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Cloud, edge computing, and IoT are making strides to transform whole industries and create opportunities that weren’t possible just a few years ago. With the rise of 5G mobile connectivity, there are even more possibilities to deliver immersive, real-time experiences that have demanding, ultra-low latency, and connectivity requirements. 5G opens new frontiers with enhanced mobile broadband up to 10x faster, reliable low-latency communication, and very high device density up to 1 million devices per square kilometer.
Today we’re announcing transformative advances to combine the power of Azure, 5G, carriers, and technology partners around the world to enable new scenarios for developers, customers, and partners, with the preview of Azure Edge Zones.
New 5G customer scenarios with Azure Edge Zones
Azure Edge Zones and Azure Private Edge Zones deliver consistent Azure services, app platform, and management to the edge with 5G unlocking new scenarios by enabling:
- Development of distributed applications across cloud, on-premises, and edge using the same Azure Portal, APIs, development, and security tools.
- Local data processing for latency critical industrial IoT and media services workloads.
- Acceleration of IoT, artificial intelligence (AI), and real-time analytics by optimizing, building, and innovating for robotics, automation, and mixed reality.
- New frontiers for developers working with high-density graphics and real-time operations in industries such as gaming.
- An evolving platform built with customers, carriers, and industry partners to allow seamless integration and operation of a wide selection of Virtual Network Functions, including 5G software and SD-WAN and firewalls from technology partners such as Affirmed, Mavenir, Nuage Networks from Nokia, Metaswitch, Palo Alto Networks, and VeloCloud By VMware.
Building on our previous work with AT&T, we’re announcing the preview of Azure Edge Zones with carriers, connecting Azure services directly to 5G networks in the carrier’s datacenter. This will enable developers to build optimized and scalable applications using Azure and directly connected to 5G networks, taking advantage of consistent Azure APIs and tooling available in the public cloud. We were the first public cloud to announce 5G integration with AT&T in Dallas in 2019, and now we’re announcing a close collaboration with AT&T on a new Edge Zone targeted to become available in Los Angeles in late spring. Customers and partners interested in Edge Zones with AT&T can register for our early adopter program.
“This is a uniquely challenging time across the globe as we rethink how to help organizations serve their customers and stakeholders,” said Anne Chow, chief executive officer, AT&T Business. “Fast and intelligent mobile networks will be increasingly central to all of our lives. Combining our network knowledge and experience with Microsoft’s cloud expertise will give businesses a critical head start.”
These new zones will boost application performance, providing an optimal user experience when running ultra-low latency, sensitive mobile applications, and SIM-enabled architectures including:
- Online gaming: Every press of the button, every click is important for a gamer. Responsiveness is critical, especially in multi-player scenarios. Game developers can now develop cloud-based applications optimized for mobile, directly accessing the 5G network at different carrier sites. They can achieve millisecond latency and scale to as many users as they want.
- Remote meetings and events: As the prevalence of digital-forward experiences continue to rise in response to global health challenges, we can help bring together thousands of people to enjoy a real-time shared experience. Enabling scenarios like social engagement, mobile digital experiences, live interaction, and payment and processing require ultra-low latency to provide an immersive, responsive experience.
- Smart Infrastructure: With the rise of IoT, organizations are looking to create efficiency, savings, and immersive experiences across residential and commercial buildings, or even citywide. With 5G and cloud computing, organizations can reliably connect millions of endpoints, analyze data, and deliver immersive experiences.
With Azure Edge Zones we’re expanding our collaboration with several of our carrier partners to bring the Azure Edge Zones family to our mutual customers later this year.
In addition to partnering with carriers, we’ll also deliver standalone Azure Edge Zones in select cities over the next 12 months, bringing Azure closer to customers and developers in highly dense areas.
Azure Private Edge Zones
We’re also announcing the preview of Azure Private Edge Zones, a private 5G/LTE network combined with Azure Stack Edge on-premises delivering an ultra-low latency, secure, and high bandwidth solution for organizations to enable scenarios, like with Attabotics, accelerating e-commerce delivery times by using 3D robotic goods-to-person storage, retrieval, and real-time order fulfillment solutions. This solution leverages Azure Edge Zones and IoT technologies such as Azure IoT Central and Azure Sphere.
