the last 20 years. AWS has implemented and grown its own CDN.
The initial cloud services were built into very large data center in part to benefit from economies of scale but in part because of the need for human operational support. Over time more and more of the operations have been automated making the use of smaller data centers as part of a larger cloud system economically practical.
Today’s cloud providers can use the edge to extend their services nearer to the user and to directly integrate those services into the client side application development workflows. It should be possible to adapt existing cloud applications to move the web tier to the edge relatively easily. This will enable responsiveness of dynamic interaction to match that currently seen with optimized static assets today.
For a mobile operator, the edge enables the recapture of lost relevance that first began with the iPhone in 2007 and continued with the App Store in 2009. The market need for Edge enables mobile operators to reassert higher level business participation through the delivery of market valuable edge services in an easily consumable way.
The App Store wasn’t all bad: application flexibility also unleashed unprecedented innovation (the modern smartphone) and demand for ever growing data capacity (music, photos and ultimately videos) that fueled the 4G/LTE buildout. In that short period of time the smartphone became a data and application device, not just a telephony device, demand for more cellular capacity continues, but the mobile operator was largely relegated to a bandwidth provider rather than a function or service provider.
By creating a developer-friendly set of edge services built on mobile operator resources, MobiledgeX is enabling a new addition to the “cloud” in which mobile operators can benefit in many ways. At the simplest, mobile operators can leverage valuable edge computation assets and get paid premium rates use of these assets that they already know how to operate and with simple adaptations to the resource sharing / compensation federated business models that already underpin cellular roaming.
But a bigger opportunity may be having an agile development platform (in contrast to traditional cellular technical architectures that are very prescriptive and standards-based). They can use these resources as a way of adding agility to their infrastructure and provision and monetize new services much quicker and more easily. They can work with device partners to enable edge-augmented devices and monetize the augmentation. They can use edge services to support and monetize new A/R and V/R applications, and high-performance collaboration between locally clustered users. In the studies that lead to the creation of MobiledgeX, Deutsche Telekom came to be realization of the degree to which edge computing can benefit a mobile operator. MobiledgeX is creating the business relationships and service architectures to do just that.