Is Edge as a Service (EaaS) the Next Big Thing in Tech?

January 27, 2021

Software as a Service (SaaS) was the largest market segment in the cloud in 2020 and Gartner forecasts it to grow to $117.7 billion by the end of this year. Not far behind comes Platform as a Service (PaaS), a development and deployment environment in the cloud, and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), instant computing infrastructure, provisioned and managed over the cloud.

So, with compute architectures becoming increasingly more distributed, is Edge as a Service (EaaS) poised to be the next big thing in tech?

What is Edge as a Service (EaaS)?

A large portion of applications, particularly enterprise apps, leverage a heterogeneous network of public clouds, private clouds, on-premise data centers, and edge. A shift toward this kind of hybrid IT infrastructure has been accelerated due to the pandemic and increased demand for high-speed networks and by extension, edge computing.

Helping meet this demand is Edge as a Service (EaaS). As defined by Edge IR, EaaS providers are “companies that offer a platform realizing distributed cloud architectures and integrating the edge of the network in the computing ecosystem.”

Simplifying and Accelerating the Path to the Edge

Cloud providers have offered numerous unique benefits to developers in the cloud hosting space, from the ability to easily scale to being able to quickly provision new resources, whether virtual machines or databases. Another benefit of the cloud is its geographic reach. Further, the cloud doesn’t offer just one service model, but multiple options for how to set up your environment to meet your specific set of needs, such as via IaaS or PaaS.

Now is the time to expand these same principles to edge computing. The trends towards microservices and distributed computing architectures are driving this need. When you go from a deployment model of selecting a single cloud endpoint (e.g. ‘US East’) to running an application across hundreds, or even thousands, of endpoints across the globe, the complexities grow exponentially. EaaS offers organizations confronting a lack of skill sets within their internal IT teams, the ability to benefit from the expertise and resources of an EaaS provider who can provide turnkey solutions for customizing and managing these complex systems. Essentially, Edge as a Service offers an easy ‘Buy’ option for those facing the Build vs. Buy dilemma.

Consider, for example, an organization like Chick-fil-A. Most people know them for their menu, not their technology. However, Chick-fil-A is revered among many tech enthusiasts as one of the first to successfully adopt an edge networking Kubernetes container orchestration deployment that is managed with a GitOps approach.

Chick-fil-A made the decision to invest in an expert IT team to build and manage these systems at a time when the available vendor solutions were silo’d and disconnected, making it difficult to integrate. However, as Edge as a Service has matured to apply the same open source principles that led Chick-fil-A to develop a homegrown system, organizations today have the advantage of being able to leverage the same solutions without the burdens of building and managing these systems. This, in turn, gives them the ability to innovate while not diverting focus from their core business.

In the same way that SaaS revolutionized software delivery and managed to become the default software-delivery model over the course of just one decade, we anticipate EaaS to be the next big tech disruption.

How EaaS benefits SaaS and PaaS providers

There are many ways in which Edge as a Service can add value to existing “as-a-Service” solutions.

Edge as a Service offers SaaS providers new deployment options

Software as a Service (SaaS) is defined as a centrally-hosted application offering specific services such as email (Gmail) or storage (Dropbox) via a subscription-based software licensing model.

Edge as a Service enables SaaS providers to deliver faster, more secure experiences for their customers by leveraging the innovative benefits of edge computing. With EaaS, SaaS providers gain instant access to an edge deployment model for their solutions without having to build and manage their own edge network.

Section recently partnered with Wallam to power its Wallarm Cloud WAF, which provides protection across applications, APIs and serverless workloads. Working with Section’s Edge as a Service, Wallarm Filter Nodes are distributed around the world providing protection at the edge without any agent installation necessary on the client’s side.

“Section gave us a fast path to market to introduce a cloud-native offering for our WAF solution.” - Wallarm

Edge as a Service enables PaaS & hosting providers to quickly and easily build and integrate edge services

Platform as a Service (PaaS) offers a digital framework for developers to customize as they build, test and deliver their own applications. The PaaS or other hosting provider manages the infrastructure and operating systems, so that the developer can concentrate on managing the applications and building software.

Edge as a Service enables PaaS in unique ways by:

  • Presenting the opportunity to extend edge services not previously available on the platform, for example, a turnkey CDN for hosting providers, which can open up new revenue streams.
  • Acting as the glue between edge services (software) and edge infrastructure - edge provisioning, workload orchestration, scaling, traffic routing

One such example of a PaaS provider leveraging Edge as a Service is Drupal using Section to power the Drupal Steward security program for its community. Harnessing the flexibility and control of the Section platform, Drupal was able to build and offer a powerful Community tier package that provides affordable protection against the exploitation of highly critical vulnerabilities within an application.

“The only edge platform that enabled us to build and release Drupal Steward at the Edge.” - Drupal Association

EaaS: A New Approach to Networks

Users are demanding ever greater simplicity, scale, and agility. As the demands on the world’s networks grow, older approaches to building applications and networks are becoming unsustainable. A new approach is necessary, which builds on cloud computing to place latency-sensitive and latency-critical workloads as close as possible to the end user - at the edge - in order to improve performance and reduce data backhaul.

Edge as a Service abstracts many of the complexities associated with edge computing adoption, making it easier for modern engineering teams to adopt a new compute paradigm that delivers better digital experiences, and ultimately improves the Internet as a whole.