It is fair to say that after cloud, the next big revolution is edge. From an emerging computing paradigm to becoming the backbone of the digital infrastructure, the evolution of edge happened almost overnight. Right before our eyes, edge transformed the bones of the Internet network. The Internet is bigger, better and faster because of edge computing.
Already, edge has put computing closer to where the users are, shrinking vast expanses of geographical distance into nanoseconds. Industry analysts are enamored with the ways it has changed computing for the better, and has broad hopes for the future of the technology as it rises through industries.
Understanding Edge Computing
Edge computing is the newest buzzword in the IT land that researchers believe will soon seize the star role in computing. But what does it mean? The size of the edge lexicon is vast, and the glossary of technical jargons circulating the Internet has left many scratching their heads. So, for clarity’s sake, let’s unravel the meaning of edge computing.
It took us a long time to fully grasp the concept of cloud, but edge is easier to picture than cloud. The “edge” in “edge computing” is the edge of the network – the point where the network ends and meets the users or devices. It also refers to the placement of the servers on the network edge. To quote Pierluca Chiodelli, Vice President of Engineering Technology at Dell Technologies, “Edge is where data is produced.”
Edge computing is processing of data generated by edge devices, at the source. This is where it’s different from cloud. Cloud computing advocates pulling data from distributed sources into a central hub and processing it in one location. So, where cloud made computing and storage move away from organizations, edge is moving them closer.
In that sense, edge is more flexible, and the deciding factor behind more industries tapping into its capabilities are cost savings and faster computing.
What Does Edge Computing Solve?
Let’s address the question that is in everybody’s mind – why bother using edge computing after all the troubles of moving to cloud?
Data produced at the edge is doused with intelligence that has immense business value, but that data is often outside the reach of organizations because of the gnarly cost of exploiting it. Imagine saving all that data in the cloud. It’d cost a shocking sum of money.
Now let’s factor in data sprawl. The prolific number of “edge-proximate” devices that have landed in the market in the recent years are churning out petabytes of data daily. Electronic aisles are overflowing with IoT and OT devices, and this means that this number will grow perpetually.
That is precisely what edge computing is designed to solve. Edge computing eliminates the need to move or store all of the data in the cloud for computing purposes. By processing it closer to the source, it reduces storage costs which itself takes a lot of pressure off the pulse point that is the IT budget. Additionally, it saves the cost of moving data. This later part has its own set of advantages that include lower latency, higher durability and data security.
Where Does Edge Shine?
Does that mean edge computing is the end all be all solution for activation and analysis of data that is born at the edge? No. Rather, it is the way to intelligently spot out the best points to consume data for inferences and applying analytics, to extract maximum information.
Having said that, one must understand that the edge is not a replacement of the cloud. There is a narrative that edge will ultimately substitute cloud, and computing will only be distributed. That is probably not going to be how it unfolds. Edge has its own set of use cases that it serves with its low-cost computing and shorter response times, but it is not here to take over cloud.
Edge computing was originally designed for time-sensitive operations that have low tolerance for delays, and require sending data over long distances and back. For those use cases, edge enables faster computing. With servers sprinkled along the edge of the network closer to the devices, instead of being buried deep in a remote central location, edge computing provides quick access to data.
Edge and Remote Work
The pandemic has shown us how workplaces can be successfully democratized through edge computing. The prime advantage of edge is its ability to extend the capability of cloud to the devices, and optimize it.
As remote work has created countless remote points of presence, more data is born from these aggregation points. And that has made edge computing more intrinsic to this new workplace. Although for many businesses, it’s navigating uncharted waters, edge computing is on an accelerated growth path across industries, fueled by cost and time benefits.
However, the implementation of edge is not the same for all businesses. For some, it’s installing on-site servers to carry out real-time data analysis. For others, it’s installing IoT sensors to collect and transmit data. And yes, it’s very much a multi-step process, same as cloud transition – don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. So, not having a proven plan of action can easily hold you back. In the end, it is the organization and its people that has to walk to walk, but having a partner that has multi-disciplinary expertise can make the journey easier.
Industries Embracing Edge Technology
Edge is driving innovation in a lot of industries. Off the top of the head, edge plays an outsize role in retail, telecom, manufacturing, healthcare and gaming. But there are also industries that are embracing edge technologies that were never known to do so before. Agriculture, for example, or hard hat construction. In recent years, agro engineers have incorporated IoT to gather intelligence to analyze soil types or use of fertilizers, and even monitor crop production and water usage.
Retail is one of the key spaces where edge is gaining grounds. In a conversation with Chiodelli, we learned his thoughts on edge and its impact on retail.
Recovering from a pandemic-time slowdown and recalibrating to adjust with the changing customer habits, the retail industry needs to innovate in order to survive. According to Chiodelli, edge can drive innovation in the retail space and help regain its lost moxy. IoT applications can be immensely helpful in accelerating this innovation. He emphasized that we need to “extract data at the point of creation.”
Dell has a rack of edge computing technologies designed to simplify and secure edge operations. Among its recent releases is Project Frontier. Project Frontier is a software platform built for edge operations. Dell’s primary goals with it is to simplify and optimize edge operations at scale while enabling zero-trust security in edge devices.
Chiodelli pointed out that Project Frontier has a dynamic architecture which is closed at the bottom to be fully secure, but at the same time has an open top to support collaboration with OEMs.
Dell is among the leading companies that have invested resources in edge computing, and has an impressive list of accomplishments to show for it. This includes cyber-resilient edge security. Dell ensures a safe and tamper-proof supply chain by embedding root of trust in the hardware. This root of trust, powered with tamper detection, is immutable and can constantly discover and dispel anomalies.
Another area where edge computing shines is in self-driving technology. It is helping manufacturers tune up the real-time performance of the AI technology in self-driving cars. By saving the time to transfer data to cloud, it is helping with faster decision-making and better driving performance.
The same data processing at speed also enables healthcare providers to deliver better care by monitoring vital stats in real-time and reducing risks of fatal conditions.
Edge computing is a trend that is here to stay. In its current state, it is relevant to all businesses, especially those that have undergone an accelerated digital transition in the past year or so. But more importantly, it is relevant because it frees cloud capabilities from the confines of datacenters, and pushes them outward.
Even if you take the hype with a grain of salt, the fact remains that edge is gaining steam in nearly every vertical. It is growing bigger and closer, and shows no sign of slowing. Research firms believe that the edge computing industry will reach a whopping $274 billion within the next three years. This is not a bold prediction if you look at the rate at which datacenter operators and digital infrastructure companies have integrated edge into their businesses. It is changing businesses, and it can change yours too.
Do check out Dell’s website for more information on their edge solutions. You can also watch some great presentations by Dell from the recent Storage Field Day event at the Tech Field Day website. Keep an eye out for upcoming Edge Field Day events in 2023, and for more exclusives like this one, keep reading here at gestaltit.com.