Recent Investments and Team-Ups by AWS, Microsoft, and Google Demonstrate Their Intent to ‘Play It Big’ in Emerging Edge IT

C. Drake

Summary Bullets:

  • The market for edge computing solutions is becoming increasingly competitive as the hyperscale cloud providers announce new service offerings and telco partnerships.
  • Going forward, solution providers will benefit from efforts to more clearly demonstrate and articulate the use cases and advantages of edge computing.

The recent launch of AWS Snowcone represents a further moment of intensification in the increasingly competitive market for edge infrastructure solutions. AWS Snowcone is a new edge computing and data transfer device from Amazon Web Services (AWS) and is the smallest member of the AWS Snow Family of devices. At just under five pounds, the solution is designed to be highly portable and able to fit in a standard mailbox or a small backpack. It is also designed to withstand harsh environmental conditions and support a range of use cases outside the traditional data center – especially those that lack consistent network connectivity. Although Snowcone customers with internet connectivity will be able to send data to the AWS cloud using Ethernet or WiFi with AWS DataSync, one interesting innovation is the option to ship the device to AWS. This makes it suitable for edge use cases without any network connectivity, including drilling platforms, military operation sites, and remote filming locations.

The launch of Snowcone illustrates the extent to which AWS is going head-to-head against cloud computing rival Microsoft Azure in the emerging edge computing space. Microsoft is also targeting the market for ‘rugged’ edge infrastructure solutions with offerings such as Azure Stack Edge, which Microsoft provides via hardware partners Dell and Lenovo. However, both AWS and Microsoft are targeting emerging edge computing use cases with a broad set of strategies and solutions, which also includes delivering local versions of their cloud computing service portfolios. For AWS, the focus is on AWS Local Zones and AWS Wavelength, which allows customers to access AWS compute, storage, database, and other select services close to where latency-sensitive content and applications are consumed. Meanwhile, in March, Microsoft announced the launch of Azure Edge Zones and Azure Private Edge Zones, which aim to provide developers and other end users with a consistent Azure experience in support of Internet of Things (IoT) and other edge use cases. Additionally, both AWS and Microsoft are partnering with telecoms network operators to help them extend their infrastructure offerings to the edge. Telco partners for AWS Wavelength include Verizon, SK Telecom, KDDI, and Vodafone, while Azure Edge Zones partners include AT&T, Telefonica, and NTT Communications, as well as SK Telecom and Vodafone. Partnership overlaps emphasize the non-exclusive nature of these arrangements and underscore the potential for telcos to profit if they successfully develop business models that allow them to be more than just network providers.

Moving into the second half of 2020, we are likely to see an uptick in edge computing investments as businesses and other organizations, albeit cautiously, attempt to get back on track with investments postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis. Enterprises looking to take advantages of the benefits of edge computing – including IT cost reductions and higher application performance – have access to numerous options. IT infrastructure providers such as Dell Technologies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Lenovo continue to broaden their edge portfolios with a wide range of solutions that include consulting support for enterprises looking to get started with edge computing. Meanwhile, Google Cloud is also strengthening its edge play, announcing in March the launch of its Global Mobile Edge Cloud, an open cloud platform that will provide telcos with a way of developing applications while delivering them via a distributed edge. Google’s telco partners include Vodafone, Wind, Altice USA, AT&T, Telefonica, and T-Systems.

These recent investments and partnership initiatives by AWS, Microsoft, and Google are likely to end up being defining developments that will drive and shape the market for edge computing, post COVID-19. However, as these and other providers develop their business models and solution offerings, it is imperative that they help enterprise customers identify potential use cases and advantages of edge computing, as well as helping them address key questions about architecture design, security, management, and workload placement. Many enterprises are still trying to figure out what edge computing means for them and how to take advantage of it. Those that can help them will be best placed to succeed.

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