Microsoft introduces new Azure Edge Zones for 5G edge computing, now in private preview

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With Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Affirmed Networks, it seems that they have 5G on their minds.  Today, Microsoft confirmed that they are enabling 5G Edge computing capabilities with their new Azure Edge Zones.  The first Azure Edge Zones will be launched in partnership with AT&T in Los Angeles in the spring.

Azure Edge Zones are designed to support emerging technologies such as Edge, IoT, and 5G with many of the devices and applications requiring little to no latency.  For example, some of these scenarios could include online gaming where responsiveness is critical, or smart infrastructure allowing a city to connect and analyze millions of endpoints in almost real-time.  The idea of Azure Edge Zones is to connect the devices and applications on the edge and enable them to use highly scalable compute, storage and network with little to no network hops.

Corporate Vice President of Product Management for Azure Networking, Yousef Khalidi said, “some Edge Zones will live within the network; others with carriers and operators; and some in customers own sites to improve scenarios like automation, supply chain, retail, robotics, gaming and more. What makes Edge Zones unique compared to how Microsoft currently enables edge computing is that hey will be delivered as a Microsoft-managed service”

While the service is in private preview for telco and carrier partners, it is clear that Microsoft is taking an aggressive approach to 5G and offering an alternative to Amazon’s recently announced partnership with Verizon by quickly moving ahead to couple 5G alongside their cloud services.  Microsoft indicated that they are looking to deliver Azure Edge Zones in ten cities over the next 12-months including New York and Miami.  It’s important to note that Edge Zones initial launch with AT&T won’t be exclusive and Microsoft has already identified several other partners who are part of the private preview including NTT Communications, Rogers, SK Telecom, Telstra, Vodafone, and Etisalat.

The private previews will also include Azure Private Edge Zones that combine 5G alongside Azure Stack technology allowing companies to set up and run their Edge Zones on-premises.