The Case for Edge Computing Beyond IoT

The rise in the Internet of Things (IoT) is generally considered to be the leading driver for edge compute. By 2020, Gartner predicts there will be 20.4 billion ‘connected things’ in use around the world, up from 8.4 billion in 2017. There are many reasons why IoT is a natural fit for edge compute, ranging from the need for many IoT devices to be located in rural and remote areas that reside far away from traditional cloud data centers, to the challenges of meeting security and compliance requirements (especially in the GDPR era) when data is not processed on a local basis.

Edge computing performs numerous business processes, including streamlining the flow of traffic from IoT devices, in addition to analyzing and stacking real time data generated by the IoT devices on a local basis rather than transmitting data across long distances to cloud services or data centers for processing.

Edge Computing Use Cases Beyond IoT

Although IoT has been the primary driver of edge computing, there are many other use cases, which are helping fuel its accelerating adoption rate, both current and potential. Industries outside of IoT from manufacturing to healthcare to finance likewise need to be thinking of and planning for edge compute now.

“In most scenarios, the presumption that everything will be in the cloud with a strong and stable fat pipe between the cloud and the edge device – that’s just not realistic,” Helder Antunes, senior director of corporate strategic innovation at Cisco, told Network World.

When you think about the fact that a “thing” is not just a sensor, but potentially also a vehicle, a drone or a smart phone; not to mention the rise in dynamic content leveraged by apps and websites to deliver superior end-user experiences, it becomes clear that a data avalanche is rapidly headed our way. Research group IDC recently predicted that the world will be generating 163 Zettabytes of data a year by 2025, a tenfold increase from the present day. This alone will lead to many different types of distributed, decentralized architectures, bringing compute, storage and networking closer to the end user from the mobile edge to the device, or IoT edge to the wireless edge.

Moreover, increasing numbers of web users generally and a growing implementation of digital services are further fueling the growth of the market. Some of the real use cases discussed in the recently released State of the Edge report (sponsored by Arm, Ericsson UDN, Packet, Rafay Systems and Vapor IO) in addition to IoT include large-scale Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) systems, AR/VR, autonomous vehicles, video games, machine learning, smart cities and edge content delivery.

How Section Is Paving the Way for More Flexible Edge Computing

As we’ve written about here recently, one of the areas of edge compute of particular interest to us at Section is the increasing need that application engineers have for complex application logic execution in real-time or near real-time at the edge. An edge platform, such as Section, is the last place in which application logic is executed before the application moves past the control of the application provider. Traditionally, this would be performed by a CDN, or an Application Delivery Controller, such as a load balancer; however, the IoT wave is challenging this definition of the edge, and the telcos and IoT devices are becoming elements of the edge in themselves.

As logic executed at the edge becomes increasingly complex, there is a need for application logic functions that respond to real-time data ingestion, such as full page caching based on cookie set or user interaction type, image optimization based on type of browser, and request tracking or blocking based on real-time behavioral analysis. The legacy CDNs with their “network-first” approach are not providing the necessary transparency and control over the edge that modern application developers and operations engineers increasingly require.

Another important key driver behind the demand for edge compute is that modern SaaS and the cloud are in urgent need of an improved infrastructure to better handle the increasingly distributed nature of modern computing frameworks. The rise in popularity of the cloud with enterprises and end users has been in part because the experience feels like that of a local compute resource while also being instantly available and provided on a “pay as you go” basis. However, this local compute framework is rapidly being broken down as apps are increasingly distributed over multiple regions and cloud providers.

Furthermore, SaaS applications are increasingly becoming massively distributed, running microservices decoupled from the public cloud infrastructure that supports them.

As distributed infrastructure increasingly becomes a part of the mainstream, developers are having to re-consider their approach to managing global systems, not only in relation to security strategy and high-availability across their global PoP, but also in terms of how to process the increasingly massive amounts of distributed data streams to create value. Configuration management has become a necessity of the infrastructure ecosystem, as has the need for infrastructure as code in managing global edge delivery networks.

Our unique Edge Compute Platform offers developers and operations engineers a modular library of edge logic software, a flexible edge compute fabric and a DevOps-centric control layer. These services combine to provide a level of flexibility, visibility and control that no other edge solution is currently able to offer.

To summarize, there are multiple reasons why the move to distributed edge computing is occurring, but we can simplify them into a few strategic areas: speed, capacity, efficiency, cost and responsiveness. And there is a growing recognition that edge computing is necessary to supplement the traditional cloud in order to provide the web of computing support that will be able to power the world’s growing demand for digital applications and services.

Those companies that do get ahead of the edge compute curve have the opportunity to be market leaders, and capitalize on the business opportunity that edge compute represents. According to market research firm Million Insights, the Global Edge Computing Market size is predicted to grow at CAGR of 41% over the next seven years, with an anticipated value of $3.24 billion by the 2025.

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