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Inside Microsoft's Massive Push to the Edge


By: R. Scott Raynovich

The edge is heating up. Microsoft made some interesting moves this week as it unveiled a number of initiatives targeted at building out connectivity at the edge of the cloud -- where end users initially connect to cloud applications. Microsoft is calling its approach Azure Edge Zones, which includes a technology stack and strategy with a number of technology vendors and service providers as partners.

This follows on the heels of Microsoft's move last week to buy Affirmed Networks -- a deal that Bloomberg put at $1.35 billion, a number that shocked many in the industry. Put all this activity together, and it's clear that Microsoft has big plans for the edge.

The edge cloud, as Futuriom is calling it, is a huge area of potential growth for the next ten years. This is the cloud connectivity infrastructure that lies between enterprise end-users and consumers and the cloud networks that host applications. As applications get more sophisticated, boosted by the arrival of technologies such as microservices which can distribute applications across networks and clouds, a new edge infrastructure will be needed to more intelligently manage, secure, and network data closer to the customers.

5G is a big catalyst for this move to the edge, and it's covered in detail in our April report -- 5G Catalysts: Opportunities at the Edge. It will ramp up the throughput of data, provide lower latency connectivity, and put more taxing requirements on edge infrastructure. Many existing edge compute applications can be supported with 4G/LTE connectivity or even low-power, wide area networking protocols. But a wide range of new use cases will require 5G in order to maximize connection density, boost bandwidth, minimize latency or guarantee quality of service via network slicing.

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