May 18, 2020

On May 14, 2020, Microsoft announced the acquisition of Metaswitch for an undisclosed amount. Interestingly enough, this announcement comes less than a month after Microsoft closed the acquisition of Affirmed Networks, a startup that pioneered the virtualization of mobile core networks and along with Metaswitch, was among the first batch of vendors involved in the grand AT&T Domain 2.0 journey that started in 2014 with the ambitious goal of having 75% of its network functions virtualized by the end of 2020.

That sounds very telco-centric and indeed it is. But make no mistake, Microsoft, like its peers Amazon Web Services (AWS), Facebook, and Google, has no intention whatsoever to become a telco. Instead, as it did in the past with many acquisitions, the company is acquiring key technologies to leverage its enterprise communications product suite. As all network functions get virtualized and move to the cloud, and as 5G is coming with its cloud-native shiny new core, the Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch technologies and expertise will allow Microsoft to augment its cloud communications platform launched a few weeks ago: Azure Edge, an edge or local extension of its existing Azure cloud. This is an edge stack aimed at bringing consistency to applications that need to run at the edge to guarantee extremely low latency, a chief 5G feature in high demand for private 4G and 5G wireless networks.

INDUSTRY, NOT CONSUMERS, WILL DRIVE 5G CONNECTIVITY BUSINESS CASES

This is a prediction Nokia Global CTO Marcus Weldon made at the Brooklyn 5G Summit in 2016 during his keynote presentation and since then, everyone got the message, including AWS, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. The Azure Edge stack features three services, called Edge Zones, Private Edge Zones, and Edge Zones With Carrier. They cover multiple edge types and use cases such as more localized regions than the core public cloud with ExpressRoute’s latency, Azure with 5G through a carrier, and Azure in private industrial or retail deployments with 5G connectivity. All of that of course targets the booming wireless private network business that Nokia for example reported in 2019.

LightCounting subscribers can access the full research note here: http://lightcounting.com/auth/login