SANTA CLARA, Calif. – AT&T Labs has been quietly defining its concept of edge computers and is now slowly edging toward deploying them. Long term, the work has broad implications for the future design of both cloud and mobile systems.
AT&T defines edge compute as groups of servers and storage systems placed on the periphery of its network to deliver low latency services. It foresees a wide variety of such systems that vary in size and location depending on the application and demand.
“Edge compute is the next step in getting more out of our network, and we are busy putting together an edge computing architecture,” said Alicia Abella, a senior executive at AT&T Labs, in a keynote at the Fog World Congress here.
“We want to deploy edge compute nodes in mobile data centers, in buildings, at customers’ locations and in our central offices. Where it is…depends on where there is demand, where we have spectrum, we are developing methods for optimizing the locations,” she said.
The edge systems serve many uses. They aim to help AT&T reduce the volume of data it must carry to and from its core network. They also will enable higher quality for existing services and hopefully open the doors to new services as well.
One clear application is running video analytics for surveillance cameras. Such edge systems might use GPUs, FPGAs or other accelerators and be located in cities.
A more challenging use is handling jobs for automated vehicles because it would require a significant investment in roadside infrastructure but have an uncertain return-on-investment. Interestingly, AT&T now has 12 million smart cars on its network, a number growing by a million per quarter, she said.
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Cars represent a particularly demanding use case for edge computing. Click to enlarge. (Images: AT&T)