“Select” customers in Dallas will get access to the Network Edge Compute offering that is the result of the collaboration between AT&T and Microsoft announced earlier this year. That offering makes Microsoft Azure cloud services available through AT&T’s edge data centers.

Next year, additional customers in Los Angeles and Atlanta will gain access to Network Edge Compute.

Network Edge Compute
Edge computing is a hot topic as carriers roll out 5G networks, which are designed to provide much lower latency in comparison with previous generation wireless technology. This could potentially enable near real-time experiences but many of those will require major processing capability – and if that capability had to be built into mobile devices, the devices in some cases would be enormous.

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The idea behind edge computing is to move processing to a highly distributed cloud so that data doesn’t have far to travel between the cloud and the end-user, thereby maintaining low latency. AT&T has been talking about this idea for several years and has proposed repurposing telco central offices to serve as edge data centers.

The press release from AT&T and Microsoft about Network Edge Compute offers some excellent examples of the sorts of applications that this approach could enable.

“This innovation points to a future where high-end augmented reality glasses are as thin and stylish as a standard pair of eyeglasses, lightweight drones can track themselves and thousands of nearby companions in near-real-time and autonomous cars have access to nearly-instant data processing capabilities without having to install a mini data center in the trunk,” the release explains.

AT&T and Microsoft also reference a couple of proofs of concept trials underway that involve:

  • Working with Vorpal, an Israeli startup, to help that company’s VigilAir product track drones in commercial zones and airports with near-instant positioning
  • Using Microsoft HoloLens to provide 3D schematic overlays for technicians making repairs to airplanes and other industrial equipment

On the consumer side, AT&T and Microsoft expect Network Edge Compute to enable highly immersive gaming, and they note that one company, Game Cloud Network, already has created a 5G game that is hosted on the network edge with Microsoft Azure.

Inside AT&T
AT&T and Microsoft also provided an update on AT&T’s plan to move most of the company’s own non-network workloads to the public cloud by 2024, noting that the migration is already underway. In addition, the companies noted that AT&T has begun rolling out cloud-connected Microsoft 365 applications to tens of thousands of employees.

AT&T and Microsoft announced their plans to partner on edge computing earlier this year.

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