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In early 2018, the AT&T Foundry launched an edge computing test zone in Palo Alto, CA to experiment with emerging applications upon this new network infrastructure paradigm. Edge computing is the act of moving storage and processing capabilities to the perimeter of the network – or geographically closer to the end-user. Next-gen applications are stressing the processing capabilities of mobile devices, and our Foundry team is engaging with Silicon Valley companies facing challenges that edge computing could potentially address.

We first turned our focus to media applications such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and cloud-driven gaming. We’ve now completed our first experiment with GridRaster. The goal of this phase of our collaboration was to quantitatively understand how improved network performance metrics, such as delay and packet jitter, would translate to improvements in application performance metrics, such as motion-to-photon-latency and frame loss – yielding a better experience for the end user.

As anticipated, the edge configuration presented the most favorable outcomes for application performance. However, our experimentation uncovered additional nuances. We believe that network optimization is critical to enable mobile, cloud-based immersive media. But that’s not enough. First, we believe companies in this ecosystem need to streamline functions throughout the entire capture and rendering pipeline and devise new techniques to distribute functions between the cloud and mobile devices. Second, we discovered that the most notable benefits of edge computing come from delay predictability, rather than the amount of delay itself. We therefore believe that cloud-based immersive media applications will likely benefit from network functions and applications working more synergistically in real-time.

Based on these insights, the AT&T Foundry plans to take a deeper dive with application developers to re-imagine and re-architect how these immersive media applications are designed and implemented.

We’ll be collaborating with NVIDIA to experiment with new ways of delivering experiences over 5G and edge computing technology. At AT&T Spark, the AT&T Foundry, Ericsson and NVIDIA will unveil a GeForce NOW edge computing demo that will showcase Shadow of the Tomb Raider using the power of cloud gaming over a 5G network. It’s a glimpse at what the future holds and a prime example of what we can achieve through this collaboration.

In that collaborative vein, AT&T also recently launched Akraino Edge Stack via the Linux Foundation. Akraino is an open source software stack that supports high-availability cloud services optimized for edge computing systems and applications. The project recently moved from formation into execution and has over a dozen members. AT&T Spark will also host a demo of Akraino running a VR experience and leveraging artificial intelligence.                                                                              

The AT&T Foundry is also expanding its edge test zone footprint to cover the full Bay Area, allowing for increased application mobility and broader collaboration potential. We will continue to evaluate potential use cases from prospective ecosystem partners that could benefit from edge computing.  This includes continuing to find ways of enhancing mobile immersive media experiences, as well as testing future 5G applications such as self-driving cars.

The AT&T Foundry’s rapid innovation model allows us to pivot based on key learnings and better direct our testing to get to the core of how edge computing can provide tangible benefits and value to current and future use cases. With 5G powering the next evolution of our network, edge computing will continue to be at the forefront of how we provide the ultimate user experience for next-gen applications.