Lumen snags its first edge compute customer, deepens partnership with VMware

After announcing its edge compute strategy last year, Lumen (formerly CenturyLink) turned up its first customer this month on one of its edge nodes.

Paul Savill, senior vice president, enterprise products and services with Lumen, said the first customer on the company's first live edge compute node was a media company. While Lumen previously announced more than 100 edge compute nodes across the U.S., Savill said Lumen is in the process of adding 150 more around the globe.

RELATED: CenturyLink draws up its playbook for edge compute services

Thanks to its large fiber network, both its backbone and on-net buildings in cities, Lumen has laid claim to reaching 98% of the enterprises in the U.S. with low latency of 5 milliseconds one way with its edge compute nodes.

"What we're building out in terms of our edge compute platform is going to have deep distribution of compute into hundreds of local markets around the world," Savill said.

RELATED: CenturyLink CTO Dugan: Three drivers for why enterprises need edge compute

While Lumen's edge compute platform hasn't officially launched, Savill said Lumen would continue to turn up multiple edge compute nodes each month, and that additional customers were lining up to use it.

Separately, Lumen has used its capabilities to combine network, compute and application management for custom implementations of edge compute.  

"What we're rolling out over the course of the next several months is a generally available, dynamically consumable range of edge compute services that will be consumable across a shared edge compute platform," Savill said. "So it's not going to be dedicated resources from the standpoint that we're not building it just for one customer according to their specs and needs.

"We're building edge compute as a generally available product that we think will meet the needs of the broad marketplace for a lot of different customers."

Lumen is in the process of rolling out a bare metal service on its edge compute nodes, which Savill said would be consumable on the fly, dynamically provisionable and attachable to networks.

VMware and Lumen go deep on edge compute

Lumen and VMware have a long history of working together and that now includes VMware taking part in Lumen's edge compute platform.

Lumen added VMware's VeloCloud solution to its SD-WAN stable, and its recently announced VMware SASE solution, both of which are virtualized. VMware's VeloCloud technologies will be deployed as virtual instances across Lumen's edge compute nodes going forward and across a range of public cloud infrastructures as well.

"Lumen is constructing a software-based infrastructure that will allow them to manage the connectivity of all these edges," said VMware's Sanjay Uppal, senior vice president and general manager. "The upper layer of software that then manages how that underlying cloud based digital infrastructure is used will be VMware's.

"When we combine those two forces together, you can conceive of applications being distributed on the fly very close to where the data is being produced or consumed. So it's the extension of what we're doing with SD-WAN and SASE, but taking that all of the way out to the edge using Lumen software, infrastructure and points of presence all around the world. I think it's a fantastic partnership."

Lumen will also create edge compute services for enterprises to develop new services using VMware's Tanzu in order for the applications to run consistently from the data center to the cloud and then to the edge using Lumen's network.

"The partnership is not just around the runtime compute, but it's also the management of the compute," Uppal said. "The management of the compute is where VMware Tanzu comes in because Tanzu, in one unified way, can manage the compute for containers as well as for virtual machines."

Savill said Tanzu was is going to be a part of Lumen's  infrastructure-as-a-service offering on its edge compute platform.

While Savill described VMware as "extremely important" to Lumen and its customers, he didn't rule out additional vendors for the edge compute platform.

"We chose them (VMware) for a reason because they're the market leader," Savill said. "And we feel like there's the most opportunity working with them, but we also want to make it available for our enterprise customers to bring other tools to use across our edge compute platform if they want to."