Building momentum on the innovative edge

Building momentum on the innovative edge

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Distributing data centers in key edge markets is a growing necessity but extending networks in the same fashion is also vital. Bill Severn, EVP of 1623 Farnam writes.

As the world finds itself firmly rooted in an era of digital transformation, we’re experiencing a cascade of technological innovation.

Whether it’s IoT, 5G, AI, AR and VR, the commonality between these on-the-rise technologies is their need for edge computing and, subsequently, their role in redefining the topology of networks and data centres. Examining the many exciting edge use cases and the revolutionary business capabilities they will bring is key to shaping a bright digital future. However, we must first understand how and why infrastructure is changing to enable those innovative results.

The edge explained

Applications like 5G, IoT, AR and VR can only thrive with the lowest latencies and highest-speed data transfers, which means that they are together driving a new ecosystem of infrastructure at the edge. The edge in this case simply means as close to the user as possible. In the past, data could be shipped back to core data centres for processing and storage. This layout suited the needs of applications at the time, but as we grow more cutting-edge in our technologies – think real-time functionality and high levels of necessary bandwidth – our requirements have changed.

Bringing compute within closer proximity to where the user resides is key for ensuring data has the least amount of distance to travel and the highest levels of agility. If information can be analysed, processed or even stored at the edge instead of being sent to a remote facility or cloud, then users can get the best experience possible. Application experience is paramount for emerging technologies. Without an edge-centric approach, innovations like smart sensors, autonomous vehicles or virtual reality capabilities risk lackluster results or even total failure from lag, latency or jitter.

What this tells us is that distributing data centers in key edge markets is a growing necessity and extending networks in the same fashion is also vital. Today, with the edge at the center of the most exciting new IT possibilities, the global market for edge computing is poised to reach $15.7 billion in revenue by 2025 — up from just $3.6 billion in 2020. These numbers are compelling when it comes to describing the value the edge and its related applications hold, but the use cases themselves set forth a world of virtually endless opportunity.

What value awaits?

Emerging technology applications have the potential to dramatically improve processes and outcomes across a host of verticals, including healthcare, manufacturing, education, smart city or government sectors and beyond. In fact, the Linux Foundation’s 2021 State of the Edge report features 43 use cases spanning 11 verticals — and this is only the beginning. Innovation in these segments is only growing and accelerating in the wake of global disruptions, and we can expect to see use case adoption expand in the same upward trajectory this report notes in retrospect.

Augmented and Virtual Reality represent one facet of this technological revolution that has continued to gain traction in the news in recent years. Extended reality (which includes the AR, VR and mixed reality segments) is a technology that helps us blend the digital world with the physical world, giving us access to more insights through digital overlays or allowing us immersive explorations of both real and imaginary locations or situations.

Applications like AR and VR are exciting not only because of how they can reshape our world, but because of how diverse their use cases are. Currently, AR and VR for training and industrial maintenance are expected to see the most investment on the commercial side, while gaming and content-related opportunities are expected to be some of the largest consumer use cases. Nevertheless, this field of innovation offers highly varied and impactful options, ranging from advanced medical imaging capabilities to factory monitoring overlays and from next-level educational environments to simple social media filters.

The edge also helps to bridge the gap between end-user applications like gaming, the content delivery networks that they run on and the clouds they depend on. By creating a fabric of connectivity that helps with speed, data bandwidth and latency reductions, cloud and virtual reality gaming platforms are becoming more seamless than ever. Users are no longer limited by local, silo-ed gaming devices, instead being empowered to share in mutual experiences through the power of decentralised computing. Massive online multiplayers are now a mainstay in the world of gaming for their collaborative team approach, and wearable headsets are gaining momentum for their ability to transport the player to new and exciting environments.

These are mere glimpses into what a future at the edge holds. Today, our journey toward this reality is well underway, but further infrastructure development and technological problem solving will ensure we’re keeping pace with this potential.

A new world

Edge computing and the applications that thrive on it are creating a new way of experiencing our surroundings, amplifying what we can see and interact with by merging it with digital objects, information sources and locales. The term ‘digital world’ has now become more than just a descriptor for our technologically-driven society. Instead, it has become a very real account of what we can experience in our lifetime with the help of augmented and virtual realities, IoT sensors, self-driving cars and more.

Every organisation across every business vertical and every individual can benefit from the innovation happening at today’s network edge, and strides are being made toward this new IT topology every day. As we move forward, the robust network and the edge data centre will continue to serve as pivotal players in this quest toward a wholly redefined digital world.

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