“It’s really important to understand that edge is not just one thing, it’s a lot of different things — it’s containers but not just containers…” says Verizon’s Beth Cohen.

Verizon’s Beth Cohen is on the front lines of edge. In her role as cloud networking product manager, she focuses on developing new cloud-based networking products and services.

She sat down, along with Ericsson’s Chris Price and the OpenStack Foundation’s Ildiko Vancsa, to talk all things edge with TIA now recently.  It’s a lively conversation about that the trio will be expanding on at the upcoming Vancouver Summit in a panel session along with Ericsson’s Alison Randal.

“It’s really important to understand that edge is not just one thing, it’s a lot of different things — it’s containers but not just containers…” Cohen says. “It’s a new way of looking at networks. Verizon has been deploying hundreds of thousands of devices for 50 years, but it’s the challenge of understanding the disaggregation between the hardware and the software and the VNFs and the underlying management.”

The tool sets that developed over long periods of time aren’t really designed to think about that disaggregation, she adds. An example? “The alarming systems have to take into consideration that there’s this underlying hardware… If a VNF or a network service gets alarmed, the underlying hardware might be just perfectly fine.”

Price agrees. “Containers are the key technology to allow you to get the applications deployed — get simple lifecycle management, get scale at the edge — but there’s a lot more that goes into actually enabling that.”

Culture plays a big part in the transition. “Just having the conversations with the operations people has been a challenge,” Cohen says. “I’ve spent hours and hours literally training them about how to work with virtual systems and virtual services and virtual applications because they don’t really think that way, that’s not in their DNA.”

While Price maintains that edge use cases are still being inched towards, Cohen sees a fairly straightforward path.
“Tech refresh is a huge use case for us and I think that’s across the board,” she says but adds there some other really more “far-out use cases” that will come about once companies have invested in the technology. She cites internet of things and augmented reality  as the “kind of sexy things” that will  come out of it but maintains not they’re not going to be the “driving force.”

Speaking of driving, “self-driving cars is actually the worst” use case for edge she says. “If you’re sending all the stuff back to the data center and it’s coming back, you really need very low latency and guaranteed connections. You don’t want to send off a request and not get a response if you’re trying to turn the corner.”

Vancsa underlines that there are commonalities, no matter the use case.  “It’s also important to mention that even if we are looking into telco or all the whole global industry, basically the requirements that it all boils down to are really similar in all these cases.”

They also talk about open source versus commercial edge, what’s next in tooling and current challenges in 16-minute interview.

You can check out all the Vancouver sessions, workshops and lightning talks focusing on edge here. And, if you’re interested in more about edge computing, read the new whitepaper created by the Edge Computing Group available at openstack.org/edge

Cover Photo // CC BY NC