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The future of the edge

Michael Cantor

Michael Cantor

CIO at Park Place Technologies
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Image credit: sdecoret / Shutterstock.com

Edge computing is set for exponential growth – but we still don’t have a singular understanding of what the edge is. That’s not a bad thing. It simply highlights the vast variety of ways in which the edge can support industries, the expansive cloud ecosystems they inhabit, and the ever-evolving nature of technological innovation. The edge means many things to many people and that’s the way it will stay.

The IDC predicts spending on the edge will reach $40 billion in 2022 in Europe and significantly increase over the next five years – reaching nearly $64 billion through 2025. Citing performance, innovation, and cost improvement as the top business goals driving adoption in Europe, one thing is clear, no one is disputing the need or potential of edge technologies.

Uncovering the opportunity

Bringing compute power to the edge, where data is created and collected, massively reduces time to value, enabling speedier, smarter and compliant data processing, decisions and intelligence outside of the core IT environment. To some, it is simply a mobile computer in a box, to others it’s the essential fourth pillar in the hybrid cloud mix. But the bottom line is it’s already unlocking business opportunities across industries, from retail to manufacturing and healthcare.

Edge computing enables lower latency data processing, making IoT technologies even more efficient, accurate and dependable. In retail we see this already with in-store checkouts becoming increasingly automated. Video cameras replace the beady eyes of staff, ensuring goods are paid for. This is only possible because of the latency – with the video data being analysed on location and insights delivered in real-time. Similarly, vision-based IoT technologies are enabling greater precision in manufacturing thanks to faster response times, leading to a reduction in waste. 

This is happening today. But edge technologies go much further than answering latency challenges, they provide solutions for data gravity and data sovereignty challenges too. With this in mind, we will see far more industries exploring the power of edge technologies. They want to keep data in a location close to where they need it to be, within their jurisdictions. They don’t want data flying around the world or region as it’s processed in multiple clouds. 

As data becomes increasingly integral to our everyday lives – from shopping to travelling, healthcare and agriculture – the data landscape will have to become increasingly distributed to enable real-time efficiencies and go beyond current innovations. But there is one big elephant in the room: who will provide the unifying edge solutions that enable this distributed ecosystem to flourish?

Managed services scale edge transformations

In the next few years, we will see a massive movement towards edge computing and this will drive an up-tick in on-demand managed service offerings – covering everything from service environments, network environments and supply chains. This will take place across all verticals, but it will evolve around core sector challenges. For example, in the healthcare sector, where a deep trust in data privacy is needed as healthcare practitioners need instant access to sensitive patient information, data sovereignty challenges will shape the edge’s evolution. 

But there will be universal challenges that unite an otherwise vertical-centric edge; businesses will need to run hardware and software patches across the full ecosystem. For CIOs tasked with managing a distributed environment of largely unmanned edge servers, with less boots on the ground and more automated monitoring, visibility will be a challenge. 

More than ever, they will need trusted partners, with deep vertical knowledge and edge expertise that enable businesses to uncover the full edge opportunity. As there are no end-to-end edge solutions, this means stitching together and tailoring bespoke ecosystems that centre around core business challenges.

The future is distributed, diverse and dynamic

Looking ahead, the growth in edge ecosystems is good news in a world beset by cyber threats. Edge technologies can help to solve data sovereignty challenges, reducing the need to share sensitive data beyond the point of collection, while also avoiding the risk of fines by enabling onsite compliance reports. This is also important as we adjust to new 5G speeds.

Just as edge technologies make IoT technologies increasingly viable, 5G will put the wind in the sails of the edge revolution. Powering the need and urgency of edge compute, as new products and services require greater compute power to crunch an explosive growth in data volumes in real-time. This will only enhance the demands of a distributed environment and turbocharge industries like manufacturing – with some preparing for private 5G networks.

CIOs know what needs to be done, but they don’t know how to do it. Leaning on professional managed services that can be scaled up or down to meet demands makes unlocking the edge easy. 

Remembering that while all verticals stand to benefit from edge technologies, the solutions must be dressed around vertical-centric challenges – and require a portfolio of capabilities – is key. Close  collaboration with experts will unleash the true value of edge compute power and transform industries. 

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