AT&T Puts Smart City IoT ‘Edge’ Computing On Direct Dial

Technology platforms in the post-millennial era are heavily characterized by their use of automation and optimization techniques. As we increasingly analyze our software in order to quantify and qualify what applications and data workloads work well in situation A, we can start to automate an element of other software deployments with managed optimized controls in situation B. We can then sub-classify our automation and optimization efforts by vertical industry use case, by specific application type and by the type of device that the software lives on be it desktop, mobile or Internet of Things (IoT).

This broad brush summary statement goes some way to explaining current efforts emanating from AT&T. The brand that we used to know as a phone company, but would now rather we think of it as a ‘business data network’ company has been working with the Linux community to refine an approach to devices installed out of the ‘edge’ of the IoT. Specifically, a new open source project from The Linux Foundation called Akraino will now be built to create a ‘software stack’ capable of running cloud services optimized for edge IoT devices and applications.

AT&T is carrier-style

In terms of its input, AT&T will contribute software code designed for carrier-scale (as in telecoms carrier) edge computing (as in Internet of Things) applications running in virtual machines and containers (as in cloud abstraction technologies)… because, that’s basically what AT&T has a lot of experience in.

What a lot of these type of IoT edge applications struggle with is change and growth — or to use the accepted tech industry terms, flexibility and scalability. If for example we deploy a group of sensors out on an industrial IoT network and they suddenly experience a repeated set of spikes and have to shoulder more work, then we need backend server flexibility in the cloud datacenter to provide the backbone or we risk hitting a brick wall.

Akraino will attempt to answer this need with new levels of flexibility to scale edge cloud services quickly, to maximize the applications or subscribers supported on each server… and to help ensure the reliability of systems that must be up at all times.

“This project will bring the extensive work AT&T has already done to create low-latency, carrier-grade technology for the edge that address latency and reliability needs,” said Jim Zemlin, Executive Director of The Linux Foundation. “Akraino complements LF Networking projects like ONAP in automating services from edge to core. We’re pleased to welcome it to The Linux Foundation and invite the participation of others as we work together to form Akraino and establish its governance.”

Foundry frenzy

In related news, AT&T is also powering up a so-called edge computing test zone at the AT&T Foundry in Palo Alto. With major players in this space already having established IoT edge computing workshops, AT&T’s move reflects developments already up and running by other vendors including Siemens and IBM and perhaps most notably GE with its ‘foundry’ facilities in Paris, Shanghai, Saudi Arabia alongside US facilities in Boston and San Ramon.

The first project getting underway at the test zone is a collaboration with GridRaster , a company that provides underlying compute and network stack technologies to power high-end Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) experiences on mobile.

“We’re working directly with developers, startups and third-party innovators to solve the latency dilemma that limits many existing AR/VR applications,” said Vishy Gopalakrishnan, vice president of Ecosystem & Innovation at AT&T. “Our ability to collaborate with the community and push forth rapid innovations is at the heart of this experiment.”


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