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Will Enterprises Get on the Edge in 2021?

With more and more internet-connected devices hitting the market, edge computing is set to witness tremendous growth in the coming months.

edge

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of several technology trends that already existed but was long ignored. Edge computing is one of the most notable among these accelerated technologies that is set to witness tremendous growth in the coming year and beyond.

Edge Computing is a distributed network infrastructure approach that enables data to be processed and analyzed closer to its source. Experts believe it has significant value for the enterprise.

Unlike cloud computing, which relies on a single data center, edge computing works with a more distributed network, thus eliminating the round-trip journey to the cloud and offering real-time responsiveness and local authority.

It keeps the heaviest traffic and processing closest to the end-user application and devices – smartphones, tablets, home security systems, and more – that generate and consume data, according to IEEE researchers. This dramatically reduces latency and leads to real-time, automated decision-making. The end result is higher speeds for end users, with latency measured in microseconds rather than milliseconds.

Take the example of autonomous car. The time it takes for data to move to the cloud and back is long and could be the difference between life and death. Also, considering that even a single moment of latency or downtime can cost companies thousands of dollars, the speed advantages of edge computing cannot be overlooked.

Edge computing also distributes processing, storage, and applications across a wide range of devices and data centers, which makes it difficult for any single disruption to take down the network.

In many cases, it is not feasible to transmit all data to the cloud as it does not make economic sense. In addition, in some cases, regulatory requirements may prevent organizations from moving data to the cloud – especially if it is hosted in a different country. A combination of these challenges makes a strong case for considering edge computing.

Needless to say then, with advantages like greater speed, scalability and reliability, it is not surprising that a recent Meticulous Research report pegs the edge computing market to grow at a CAGR of 34.9% from 2019 to reach $28.07 billion by 2027.

“For years most of the influential data-driven innovations have taken place in centralized glass- walled rooms, data centers and mega clouds. Edge computing is tremendously transforming the way data is handled, processed and delivered from millions of devices around the world,” says Ashwani Rawat, Director and Co-Founder Transerve.

The distributed computing paradigm which brings computation and data storage closer to the location where it is needed, to improve response times and save bandwidth,” he says.

Edge Computing and IoT

Today, the rise of edge computing is mainly accredited to the increase of the IoT devices connect to the Internet every second. Edge computing allows data generated by IoT devices to be processed closer to its source instead of sending it across storage networks. This helps organizations to analyze the data in near real-time.

P.N. Sudarshan, Partner Deloitte India believes edge to drive tremendous business value in an ecosystem of connected devices that produce massive amounts of operational data on a real time basis.

According to him, “Handling data processing and actions at the network edge reduces the latency and bandwidth requirements of applications, and improve response times for real time results, especially in areas such as real time video surveillance, smart manufacturing, patient monitoring in healthcare, remote asset management, etc.”

“With the concept of business digitization, edge computing models are going to become a key component for many IoT initiatives. The growing innovations in AI and IoT indicate that edge computing is likely to gain maturity,” says Prashanth G J, CEO at TechnoBind.

He notes that especially industrial organizations stand to benefit immensely from edge computing because it allows them to transform manufactured IoT edge devices (such as industrial machines) into extensions of their network infrastructure.

5G Networks to drive Edge

The proliferation of 5G networks is likely to increase bandwidth significantly and makes it easier to transmit high volumes of cellular data, opens up a number of opportunities for edge computing applications. Some believe, the emerging 5G use cases will hit a serious roadblock without edge. Specifically, the edge really comes into play as 5G helps to combat latency with its distributed architecture, companies will be able to use these networks to expand their own network edge and move data far more efficiently.

“As the world moves to 5G, edge computing will prove to be a powerful platform to tackle rising infrastructure costs. Edge computing supplements cloud evolution, enables real-time global connectivity and removes bottlenecks to last-mile connectivity, especially in localities with poor network coverage. As data is cached at the edge location, it puts security, regulatory and latency concerns at ease. But beyond reducing operational delays, data loss and costs, edge technology’s ultimate benefit lies in how it contributes to a greener planet,” observes Jaya Vaidhyanathan, CEO, BCT Digital (Bahwan CyberTek group).

Rather than having to route everything back to a centralized server, overlapping 5G networks will allow them to keep more data on the edge. These edge networks will also help to overcome the latency-inducing “last mile” problem, in which transmitted data bottlenecks through a series of sub-optimal connections before reaching its intended users. The technology will also see the expansion of smart city initiatives.

Drawbacks of Edge Computing

One of the foreseeable challenges in driving edge computing (in India) is in terms of the expenditure. “Being a Capex-intensive operation, large investments are needed, with at least a few years to break even. Ramping up infrastructure in limited time, along with edge compatible software are also challenges. Developing markets may require additional government infrastructural support in the initial days. With these challenges out of the way, edge will be definitive to organizational success,” says Vaidhyanathan.

cybersecurityAnother key challenge of edge computing is making these distributed networks secure. Although there are significant security advantages to an edge network, a poorly implemented system could leave itself vulnerable. Edge computing’s reliance upon smaller data centers and IoT edge devices present a different range of security concerns than traditional cybersecurity approaches. Since edge computing framework is more widely distributed than a traditional server-based network, there are greater chances of possible attack vectors for hackers to exploit.

Industry experts are already designing new approaches like zero trust security to ensure that the IoT devices powering edge computing framework aren’t being turned against users and organizations and also by moving to edge data centers that aim to protecting their customers and their data.

Sudarshan says, “In this environment, for edge computing to work seamlessly would require standards based applications and interfaces, and also a close attention to data security at the edge, including at endpoint and at network level.”

Also, it should also be noted that edge computing is not a replacement for cloud based architecture; rather it complements and distributes workloads across the network. According to Sudarshan, “An intelligent network design taking into account the application requirements for data processing, storage, response times, latency, bandwidth, as well as data security requirements would help design distributed applications that improves the overall performance and experience for end users.”

The Road Ahead

Gartner predicts that while currently around 10% of enterprise-generated data is created and processed outside a traditional centralized datacenter or cloud, by 2025, this figure will reach 75%. This indicates, in the future, demand for edge data centers is expected to be high. With the rise of IoT devices like autonomous vehicles and medical sensors, edge computing will have an increasingly large impact on business and society. For instance, consider the health impact of using medical devices in remote and rural areas with limited healthcare options. Edge computing can also improve safety for industrial manufacturing by identifying equipment problems before they cause malfunctions that could injure workers, and many more.

Proliferation of intelligent and cheap end point devices in the operational world, enabled by the growth of IoT and 5G is making it economically viable for edge computing to take hold, and it’s likely to increase further in the coming years.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com