Edge 2018: We are on the edge of something amazing

27 April 2018 | Editorial

Two years ago, Peter Levine, a general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, foresaw that the majority of computer processing would shift to the Edge, rather than the cloud: "Sensors are going to produce massive amounts of data. The existing infrastructure will not be able to handle the data volumes or the rates, and data is going to be stuck at the edge and computing is going to move to the edge along with that data." (Andreessen Horowitz Tech Summit, 2016).

This has proved to be more than prescient. Edge – computation with cloud resources close to the user - represents the most profound change that will impact possibly for decades to come. Early deployment particularly evident in North America is expected to achieve significant growth over the next 5 years globally.

Representing a response to a quantum leap in the volume of data generated and caused by connecting things, huge growth in mobile and video, and the eventual digital capabilities that will be enabled by 5G, Edge is also part of a shift to a distributed architecture, hosting intelligence in the virtual economy’s algorithms and machines. Indeed, the Edge is according to Edgeconnex, infinitely flexible and is "constantly moving the demarcation between service and the consumer."

Mark Thiele of Apcera has produced a succinct definition: "The Edge is where a combination of technology requirements creates a location specific capability to meet a set of customer use case needs. Those customer use case requirements could be a combination of any or all of; latency, data, data sovereignty, security, performance, cost and reducing impact on backhaul networking capacity."

Cloud computing and "programming techniques" have already enabled a new form of product abstraction, accelerated prototyping, simultaneous multi-platform development, construction and instant delivery to an expanding consumer base. 

Edge will now also take advantage of the convergence of a host of current and new technologies such as blockchain, AI, 5G, 4k and 8k, robotics, wearable tech and embedded sensors.

Huge opportunity

Edge disaggregates traditional IT servers with the separation of compute processing networks and storage components. It prioritizes data critical to the operations of the local infrastructure and enables them to be analyzed, stored and processed immediately. Data can be stored close to the user on IoT or other devices, gateways, roadside cabinets and Edge datacenters. Edge computing devices will be primarily responsible for handling network switching, routing, load balancing, security, and audit trail while also doubling up for running data processing pipelines. Other data moves to the public cloud for batch processing.

The opportunity is widely perceived as huge. This according to Guggenheim Securities: "…. we think Edge Computing looks like the incremental growth opportunity, increasingly necessary to overcome cloud overhead in latency and bandwidth, to enable billions of new IoT end-points and real-time Local AI/ML for autonomous systems.  As applications push processing back out to the edge, we see devices bifurcating into either Cloud Conduits or Edge Computers that will require much more local horsepower."

Edge computing will enable IT to retain sensitive data on-premises while still taking advantage of the elasticity offered by the public cloud. It significantly reduces the latency involved in dealing with public cloud platforms.

Edge will also create new highly connected ecosystems with car manufacturers, social networks, cloud providers, online retailers and content providers. Telco network providers, fiber owners and cable companies will benefit from the infrastructure assets they own, but they will also need to share value in the ecosystem. 

Decade deployment

In deploying Edge resources, new players will possibly emerge focused on installing and integrating billions of sensors, smart devices, cloud services, mobile networks, and an array of Edge facilities. 

The timescale for development can be judged in several stages with deployment of infrastructure and platforms, trials and launch of 5G across the next 5-7 years. Full implementation of Edge with device ubiquity, smart cities, autonomous cars and connected things could be envisaged over the next 10 years.

Quantifying the scale of opportunity, telecom operators and enterprises in the US and Europe will spend about US$272 billion on edge computing capabilities between now and 2026, a figure that will exceed investments in 5G networks, according to a recent forecast from research house iGR. 

Join the debate and meet the players at Edge 2018 taking place in Austin Texas 24-25 October – www.edgecongress.com 

Topics: BroadGroup, Capacity media, wholesale telecoms, telecom news