AT&T Taps Microsoft Azure to Power Its Network Edge Compute


BARCELONA, Spain – AT&T and Microsoft are testing an edge deployment model that splits the difference between network compute elements deployed in a central core and those deployed at the far network edge.

The model uses what the companies term “network edge compute (NEC) capabilities” that run network traffic from an edge deployment through Microsoft’s Azure public cloud platform. This results in lower latency than typical core-based services where traffic needs to be transported back and forth to that core. But it’s not as fast as what is available with multi-access edge computing (MEC) deployments where compute resources are deployed at the far edge.

The NEC model runs on top of AT&T’s network layer, with traffic transported to the Azure cloud. It’s focused on providing a low latency experience for enterprises without the need for that dedicated on-premises hardware. This results in lower operating costs and can be offered as an as-a-service model.

Partnership Model

Speaking at this week’s MWC Barcelona event in Spain, AT&T CTO Andre Fuetsch said that by just maintaining the transport layer, the carrier is not looking to infringe on the interaction between cloud providers and developers or their customers.

“We are not looking to compete against the cloud providers to work with developers,” Fuetsch explained. “They can plug into our cloud and ecosystem.”

The deployment is just proof of concept (PoC) at the moment, running in a test environment at AT&T’s Foundry location in Plano, Texas. The model is also not tied to just Azure, with Roman Paceawicz, senior vice president for offer management and service integration at AT&T, noting that the carrier could expand this to any public cloud environment.

Mo Katibeh, CMO for AT&T’s Business unit, explained that the NEC platform builds on the carrier’s recently highlighted “three key pillars” to its 5G strategy. Specifically, this move is part of the third pillar, which is the edge computing leg.

Dan Hays, principal at PwC’s Strategy& division, noted that the move highlights the partnering potential for operators and established cloud providers to extend the reach of edge cloud deployments.

“Trials like this a way to partner instead of going forward full bore on your own and tap an established player to bring a new option to the market,” Hays said.



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