Interest in edge computing is increasing globally, as enterprises look to deploy compute power closer to where data is generated. Forrester predicts that edge computing will fulfill its promise in 2021, with AI and 5G expanding the breadth and number of edge use cases.
The recent pandemic is also helping boost interest in edge computing. IDC estimates that 80% of edge investments are being driven by changing workforce and operations requirements during the pandemic.
Innovation in edge computing is booming, with venture capital funding in the technology during Q1 2020 exceeding the whole of 2019. In fact, such is the interest in edge computing that Forrester predicts that it will affect growth in the cloud market. It forecasts that annual hyperscale cloud growth will slow from 42% in 2018 to 24% in 2022 as the market matures and enterprises turn to edge.
Edge and fog complement cloud computing
However, edge computing is complementary to cloud computing, rather than a replacement. It enables devices at the edge of the network, such as those in the Internet of Things (IoT), to perform some computing functions instead of sending all data straight to the cloud to be processed. Fog computing is a variation, where compute power is supplied in the local network, rather than the device itself.
Edge computing can use cloud-native development to create distributed applications that work in tandem with the cloud. For example, the edge device could carry out low‑complexity data sorting, such as classification or filtering, while sending data to the cloud for further analysis, management and storage.
Creating the autonomous office
The disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to have a profound impact on working life. In addition to increasing the numbers of homeworkers, offices will also need to change to accommodate often rapidly-changing rules around social distancing and hygiene. And with fewer facilities staff onsite, workplaces will have to rely on more automation and remote monitoring of objects.
The ability for multiple sensors and objects to provide real‑time monitoring and alerts will require a degree of autonomy and response time that is simply not possible through current cloud architectures. Edge will also help reduce the pressure on both network and cloud infrastructure for the many routine processing requirements that smart offices require.
Enabling new home workers
Edge computing also promises to increase the range of roles that can be undertaken remotely. While standard office work is easily achievable at home, some roles have been limited by the lack of processing power or network bandwidth available.
Edge devices at home mean workers can enjoy additional computing power, lower application transaction speed and a reduced dependency on connections to cloud data center services. This could enable a range of different applications, such as complex diagnostic scans for medical imaging, trading platforms and computer‑aided design software for engineering or life sciences.
Boosting Industry 4.0
The final use case we investigate in our report is Industry 4.0. The digitization of manufacturing processes requires IoT to collect and transport data for analysis at cloud data centers. As the number of sensors and IoT devices in every location increases, this will significantly expand the volume of data being generated.
Managing these large data increases could be problematic, particularly in locations with patchy network services. Edge computing provides the processing capability onsite to allow organizations to manage this pressure more effectively. Furthermore, edge can process high‑frequency sensor data onsite in real time. This would allow timely action to be taken in the event of a critical incident involving an employee or a production line.
Orange Business consultants are helping many customers in their journeys to the edge. To read more about fog and edge computing and how they can transform your business, read our report. It includes use cases and ideas to help you get the most out of this important emerging technology.
Tom Gavin has been Head of Orange Consulting Europe since 2019. Previously he has held roles in sales and management. Tom lives in London and has three daughters. He spends his spare time as a post graduate student at the Computing Department at the University West London and walking his dogs.