Centralized, cloud-hosted management coupled with a growing portfolio of common cloud and edge capabilities puts hyper-scale cloud providers in a good position to address a broader range of requirements for computing closer to the edge
There is a common saying – Let technology open your eyes, not overwhelm you – this would be very pertinent to Edge computing, as it continues to expand our perimeter of computing from data canters to handheld devices. According to the new Worldwide Edge Spending Guide from IDC, the worldwide edge computing market will reach USD 250.6 billion in 2024 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.5% over the 2019–2024 forecast period.
‘Internet of Things’ coupled with enterprises in OTT, e-commerce, proximity-based geo local services, distributed Web-CDNs and telecom players, etc. who look forward to fulfil evolving consumer needs through tech will be the major drivers of growth for Edge computing sector. Additionally, the increased demand for automated decision-making solutions, AR/VR technologies and need for efficient management of data across industries will further augment the need for Edge computing. The evolution of tech and the amplified discussions around 5G and its control over practically everything physical does raise question on data security. However, Edge computing’s potential to improve network security through local security and other features further strengthens its scope of application across industries, including self-driven vehicles, AI, robotics and surveillance notably among others.
What is Edge?
In simple terms, Edge computing is an approach that processes data at the edge of the network or near the consumer. Citing an example in telecommunications, a mobile can be considered to be an edge device. Hence, every device that generates data at the edge of a network, functions as an edge device. Factors such as an increase in load on the cloud infrastructure globally and a rise in the number of intelligent applications are the major factors driving the growth of the global edge computing market.
Edge computing reduces the need for long-distance back and forth communications between client and server/cloud that means improved response times. Technically, the concept reduces latency and bandwidth usage and significantly improves application response times. As per Kuba Stolarski, research director at IDC, in the ‘Worldwide Edge Infrastructure (Compute and Storage) Forecast, 2019-2023’ report, she adds: “With enhanced interconnectivity enabling improved edge access to more core applications, and with new IoT and industry-specific business use cases, edge infrastructure is poised to be one of the main growth engines in the server and storage market for the next decade and beyond.”
The cusp of computing shift is here
A network of large data centers are primary drivers of the present-day computing. The synergy is well-tuned for current technologies and may not be conducive for the foreseeable tech-led innovations. For instance, self-driving car will have to take lightning fast and 100% accurate decisions in real-time and cues from a data center several miles away may not be able to do justice to it, the case might be similar for industries that deal with remote surgeries, drone deliveries and so on. However, an efficient Edge computing mechanism will enable addressing it as it is all about processing data on the spot, eliminating the need to connect to a faraway data center.
With the plethora of advantages, Edge computing comes with its own set of challenges such as the ability to scale. Deployments of Edge range from hundreds to thousands of nodes and clusters that need to be managed in locations where there may be minimal to absolutely no IT staff at all. Remember there will be a running ‘Edge computing stack’ at top of a telecom tower itself and demands low touch and complete remote manageability. While companies need to also ensure a central way to deploy and manage, otherwise, it can become complicated and capex intensive exercise the hardware designers and solution architects must build the resiliency to failure by design. The next consideration is building the entire Edge Stack by a single vendor is impossible as edge deployments can vary greatly depending on use cases. In such cases, organizations need to ensure interoperability within a multi-vendor hardware and software environment via set of standards which too are evolving as we speak. Furthermore, to deliver consistency sharing of a secure control plane via automation, management, and orchestration will be imperative. This is where hybrid cloud plays a key role as one would want to manage entire infrastructure in the same way as before and create an environment where one can regularly develop an application once and deploy it anywhere at a single click.
According to Gartner, Edge computing platforms are software and hardware that enable a zero-touch, secure, distributed computing architecture for applications and data processing at or near the edge. Centralized, cloud-hosted management coupled with a growing portfolio of common cloud and edge capabilities puts hyper-scale cloud providers in a good position to address a broader range of requirements for computing closer to the edge. Still, by end of 2023, only 20% of installed edge computing platforms will be delivered and managed by hyper-scale cloud providers (an increase from less than 1% in 2020).
Edge computing tackles a growing demand to address lower latency, process the growing amount of data on the edge, and support resilience to network disconnection. It is broad enough to support many submarkets but will evolve from supporting thousands of custom patterns to merely dozens after consolidation and cocreation process, with cloud providers playing an important role to the edge or complementing edge solutions working with telecom providers. Enterprises must prioritize a distributed cloud-based edge solution as the default and future-proof option by relying on partnerships and ecosystems over a single-vendor approach as more open infrastructure and upstream open-source technologies that demonstrate large-scale adoption and faster evolution than the traditional OEM principles at play.
The author is Chief Digital Officer at NxtGen Infinite Data Center