Today, with the promise of 5G becoming a reality, edge computing is quickly moving up the priority list.
Edge computing takes place at or near the physical location of either the user or the source of the data. This model benefits users by decreasing latency and increasing reliability. Businesses benefit from increased user satisfaction and the ability to use and distribute a common pool of resources across a large number of locations. And, with more and more people working remotely for the foreseeable future (and perhaps for the future, period), it's more important than ever for Enterprise Architects to ensure that their organizations are positioned to take advantage of the edge computing model.
More specifically, edge computing's performance and reliability enable organizations to leverage applications more effectively, such as virtual and augmented reality, which require high bandwidth and low latency. Edge computing also provides companies with real-time decision-making capabilities by enabling data analytics and aggregation at the source.
Interest in edge computing has risen sharply of late.
"The edge is becoming central, as businesses across all industries face ever-greater amounts of data, more complex operations, and more dynamic markets," according to Unbundling the cloud with the intelligent edge, a Deloitte Insights article. "Whether from customers, products, or embedded sensors, real-time data places more demands on businesses to be sensing and responsive. The ability to leverage data quickly and effectively can drive operational efficiencies and competitive advantages."
The role of 5G
A big driver for—and perhaps the biggest enabler of—edge computing is 5G technology.
5G brings three new aspects to the table, according to PC Magazine: "bigger channels (to speed up data), lower latency (to be more responsive), and the ability to connect a lot more devices at once (for sensors and smart devices)."
A distant promise for years, 5G is now here and is expected to enable unprecedented levels of data capture, processing, and storage at the edge. And, while 5G won't reach scale for years to come, coverage is making gains, according to PwC. The firm's US Mobile Index, which tracks the trajectory of 5G, demonstrates that 80% of the U.S. population will have 5G coverage available at home or work by July 2021.
In his blog post "No more illusions of infinite capacity," Red Hat Edge Computing Technical Evangelist Ishu Verma notes that edge computing "brings the flexibility and simplicity of cloud computing to sites distributed across a large number of locations." However, he adds, "unlike traditional cloud computing with a few large sites, EC is spread across many small sites. EC solutions are as varied as the range of edge use cases, with deployments spanning from a few computing clusters to millions of edge devices."
When planning for edge computing, it's important to consider how the model will affect different stakeholders, including business, operations, and development, notes Verma.
Working across these and other disciplines, Enterprise Architects are well-positioned to qualify and quantify the value of edge computing to the organization, as well as specific hurdles to adoption.
And, there are hurdles, according to Red Hat. Edge computing is mainly a problem of highly distributed scale, but there are also specific challenges that need to be addressed, including:
- Complications related to scaling out to many small sites
- Lack of on-site technical expertise at remote edge computing sites
- The need for site management operations to be highly reproducible
- Security risks related to remote physical sites
Enterprise Architects will have their work cut out for them in overcoming these challenges. There's no one-size-fits-all edge computing solution. For that matter, there is no one solution. Rather, organizations will need to assemble a platform comprising multiple components and evolve that platform as new use cases and opportunities present themselves. Therefore, it will be very important to focus on open source systems and ensure interoperability and avoid lockdown in the future.
"Edge computing is here to stay," states the report "From Cloud to Edge" from Reply Market Research. "Distributed cloud and edge architectures will increase the speed of data processing, reduce time lag, and enable technologies like the IoT and autonomous vehicles."
By considering the needs and goals of all stakeholders as they relate to the business and making open standards a key criteria, Enterprise Architects can effectively guide their organizations to the edge.