Verizon is joining forces with Microsoft to create new ways for enterprises to accelerate the delivery of fast and secure 5G applications, benefiting from reliable and low latency connections. Verizon’s on-site 5G Edge network integrated with Azure edge services can enable ultra-low latency, many times faster than the blink of an eye, which can help businesses tap into real-time data analysis and delivery.
Applications incorporating computer vision, augmented, mixed and virtual reality, digital twins or machine learning can be enhanced with 5G and MEC on the customer premise, helping transform the way industries such as retail, transportation, and logistics operate: Think of automated high-precision asset localization, tracking and positioning in manufacturing. In healthcare, the increased speed, reduced latency and high bandwidth connectivity of 5G networks could enable real-time precision medicine leveraging mixed reality and AI capabilities as well as seamless and fast sharing of large files to improve patient care.
The collaboration brings Azure cloud and edge capabilities together with Verizon’s on-site 5G Edge, a mobile edge computing platform designed to enable developers to build applications for mobile end-users and wireless edge devices with ultra-low latency. By providing on-site private 5G, businesses will realize increased power efficiencies and reduced costs of end user devices, while helping to address their privacy and security needs.
“We have built a network that provides real-world, 5G-enabled solutions TODAY,” said Rima Qureshi, EVP and Chief Strategy Officer at Verizon. “By bringing together Verizon’s 5G network and on-site 5G Edge platform with Microsoft’s expertise in cloud services, we will enable the development of the next generation technologies everyone has been envisioning.”
Logistics and supply chain solutions company Ice Mobility is already testing on Verizon’s on-site 5G Edge platform, integrated with Microsoft Azure. The company is using 5G and MEC to help with computer vision assisted product packing. By gathering data in near real-time on product packing errors, the company has the potential to improve on-site quality assurance and save 15% to 30% in processing time.
“We are especially excited to join Verizon and Microsoft to test how 5G and MEC can improve the quality assurance process,” said Mike Mohr, CEO of Ice Mobility. “They truly have listened to our needs to provide automated real-time quality oversight and feedback, which will enable us to cost-effectively launch unique new products, while maintaining the highest execution standards, significantly increasing throughput and reducing costs. And, this is just the beginning.”
“By leveraging Verizon’s 5G network integrated with Microsoft’s cloud and edge capabilities, developers and businesses can benefit from fast, secure and reliable connections to deliver seamless digital experiences from massive industrial IoT workloads to precision medicine,” said Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice president Azure for Operators at Microsoft.
Moving forward, Verizon will explore opportunities to co-innovate with Microsoft to deliver new value to industries ranging from manufacturing to healthcare.
EdgePresence has embarked on an aggressive effort to deploy low-cost edge data centers nationally at cell tower sites in tier 2 and tier 3 markets.
Through partnerships with Schneider Electric and its distributor Accu-Tech, EdgePresence is deploying fully integrated Schneider Electric EcoStruxure Data Center solutions, which are redundant 12-cabinet microdata centers that serve 20 to 30 key clients in these markets that need more connectivity and more options for redundancy.
Doug Recker, CEO of EdgePresence, whose background is in building, owning and operating data centers, has developed a two-phase approach that targets enterprises initially and then serves as a carrier-neutral solution to wireless carriers’ 5G edge compute needs.
“We have a business model that serves enterprises, and it can survive without 5G. We serve doctors’ offices, cloud providers, local hospitals and government,” Recker said. “I need revenue to sustain my business. I have employees to pay and investors to pay back. Enterprises are a very sustainable business model. When 5G comes, our data centers will already be in place and ready for the content providers and the carriers.”
When it comes time for the wireless carriers to build out 5G to tier 2 and tier 3 markets, Recker’s solution means carriers won’t have to build their own edge data centers. It makes it easier and quicker to deploy 5G.
“Carriers can buy access from me to the carrier hotel or for access to the internet at a fraction of the cost of building their own facilities,” Recker said. “No reason to deploy new shelters or upgrade their current data centers when they can save the capex by collocating with me. Just rent the space you need.”
Why Cell Tower Sites?
EdgePresence has signed a one-year contract with American Tower and has helped them deploy six data centers. It has plans to deploy at sites belonging to SBA Communications, Vertical Bridge and Crown Castle International.
