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On February 13, 2019, Vapor IO announced the Kinetic Edge Alliance (KEA), a partnership that includes Deployment Partners — Federated Wireless, Linode, MobiledgeX, Packet and StackPath — and Technical Partners — Alef Mobitech, Detecon International, Hitachi Vantara, New Continuum Data Centers, Pluribus Networks, and Seagate Technology. This is a guest post from MobiledgeX, a partner in the KEA.

Today, MobiledgeX announced the availability of the world’s first public mobile edge network. Powered by MobiledgeX Edge-Cloud R1.0, the system is running within the Deutsche Telekom (DT) infrastructure in Germany. MobiledgeX has provided material on their website, including a blog post by Sunay Tripathi, CTO and head of engineering, which provides more details about the service offering, as well as a blog post from MobiledgeX CEO, Jason Hoffman, that talks about the business milestone. This article won’t repeat that information here but will, instead, provide a high-level perspective (full disclosure: I am a consultant for MobiledgeX).

MobiledgeX began as an internal DT project in July 2016, tasked with assessing how edge computing might bring value to DT. That analysis concluded that edge computing would be important, resulting in the formation of MobiledgeX as an independent Silicon Valley software company, initially funded by DT. MobiledgeX is a separate company and has a mission to engage with many other mobile operators, as the analysis also concluded that MobiledgeX’s value would be multiplied if many of the offerings were available globally, across carriers, not just within DT’s network. MobiledgeX is a software company and does not make infrastructure nor sell to telecoms. Rather, it partners with carriers to monetize their existing assets that have been deployed and made ready for use as a result of the myriad cloud transformation projects that have been executed in telecom over the last 8 years.

DT hired Jason Hoffman to lead the new company; previously Jason had run Ericsson’s cloud efforts, and before that and been a founder of Joyent (now part of Samsung), an early cloud infrastructure company. Jason built an executive team by recruiting former Ericsson and Joyent colleagues. Sunay Tripathi, the founder of Pluribus Networks was hired as CTO and head of engineering — Pluribus has been a network infrastructure supplier for Ericsson cloud.

MobiledgeX began operation in January 2018 and has spent the last 14 months expanding the team (now up to roughly 30), recruiting a pipeline of additional mobile operator partners, building out the product architecture and its first release (R1.0), and working with developers and go-to-market partners (such as with the Kinetic Edge Alliance). From the beginning, MobiledgeX has been committed to open source, and has taken over DT’s role in the Open Edge Computing effort, and has subsequently engaged with Facebook’s Telecom Infra Project (TIP) — the telephony offshoot of the Open Compute Project — and has most recently engaged with The Linux Foundations new LF Edge initiative, as related open source edge projects coalesced there. Collectively, with these initiatives, MobiledgeX will represent the needs of developers, end users, devices, public clouds and the mobile ecology, with equal importance and focus.

The Value of a Public Mobile Edge

While a lot of edge computing discussions are aspirational — e.g., the great things that can come in the future, such as IoT, self-driving vehicles, 5G — MobiledgeX has cast the edge as a current problem, not something that can wait. They point to the value in opening up the complex mobile infrastructure, making back-end computing as mobile as the user of the application, focusing on the bandwidth and the data sharing and collaboration opportunities at the mobile edge (as well as the more discussed latency improvements).

MobiledgeX has also emphasized delivering value to the mobile operators. Given that they supply the infrastructure, MobiledgeX becomes a means of unlocking additional returns on their investments. By partnering with operators, MobiledgeX can help them bring a cloud-like, developer-friendly application platform to the edge, adding agility to the business.

No Need to Wait for 5G

While it’s simpler and more fun to talk about how exciting the edge will be in 3-5 years, MobiledgeX’s’ story is more complex — but so is the problem, and the company argues that there is business value today for all the participants if they get engaged now. The cloud isn’t going to wait for 5G. Optimizing 5G growth requires leveraging the results of cloud-based 4G transformations today, such as NFV and MEC. By implementing an edge cloud using today’s 4G LTE infrastructure, we can deliver edge today, in advance of 5G. Edge does not need 5G; 5G needs edge!

Bringing the cloud to the mobile edge, or alternatively optimizing the mobile infrastructure to make it more integral to the Internet, is complicated. The cloud and the Internet are very different from cellular telephony and the mobile infrastructure, both technically and as businesses. Combining the two is a complex technical and business proposition, and there is no way to escape that. But if you consider that the global mobile infrastructure represents nearly $2 trillion in capital investment over the last decade (compared to about $300 billion on public cloud) and that, increasingly, use of the cloud leverages the cellular infrastructure, the reward for making public mobile edge work more than justifies the effort.

Peter Christy is an independent industry analyst and marketing consultant. Peter was Research Director at 451 Research and ran the networking service earlier, and before that a founder and partner at Internet Research Group. Peter was one of the first analysts to cover content delivery networks when they emerged, and has tracked and covered network and application acceleration technology and services since. Recently he has been working with MobiledgeX. You can read additional posts by Peter on the State of the Edge blog, including Edge Platforms and The Inevitable Obviousness of the Wireless Edge Cloud.