Cox Communications announces edge compute service

All the big mobile operators have been talking about mobile edge compute (MEC) for several years. And some fixed broadband providers such as Lumen Technologies also have an edge compute offering. But we haven’t heard much from cable MSOs on the topic.

However, the cable broadband and video provider Cox Communications has recently announced a new business unit — Cox Edge.

Ron Lev is general manager of Cox Edge and executive director for new growth at Cox Communications. He said Cox Edge is a fully commercial product, but it is also providing Cox with the chance to learn more about edge computing.

Cox Edge is currently available in 14 out of Cox’s 20 markets. The service provider is also working with StackPath, a content delivery network (CDN) company that Cox has invested in, to bring Cox Edge to many more locations.

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In 2020, Cox and Juniper Networks led a $216 million Series B funding round for Dallas-based StackPath, whose 45 global points of presence can help Cox reach outside its own footprint.

Cox has developed software to bring a full stack of edge cloud capabilities, including virtual machines for compute, storage, edge CDN and distributed database services. Customers can also choose to work with the latest technologies such as serverless computing and containers.

The company is using off-the-shelf hardware to run its Cox Edge software.

The software can be run at Cox locations — including at StackPath sites — or on-premise at customer locations. Lev said, “Some enterprises are tired of investing in space, location and power in their own facilities. Maybe there is a play for near-premise.”

Asked to elaborate what “near-premise” would mean, Lev said, “Near-prem would be at the last mile. We have the infrastructure to go to the hyper-local edge.” He said it’s early days, but that might mean “boxes on the street” or “to allocate compute for some virtual instances” in cable modems.

What about public clouds?

A lot of service providers are choosing to work with the big public clouds to bring edge cloud services to their joint customers.

When asked if Cox is working with any of the biggies — AWS, Azure or Google Cloud — Lev said, “I prefer not to answer” that question.

He did say that his group at Cox uses public cloud services, itself. “The relationships are there. It’s just finding the joint opportunity.”

But he also wants engineers at Cox to know how to do edge computing, too, and not just turn it all over to the hyperscalers. “The organization that launched Cox Edge has a learning and strategy agenda,” he said. His group also wants to understand what enterprises and developers really want and where the pain points are.

RELATED: Vodafone likes edge computing with hyperscalers, Cox is skeptical

He acknowledged that mobile operators are leading the pack on edge compute, which is a big part of their 5G strategies. But among the MSO community, there’s been a lot of discussion about the topic. He said for Cox, edge compute “is not coming from service delivery of our bread-and-butter services.”