“We need the ability to go anywhere,” Recker said. “I need space in all kinds of markets, and cell tower sites are my number one choice. Cell towers have the power and usually have fiber and a secure compound. It is easier to get permitted to deploy there. It is a whole new revenue stream that is waiting for them.”
These edge data centers also represent opportunities for tower services companies to deploy more equipment at the cell tower site and provide maintenance services.
Each structure has the same 12-cabinet redundant data center form factor, and the maintenance contracts will be the same, together with the same monitoring capability. Recker is looking to partner with one or more tower services companies to maintain the data centers.
“Maintenance is extremely important when we are deploying these data centers in third-tier markets around the country,” Recker said. We need people in place to who will fix them and maintain them. We went with Schneider Electric because it has a very low failure rate. The shelter must be cost-effective so we can make our money back quickly.”
EdgePresence has recently deployed a data center at a cell tower site in Statesboro, Georgia, and it built dark fiber back to the closest carrier hotel. Now, enterprises in Statesboro have access to more than 26 internet service providers, instead of one. They can use the facility for redundancy and collocation.
The key to edge compute is timing. If EdgePresence waits until 5G reaches the tier 2 and tier 3 markets to deploy its data centers, it might be too late. Another company may have already deployed a data center and be in position to fill that need. The company will deploy its next data center in Jacksonville, Florida, next week and then in Gainesville, Florida, the week after that.
“Our goal is to have 16 data centers deployed by the end of the year and have them 60 percent occupied,” Recker said. “Then it’s time to go turbo, and we will deploy more than 50 data centers in the next 16 months. If I am the first data center in a market, there is no need for another one. That’s why quick deployment is important.”
American Tower has teamed with a data center collocation provider, Flexential, to launch the Flexential Local Edge, a remote data center providing collocation services.
The first Flexential Local Edge remote data center will use American Tower’s edge data center at a tower in Atlanta, connected with Colo Atl, an American Tower subsidiary company that provides carrier-neutral collocation and interconnection services in a global telecom hub of Atlanta. Flexential plans to use American Tower edge data center infrastructure in Denver and Boulder, Colorado.
“This new arrangement is effectively a channel agreement, whereby Flexential will sell edge capacity to its clients at American Tower micro data center sites, which typically have nine racks and 96 kilowatts of total power,” wrote Eric Luebchow, a senior analyst at Wells Fargo Securities, in an equity research note. “It will be interesting to see how this symbiotic relationship between towers and edge data centers evolves in the coming years.”
Flexential’s remote data center allows customers to deploy hardware and software close to the end-user or application — at the edge, as it is called — in third-party managed edge data centers for the provision of low-latency communications, high security and comprehensive network services.
“Local Edge will push to use 5G and AI in a more meaningful way for traffic controls, autonomous vehicles, infrastructure monitoring and more,” said Flexential CEO Chris Downie. “We see this an opportunity in many markets around the country to provide a true differentiator.”
Other Tower Companies Already in the Edge Game
In 2019, SBA Communications purchased New Continuum Data Centers, which has a multitenant flagship data center in western Chicago and a fiber loop. Two years ago, Crown Castle International expanded its partnership with edge computing pioneer Vapor IO, making use of Crown Castle’s tower real estate and metro fiber.
Lately, with increasing adoption of work-at-home initiatives and video applications, telemedicine and remote learning as a means of limiting the spread of COVID-19 infections, more businesses seek to deploy low-latency applications to improve the overall customer and employee experience, which can be achieved through mobile edge computing.
“It’s still far too early to quantify the potential upside to these relatively minor investments, but they do signify the tower companies are watching the space closely and may be prepared to pounce if the opportunity presents itself,” said Luebchow.
Verizon Rapidly Rolling out Mobile Edge Computing
Last month, Verizon, teaming with Amazon Web Services, added three more 5G mobile edge computing cities — Atlanta, New York and Washington, D.C. In August, the mobile edge computing platform was rolled out by the companies in Boston and in the San Francisco Bay Area, and more cities will be launched by the end of 2020.
“Mobile edge computing moves the data and processing done by the applications and services we use closer to the end user at the edge of the network,” a Verizon spokesman said. “This shortens the roundtrip data needs to travel, reducing lag time, or latency. By moving AWS compute and storage services to the edge of Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband millimeter-wave network, innovators can develop applications with ultra-low latencies that will support next generation use cases ranging from self-driving cars to autonomous industrial equipment. Customers are already testing their edge solutions in AWS Wavelength service zones at the edge of Verizon’s 5G network in multiple locations.”
