Vodafone likes edge computing with hyperscalers, Cox is skeptical

Vodafone Business works with Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, IBM and Alibaba to provide edge services to its customers. And Vodafone recently announced that it is bringing AWS Wavelength service to the U.K. this spring and will expand Wavelength to Germany later this year.

Vodafone will embed AWS Wavelength at the edge of its 4G and 5G networks.

RELATED: Vodafone, AWS tee up 5G mobile edge compute in London

Speaking at FierceTelecom’s Winter Blitz event this week, Vodafone Business’ head of cloud portfolio management Jennifer Didoni said that the service provider has two types of edge. It has a distributed edge, which is where the edge operates from the Vodafone mobile wide area network. “So anybody with a Vodafone SIM can reach that particular edge, and that’s where we’ve been working with AWS Wavelength,” said Didoni.

In addition, Vodafone offers a dedicated private edge network. “We give them the cloud computing experience, but it’s on a hardware stack and on a mobile network that is dedicated to that customer,” said Didoni. “So that customer gets their own dedicated spectrum and their own dedicated cloud experience so they know that they’ve got complete control over that environment and the latency in that environment. That’s where we work with Microsoft Azure stack.”

Didoni’s explanation of two different kinds of edge compute sounds very similar to Verizon’s edge compute offerings. Speaking at an investor conference in December, Verizon’s CEO Hans Vestberg said on the public side, Verizon has partnered with Amazon and is using its Wavelength service. For Verizon, “we get a revenue cut every time you use the mobile edge compute,” Vestberg said.

RELATED: Verizon’s Vestberg makes private vs. public 5G MEC distinction

Verizon’s private 5G mobile edge compute is much more of an enterprise solution, where a private network is built for dedicated and confined areas. Vestberg called out environments like a factory, distribution center or large retail store.

Didoni was asked whether it’s difficult for Vodafone to work with multiple cloud providers on edge solutions. She said, “I think it’s really important that we give our customers as much flexibility to consume the right cloud and the right network for what their application needs at any given point in time.”

A big topic in edge computing is: how do service providers and cloud providers share revenue when they’re jointly serving the same customer?

For Vodafone, “It is set up in a joint go-to-market so our cloud partners can go to market and offer their cloud service directly to customers, and then the customer comes to Vodafone for the connectivity,” said Didoni. “But we also do re-sell access to public cloud providers today and as part of that offering we can also manage the edge cloud on behalf of the customer.”

Cox’s edge ambitions

Cox Communications made a big investment in StackPath, which is a content delivery network (CDN) provider, and Cox is currently in the process of looking at its edge compute opportunities. Speaking on the FierceTelecom panel this week, Ron Lev, executive director of new growth at Cox, said, “Right now we’re exploring what might be the right path for us to unlock the value.”

RELATED: Cox targets the edge for the next evolution of network performance and security

Lev said there are at least three different strategies that Cox could take. First, it could follow in the footsteps of Verizon and Vodafone and partner with big cloud providers. Secondly, it could collaborate with companies like IBM that already work with enterprises via their software such as OpenShift. And finally, there’s always the possibility of taking an independent approach to edge networking.

Recently, F5 Networks, a company that delivers applications, announced that it is purchasing the startup Volterra for about $500 million. Volterra will give F5 an edge-cloud stack that works, universally, across public and private clouds.

RELATED: F5 buys Volterra for $500M, says it will free edge apps from ‘server cages’

The combination of F5 and Volterra could provide operators a way to deliver edge services without having to share revenue with a big cloud provider.

But Vodafone’s Didoni said, “For me it’s always about what customers want. And right now, customers are building and running applications on the public cloud. Those public clouds are releasing a lot of new services that people are hungry for and quite loyal to in many cases.”

She said that enterprise customers currently want to work in environments they are familiar with. And in the short term that means getting customers' applications to those public clouds in the most efficient way.

Cox’s Lev was asked: “If I’m a hyperscaler, how do I make myself look like the best cloud provider to work with?”

Lev said that cloud providers should approach Cox with the attitude of “How do we create value together in a joint way?”  He said, “I think that’s where the conversation should start versus from the point of: ‘Can I co-locate my Outposts or Azure Stack or my equipment in your locations?’ Usually, many of those conversations do start like that. It will be interesting to see how they can open themselves up to that joint value creation effort.”