“In collaboration with Microsoft, Rogers is delivering new and innovative solutions with our Private LTE capabilities combined with Azure Edge Zones,” said Dean Prevost, President, Rogers for Business. “Working with Attabotics, we’re enabling Canadian businesses to transform the traditional supply model with a retail e-fulfillment solution that showcases the exciting possibilities of today and opens the door to our 5G future.”
Partnering with the broad industry of carriers, systems integrators, and technology partners, we’re launching a platform to support orchestration and management of customers’ private cellular networks to enable scenarios such as:
- Smart Factory/IoT: Off-shore operations or security isolated facilities can now take advantage of the power of edge computing. Connecting everything, from silicon to sensors, leveraging security to AI at the edge, deploying Digital Twins or using mixed reality, with a secure and private connection.
- Logistics and operations: Retail customers have high expectations today in online and retail shopping, creating a need for appealing advertising before a potential customer looks away from a product on-line or in an aisle at the store. Wide selection, tailored offers, convenience, and availability are musts for success. The combination of cloud and distributed edge computing, efficiently working together is a game changer for the industry.
- Medicine: From remote surgeries to complicated diagnostics that rely on cross-institutional collaboration, efficient compute and storage at the edge, with AI and minimal latency, enables these and multiple other scenarios that will save lives. Private mobile connections will work as smart grids for hospitals, patient data, and diagnostics that will never have to be exposed to the internet to take advantage of Azure technologies.
A consistent Edge Zone solution
Together, Azure, Azure Edge Zones, and Azure Private Edge Zones unlock a whole new range of distributed applications with a common and consistent architecture companies can use. For example, enterprises running a headquarters’ infrastructure on Azure, may leverage Azure Edge Zones for latency sensitive interactive customer experiences, and Azure Private Edge Zones for their remote locations. Enterprise solution providers can take advantage of the consistent developer, management, and security experience, allowing developers to continue using Github, Azure DevOps, and Kubernetes Services to create applications in Azure and simply move the application to either Azure Edge Zones or Private Edge Zones depending on the customer’s requirements.
“By combining Vodafone 5G and mobile private networks with Azure Private Edge Zones, our customers will be able to run cloud applications on mobile devices with single-digit millisecond responsiveness. This is essential for autonomous vehicles and virtual reality services, for example, as these applications need to react in real-time to deliver business impact. It will allow organizations to innovate and transform their operations, such as the way their employees work with virtual reality services, high speed and precise robotics, and accurate computer vision for defect detection. Together, we expect Vodafone and Microsoft to provide our customers with the capabilities they need to create high performing, innovative and safe work environments.” – Vinod Kumar, CEO of Vodafone Business
New possibilities for the telecommunication industry with Azure
For the last few decades, carriers and operators have pioneered how we connect with each other, laying the foundation for telephony and cellular. With cloud and 5G, there are new possibilities by combining cloud services, including compute and AI, with mobile high bandwidth and ultra-low latency connections. Microsoft is partnering with carriers and operators to bring 5G to life in immersive applications built by organizations and developers.
Carriers, operators, and networking providers can build 5G-optimized services and applications for their partners and customers with Azure Edge Zones, taking advantage of Azure compute, storage, networking, and AI capabilities. For organizations that want an on-premises, private mobile solution, partners and carriers can deploy, manage, and build offers with Azure Private Edge Zones. Customers need help understanding the complexities of the cellular spectrum, access points, and overall management. Carrier partners can help such enterprises manage these scenarios including manufacturing, robotics, and retail.
In addition to new business application opportunities, we’re looking to transform 5G infrastructure with cloud technology. Today, most 5G infrastructure is built on specialized hardware with high capital expenditures and little flexibility. Microsoft will be working to help operators reduce costs and build capacity for their network workloads in new and innovative ways. Last week, we announced the signing of a definitive agreement to acquire Affirmed Networks, a leader in fully virtualized cloud-native mobile network solutions. We look forward to building on their great work and technology expertise to do even more to create new opportunities for customers, technology partners, and operators in virtual mobile networks
As we continue to innovate and discover new, interesting ways to provide unique scenarios built with 5G and our Edge Zone platforms we will be sure to keep you updated. Please visit our page to learn more and keep track of the latest news here.