5G Americas has published ‘5G at the Edge,’ a white paper that explores new groundbreaking possibilities emerging from the combination of Edge Computing with 5G technologies. Edge Computing refers to locating applications, general-purpose compute, storage, and associated switching and control functions that are required to run them – relatively close to end users and/or IoT endpoints.
Chris Pearson, president, 5G Americas said, “Edge Computing locates processing power closer to where data collection actually takes place – nearer to the radio access network than the core, but it’s not one size fits all. As operators deploy edge computing, they will need to consider their architecture to address specific services, applications and use cases.”
This 5G Americas’ white paper explores Edge Computing’s role in the evolution of 5G architecture, the application of Cloud-native principles such as software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV), and identifies various methodologies currently being adopted for 5G applications. It covers detailed emerging use cases and outlines the stringent requirements needed to facilitate advanced mobility, compute, storage capabilities for emerging 5G wireless networks.
Additionally, this paper supplies an in-depth view of the various industry and open source initiatives defining emerging EDGE architectures. Overall, it defines the next generation Edge reference architecture and explores future directions in networking.
According to Pearson, “As 5G networks become more distributed, they will get more complex and need data processing that takes advantage of cloud-native principles like containerization and micro-services. Edge computing and network transformation will lead operators to enable new low-latency scenarios in Augmented Reality, V2X transportation, manufacturing, health, education and beyond.”
“A new reference architecture based on data centric technologies like analytics, networking and storage for edge computing-enabled 5G systems is being shaped that will have broad implications for how wireless networks operate in the future,” explained Rao Yallapragada, Director of Advanced Technologies for Intel and a co-leader of the paper’s working group.
“5G At The Edge” covers some pertinent topics:
According to Rao, “5G and Edge Computing are mutually reinforcing. Edge architecture’s need for low latency drives demand for 5G, and 5G’s growing availability increases the pull of workloads from the core to the Edge.”
EdgePresence CEO Doug Recker is on the prowl at this year’s Connectivity Expo in Orlando. His company is looking for partners as it pursues a creative strategy for edge computing that leads to the placement of edge points of presence (PoP) at tower sites.
A PoP is an artificial demarcation point or interface point between communicating entities. EdgePresence owns and operates PoPs that provide space, power, bandwidth and interconnection on a leased basis either in multi-tenant or in single-tenant build-to-suit facilities.
The company places its PoPs, called EdgePods, at telecommunications tower sites to take advantage of such sites’ available electrical power and fiber-optic cable route connections. These locations place the PoPs closer to EdgePresence customers. According to Recker, the customers for the PoPs are the same as what he calls standard customers that would otherwise use a brick-and-mortar data center.
“A customer is someone who goes inside data centers for power, cooling and network redundancy or for connectivity and fast connections, transport and low latency,” Recker said. “These include cloud providers and retail customers, anywhere from local banks to credit unions — anyone who needs quick access, low latency and a presence in that region.”
Recker said that EdgePresence announced its project at last year’s Connectivity Expo. Since then, a tower company has agreed to make space available for PoP placement at relevant antenna sites. He said that EdgePresence has enclosures for the EdgePod PoPs, which he calls micro data centers, in production. “We have four built,” he said. “Two more are being deployed in the next two weeks.”
EdgePresence has completed its proof of concept, Recker said, and it is ready to launch in 20 markets by December. “We have customers that are installed and billing,” he said. “We have the product deployed and working in Jacksonville, Florida. We have customers and potential customers on a national scale.”
The company is deploying with tower operators now so its micro data centers will already be installed at tower sites when mobile operators need them for edge computing associated with 5G wireless communications.
“We are trying to get the product out there, but we have to have revenue on the product now, because it could take two to three years before true edge requirements develop,” Recker said. “We are at Connectivity Expo this year for the same reason we were here last year: We are looking for partners to deploy a greater number of edge micro data centers. Tower partners are talking with people about the edge, because that is where the mobile operators are. Everyone is rushing to get there, but no one has a plan. We want to get boxes out there for customers who are deployed right now.”