Amazon, Google, and Microsoft take their clouds to the edge

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It might surprise you to learn that the big three public clouds – AWS, Google Could Platform, and Microsoft Azure – are all starting to provide capabilities. It’s puzzling, because the phrase “edge computing” implies a mini datacenter, typically connected to IoT devices and deployed at an enterprise network’s edge rather than in the cloud.

The big three clouds have only partial control over such key edge attributes as location, network, and infrastructure. Can they truly provide edge computing capabilities?

The answer is yes, although the public cloud providers are developing their edge computing services via strategic partnerships and with some early-stage limitations.

Cloud-based edge computing offerings are a clear sign that the boundaries between public cloud, private cloud, and edge computing are blurring. The unifying goal is to provide businesses and architects with a range of choices based on the type of workload and its performance, reliability, regulatory, and safety requirements.

Unfortunately, a glut of new options always means new jargon and branding, so we’ll need to do a fair bit of demystifying as we sort through the big three cloud offerings for edge computing. Before jumping in, though, let’s start with a quick primer on some key edge computing architecture considerations.

Understanding edge computing requirements and architectures

, where architects can leverage 5G networks and deploy data processing, machine learning models, streaming applications, and other real-time data-intensive applications optimally.

  • are managed deployments of the Azure stack that can be purchased through Microsoft and are currently available in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.
  • Microsoft to offer Azure End Zones with Carrier in a number of locations, including Atlanta, Dallas, and Los Angeles. This option is best for 5G-enabled mobile applications that require low-latency data processing or machine learning capabilities.
  • Lastly, businesses can also deploy a private Azure Edge Zone. Microsoft has partnered with several data center providers that enable this capability.

These options provide location choices and network flexibility, while brings Azure computing and services to the edge. Azure Stack Edge is a that can be configured with containers or VMs and managed as a Kubernetes cluster of appliances. This model is optimized for machine learning and IoT applications.

Microsoft also offers , a hyperconverged infrastructure for modernizing data centers, and for deploying cloud-native applications.

Like other cloud services, Microsoft sells Azure Stack Edge , with costs calculated by the utility. Microsoft manages the device and offers 99.9 percent service level availability.

Extending AWS services from 5G devices to large scale analytics

AWS has a similar set of offerings to distribute AWS services to edge data centers and telco networks.

  • AWS is starting to support edge data centers with that are currently available only in Los Angeles.
  • is designed for low-latency applications running on 5G devices, including connected vehicles, AR/VR applications, smart factories, and real-time gaming.
  • to deliver AWS Wavelength, which is currently available in Boston and the San Francisco Bay area.

AWS offers two flavors of edge infrastructure, starting with the line of appliances. AWS Snowcone is the smallest appliance with two vCPUs and 4GB that is primarily used for edge data storage and transfer. Memory-intensive data processing and machine learning applications deployed to the edge likely require AWS Snowball Edge that comes in storage and compute-optimized models with up to 52 vCPUs and 208GB. For the largest scale applications, are 42U racks deployed to data centers for running different EC2 instance types, containers (Amazon ECS), Kubernetes (Amazon EKS), databases (Amazon RDS), data analytics (Amazon EMR), and other AWS services.

Google lags as all three clouds vie for the edge

Just as , it’s also trying to catch up with its edge offerings. Google’s most recent announcements include , collaborations with AT&T on 5G connectivity, and the . The offering is part of , a hybrid and multi-cloud application modernization platform enabling businesses to deploy applications on GCP and in the data center.

The public cloud vendors all recognize that the next wave of innovation is coming from the intersection of IoT, 5G, and machine learning analytics deployed at the edge. They’re not going to let infrastructure and data center companies like Dell or HPE dominate this new market without a fight, so their answer is to bring their cloud platforms, containers, orchestration, and services to edge data centers and telco endpoints. And they’re not doing this alone: The public clouds are partnering with telcos, infrastructure providers, and major service providers to enable their offerings.

But these are early days for public cloud edge computing solutions. The fact that the big three clouds are getting serious about edge computing only serves to underscore the promise of the edge frontier. Whether enterprises choose public cloud edge solutions or opt to build their own infrastructure, network, and computing platforms, few will want to be left out of the growing wave of edge innovation.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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