Microsoft and AT&T have announced a partnership that combines AT&T’s 5G mobile connectivity with Microsoft’s Azure Cloud and Edge computing technology. The new Network Edge Compute (NEC) technology is being created by combining the technologies developed by these two companies. The NEC technology will be rolled out for a select group of customers in Dallas first. The target is to make the technology more broadly available to select customers in Los Angeles and Atlanta sometime in 2020.



What is Network Edge Compute?

Network Edge Compute (NEC) technology is being developed in partnership between Microsoft and AT&T to deliver Microsoft Azure cloud services closer to customers via AT&T’s network of edge locations.

The NEC technology will be rolled out for a select group of customers in Dallas first. The target is to make the technology more broadly available to select customers in Los Angeles and Atlanta sometime in 2020.

There are a few benefits of this NEC technology that will enable better customer experiences, in addition to new innovations becoming possible:

  • Higher connection speeds via the AT&T Network Cloud; a service that is based on AT&T’s software-defined and virtualized 5G core.
  • Lower latency connections and communications by hosting Microsoft Azure services closer to customers and devices at AT&T network edge locations.
  • The ability to utilize Microsoft Azure services in edge locations closer to customers and devices that will enable new innovative solutions that weren’t possible before.

This NEC technology partnership build on the innovations of both companies. AT&T is the first in the industry to activate a 400-gigabit connection between Dallas and Atlanta. This connection is not a proof-of-concept (POC), but rather a real upgrade to their production network. This new connection is being used to support their video, gaming, and other 5G needs as they roll out their 5G network to customers. AT&T already services 21 cities across the United States with their 5G network, and plans to roll out 5G nationwide in the first half of 2020.

AT&T is the first in the industry to activate a 400-gigabit connection between Dallas and Atlanta. This connection is not a proof-of-concept (POC), but rather a real upgrade to their production network.

Microsoft has been an innovator in the cloud computing space for a number of years now. Sure, there is a game of tag being held between Microsoft and other cloud providers when it comes to service and feature support. However, when it comes to Hybrid and Edge Computing, Microsoft is the leader with their Microsoft Azure Stack offering. Azure Stack enables enterprises to purchase hardware that will run a version of Microsoft Azure within their own datacenter or any other remote location necessary. This means you can host Microsoft Azure services anywhere in the world, such as at Edge locations, even if Microsoft doesn’t have one of their own data centers in that location.

The new Network Edge Compute (NEC) technology being developed by the AT&T and Microsoft partnership appears to be a real innovative merging of two pioneers in the technology space. With Microsoft’s cloud expertise combined with AT&T’s network connectivity expertise, this looks to provide an innovative solution that will encourage further technology innovations that weren’t previously possible. Corey Sanders, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Solutions, was quoted in the announcement as saying, “The collaboration reaches across AT&T, bringing the hyperscale of Microsoft Azure together with AT&T’s network to innovate with 5G and edge computing across every industry.”

“The collaboration reaches across AT&T, bringing the hyperscale of Microsoft Azure together with AT&T’s network to innovate with 5G and edge computing across every industry.”

Corey Sanders, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Solutions

Real-Time Applications in Gaming, Drones, Augmented Reality, and more!

There are many real-time computing applications where the Network Edge Compute (NEC) technology from Microsoft and AT&T will prove to be very useful and beneficial. Gaming is likely the most obvious space, where companies are releasing services that enable full console games to be played on smartphones and other devices by leveraging cloud computing technology and wireless connectivity. Microsoft’s own xCloud service delivers this type of experience for playing XBox games.

Microsoft’s press release mentions the example of gaming company Game Cloud Network (GCN). Game Cloud Network has created a game that leverages Network Edge Compute technology to deliver near real-time interaction between gamers using high speed 5G-connected devices and Microsoft Azure services hosted at network edge locations.

There are many areas of computing that will be able to innovate through the new technologies being developed by this partnership. With compute services hosted closer to the network edge, and lower network latency through 5G connectivity, there are many other real-time innovations being made possible. Aaron Baker, the CEO of Game Cloud Network, was quoted in the announcement as saying, “5G and edge computing have the potential to radically change how we play together and launch new business opportunities […]”

“5G and edge computing have the potential to radically change how we play together and launch new business opportunities […]”

Aaron Baker, CEO of Game Cloud Network

AT&T Cloud Migration to Microsoft Azure

Another piece of the announcement from Microsoft about Network Edge Compute (NEC) is that AT&T Communications is working to become a “public-cloud first” company. They will be migrating most non-network workloads to Microsoft Azure by 2024; with initial migrations already underway. AT&T is also integrating Microsoft’s SaS (Software-as-a-Service) cloud technologies into their organization; including Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, and OneDrive.

Wrap Up

The innovations in cloud and edge computing are quite amazing. With Microsoft Azure stack you can run Azure services anywhere in the world; such as at edge locations closer to your customers and users. The much higher bandwidth capabilities of 5G wireless connectivity, such as that from AT&T, is enabling more devices to be constantly connected and available with lower latencies. By combining these two areas of technology, Microsoft and AT&T are creating new innovations with Network Edge Compute (NEC) that will provide the foundation and infrastructure for future innovations across all industries.

By combining these two areas of technology, Microsoft and AT&T are creating new innovations with Network Edge Compute (NEC) that will provide the foundation and infrastructure for future innovations across all industries.

Chris Pietschmann, Founder, Build5Nines.com

This initial announcement of Network Edge Compute (NEC) from Microsoft and AT&T is still being made in early days. Microsoft announced that they will both be sharing more information over the coming months and years about this unique alliance and innovative technology. In time, we will certainly see more information about how this technology is being developed and how to utilize it in your own enterprise solutions and/or consumer offerings.


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