2021 presents a new opportunity for digital innovation, based on the learnings of 2020. Low latency 5G and IoT connectivity are accelerating digital change in a remote world, and this is causing more organizations to reconsider how their business operates. For many, this is bringing cloud strategy – and especially edge computing – to the top of the agenda. But what is edge computing? What is influencing its growth? And what challenges does it face for adoption?
What is edge computing?
Edge computing brings execution resources (like computing and storage) closer to end users, at or near the source of the data. In traditional cloud architecture models, processing is completed in centralized locations, typically far away from the source of activity. By moving storage, processing functions and analysis closer to devices, latency is reduced, so applications can perform better, and networks become faster.
Edge computing unlocks a lot of possibilities for businesses to get closer to customers, for applications to perform better, and for faster, more immersive, digital experiences.
What’s driving growth in edge computing?
There are several different tech trends for 2021 that will put edge computing in the crosshairs for acceleration. These include cloud computing, 5G and the growth of AI and analytics capabilities.
Adoption rates for cloud computing will skyrocket post-pandemic as organizations look to cloud to improve scalability, cost efficiency and resilience to disruption. According to Gartner, 70% of organizations using cloud services today plan to increase their cloud spending due to the pandemic. As a result, Gartner is predicting that cloud will make up 14.2% of the total global enterprise IT spending market in 2024, up from 9.1% in 2020.
Within cloud, both hybrid and distributed cloud are growing in popularity. Hybrid cloud combines public and private cloud computing to create a more flexible architecture that wraps security and expertise into it; meanwhile, distributed cloud will enable businesses to run a public cloud infrastructure in multiple different locations, including at the edge, with the cloud partner taking overall ownership of the service. By 2024, Gartner predicts that most cloud service platforms will provide at least some distributed cloud services that execute at the point of need.
As more organizations invest in developing more nuanced cloud environments, and work more closely with cloud providers, edge computing will be a natural evolution to improve competitive edge within the ecosystem.
The growth of AI, machine learning and data and analytics capabilities, as well as the growing maturity of the IoT network, will amplify edge computing needs.
According to the IDC, 45% of IoT generated data will be stored, processed, analyzed and acted upon close to or at the edge of the network in the next three years. And this will in part be driven by improvements in AI and analytics – with more data slicing capability to improve customer experience, generate insights and affect personalization, the IoT network will be lent on to produce more data, and edge computing to do so in real-time.
Crunching more data, more quickly, will give businesses an edge in understanding everything from consumer use to functionality, and will in turn affect everything from applications to autonomous driving vehicles.
5G and private networks
Edge computing will go hand-in-hand with 5G because they both target latency issues. 5G will be responsible for roughly one-fifth of all mobile data traffic by 2023, and 25% of this will depend on edge computing.
Before 5G is adopted publicly though, we will see the growth of 5G private networks. The pandemic has produced multiple use cases for high speed connectivity, and I see the biggest industry implications for edge computing happening in the sectors that have been challenged, and thrived, under lockdown – including eCommerce, digital healthcare, operations and logistics, and gaming. In the public sector, 5G, edge, AI and IoT will play an important role in the development of smart cities.
For example, robotic process automation (RPA) in logistics will be a big topic as the industry looks for ways around its reliance on physical workers. RPA performs at its best when connectivity is fast, so actions, issues and opportunities can be identified, analyzed, and resolved quickly. The combination of IoT to give multiple touchpoints, 5G to reduce latency, and edge computing to speed up interactions between devices is therefore a powerful one.
As a result of this dual demand for 5G and distributed cloud, we are seeing a growing trend in cloud service providers partnering with telecommunication companies to extend their edge capability.
What challenges are there for edge computing?
There are still some sizable challenges to widespread edge computing adoption. This includes managing both scale and complexity within the environment as more components are added. Edge deployment is not a simple set-up, requiring server, storage and networking equipment, as well as supporting infrastructure (e.g. power and cooling) to run. And as these networks are built up, each touchpoint will need to be properly configured in order to monitor performance and raise issues early on.
Security will also be a key challenge to adoption, especially due to the escalation in cybercrime seen over the pandemic. With more people working remotely from different devices, edge computing may be considered high reward, high risk. This will spur on the adoption of secure access service edge (SASE) services – with Gartner predicting that 40% of enterprises will have plans to adopt SASE by 2024.
And lastly the complexity of edge computing also means that specialist talent is required – which can be expensive and difficult to find. Experienced staff will be needed to manage all aspects of edge computing deployments and management, and teams will need to be properly set-up to ensure that the different components are looked after. If you’re looking for specialist talent within cloud or telecommunications, please reach out!
‘Edge computing’ is one of those technologies that it feels may never live up to the hype. With so many links to other ‘hyped up’ tech – IoT, 5G, AI, VR/AR – sometimes it all feels hypothetical. But edge computing – like these other technologies – is not only real, but it’s here. And 2021, with its spotlight on digital transformation, remote connectivity and analytics, might be the year that we finally see its potential in action. For better or worse, Covid-19 has pushed us all to the edge, and now we just need to take the leap.
Do you agree that edge is here to stay, or do you think we’ll see another year of lost potential? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Lorien works with cloud, telecommunications and IT services providers everyday – so whether you’re looking to hire or ready for your next move, we can help. Reach out to me to discuss.