Edge computing is transforming the way organizations handle data, with new applications demanding real-time computing power. The enormous increase in IoT devices is helping to drive this change. IDC estimates that 41.6 billion connected “things” will generate 79 zettabytes of data by 2025.
“Edge computing represents the next wave of infrastructure modernization,” says Dave McCarthy, Research Director, Edge Strategies at IDC. “The distributed nature of edge computing creates more flexibility in deployment architectures, achieves faster response times to rapidly changing conditions, and addresses many of the scalability problems associated with IoT use cases.”
Also, the arrival of 5G is allowing edge computing to support real-time applications such as autonomous cars, smart cities and automation. 5G comes with the promise of ultra-low latency, but it may require some help from edge processing.
Taking it to the edge
Gartner describes edge computing as “a distributed computing topology where information processing is placed closer to things or people that produce and/or consume that information.”
One of the most significant benefits of edge computing is its ability to increase network performance by reducing latency. It offers up higher bandwidth, accelerated data analytics, enhanced security and scalability.
Cloud-edge and 5G together provide an opportunity for communications service providers to offer complete end-to-end solutions for enterprise verticals, according to analyst firm ABI Research.
“A combination of cloud-edge compute and 5G ultra-reliable, low-latency connectivity is going to be the bedrock to propel post-COVID-19 growth. This growth is not just for telecoms, but also for a multitude of asset-heavy industries as they embrace digital-first processes and operations,” says Don Alusha, Senior Analyst at ABI Research.
5G and edge computing will help propel Industry 4.0, for example, by creating digital enablement and real-time data processing, according to ABI Research. This is in contrast to higher latency networks that can cause hold-ups, resulting in manufacturing delays and downtime, which are hugely problematic for industrial plants and production lines. The analyst firm believes the key commercial benefits of a 5G and edge compute combination will be agility and process optimization, better and more efficient quality assurance, and productivity improvement.
Vendors are fast moving to bring the power of the edge to organizations. Orange, for example, has formed a strategic partnership with Google Cloud to develop edge computing services as 5G networks are rolled out across Europe. Cloud computing benefits from integration into the network and the companies will combine their strengths to provide flexible, secure and cutting-edge solutions for the B2B, wholesale and B2C markets.
The business case for edge computing, however, is not dependent on 5G. There are several other compelling cases for adoption, such as smart video analysis in retail stores to understand customer preferences and reaction to new products, video surveillance and patient monitoring in hospitals.
Developing an edge computing strategy
It is important to remember that cloud computing and edge computing are complementary to each other and should be treated accordingly. Organizations that exploit their synergies will maximize the benefits of both centralized and decentralized models, according to Gartner.
The first question any organization needs to ask itself is what applications and services will be delivered from the edge. Run an audit and determine which applications will bring the most business benefits running on the edge versus a central location.
Look at device management against the total cost of ownership from the outset. Adopting edge computing can reduce cloud and on-premises networking costs. But costs can soon rise if there are a host of unmanaged connected devices on the network.
It is also paramount to factor in security and compliance. Edge computing will require a shift in security resources. Clear governance and security policies need to be outlined and adopted from the beginning.
Edge computing brings with it great benefits. But it does have its pain points in terms of complexity, increased management requirements and a bigger attack surface. Getting all the pieces of edge computing to work in unison is not easy. It is therefore advisable to seek out expert consultancy and partners to ensure the journey to the edge is a smooth one.
Don’t be scared to go near the edge
Edge computing is the way data processing is going, so CIOs should not be put off by the complexity. Their competitors won’t be. The 2020 State of the Edge report estimates that over $700 billion in cumulative capital expenditure will be spent in the next decade on edge IT infrastructure and data center facilities.
By next year, Gartner estimates that more than 50% of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed outside the data center or cloud. Edge computing will be pivotal across industries in generating faster insight for smart decision making, maintaining continuous operations and providing a truly personalized customer experience.
Orange and Google Cloud recently announced a strategic partnership which includes developing flexible, secure and cutting-edge solutions for the B2B, wholesale and B2C markets. The collaboration will pave the way for the development of new advanced cloud, edge computing and cybersecurity services.
Find out more about the Orange and Google Cloud strategic partnership.