Public cloud hyperscalers. Hyperscalers are likely to play a key role in standardizing, simplifying, and commercializing enterprise edge computing solutions, leveraging their platforms, ecosystems, and marketplaces to deliver easy-to-consume, right-sized, yet scalable and affordable solutions. Hyperscalers are treating edge computing as an extension of their existing cloud business, regionalizing and scaling their massive global cloud infrastructures into smaller formats that can enable customers to process workloads closer to or in their facilities. As part of this effort, many are partnering with CSPs, content delivery networks, cell tower owners, and others with highly distributed network facilities to colocate these scaled-down edge cloud platforms close to potential clients. Some hyperscalers are shrinking their cloud platforms even further to deliver turnkey edge computing platforms that enterprise customers can deploy on their own hardware infrastructure in their own environments. To pursue this market, they are partnering with specialized system integrators and others to extend their sales channels into specific industry verticals.
CSPs. CSPs are also well-equipped to offer packaged edge computing solutions. Besides providing the connectivity between the hyperscaler’s centralized cloud and the enterprise’s on-premise data centers, servers, or devices, a number of them believe that they can also profit from offering edge computing solutions in conjunction with secure and reliable connectivity to enable real-time applications. These CSPs are taking measured steps toward developing their edge computing infrastructures, platforms (often in conjunction with a hyperscaler), and services, collectively known as multi-access edge computing (MEC).6 As part of a MEC offering, CSPs can use their 5G networks to deliver a wide range of à la carte or fully managed connectivity, compute, storage, and security edge services, or even develop their own B2B and B2C applications tailored to an enterprise’s specific needs.
Many CSPs have well-established relationships, credibility, and trust with enterprise customers on which to build their MEC business. On the other hand, many still need to develop their strategy, value proposition, business and operating models, partnerships, and customer-centric sales capabilities to effectively offer and deliver these services.
Infrastructure equipment vendors. For infrastructure equipment vendors, edge computing provides more opportunities to supply service providers, since the increasingly virtualized and open (based on common standards) nature of networks is lowering barriers to entry and allowing for greater vendor diversity. As Dell CEO Michael Dell recently observed, “There are seven million cellular base stations worldwide, and every one of those is becoming a data center”7 —presumably to which Dell intends to supply edge infrastructure solutions. Indeed, at Mobile World Congress 2022 (MWC 2022), not only Dell but HPE, Cisco, and other IT hardware vendors announced new edge-to-cloud computing solutions for CSPs and enterprise customers.
In pursuing these new opportunities, many IT equipment vendors are evolving their increasingly commoditized hardware-centric product portfolios into more value-added, software-centric, and consumption-based business models. An example of this trend is HPE, which in 2018 committed more than US$4 billion to build its edge computing business around the cloud and service-based business model that it announced at MWC 2022.
Networking infrastructure vendors are also getting in the game. Given greater spectrum availability, common architectures, and use case requirements, edge computing and private cellular networks are often implemented concurrently. Accordingly, the markets for edge computing and private cellular networks are developing hand in hand, leading to partnerships up and down the tech stack and across the value chain. Because cellular networks require a different skill set from edge computing, these combined deployments expand revenue opportunities for networking infrastructure vendors with specialized knowledge of radio technologies.
Edge cloud management platforms. Because edge computing has numerous deployment options, each involving a different slate of vendors and applications, an abstraction layer—that is, an edge-cloud management platform—can be used to reduce the complexity of administrating these disparate, heterogeneous environments. These management platforms increasingly seek to provide a common operating system with centralized tools, KPIs, and dashboards, making it easier for operators, enterprises, and developers to tailor performance and security policies in diverse, hybrid environments. The programmable platforms use application programming interfaces (APIs) to control the underlying physical network infrastructure. Because these APIs are increasingly becoming standardized, open-source, and thus vendor-agnostic, their use promotes greater interoperability among the mix-and-match components from different vendors. They can also increasingly blur the distinction between infrastructure and applications as network functions and capabilities are increasingly implemented through code rather than infrastructure.