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Red Hat's approach to Edge Computing

Feb. 26, 2020   |   8-minute read


Bring compute power to the network edge

Edge computing is quickly making an impact on the world. Implementing edge solutions can help IT teams identify the architectural design changes needed to mirror changes that are happening at the application layer. Breaking the datacenter down in this way can result in a faster, more consistent user experience, and low-latency, highly available apps for organizations in any industry.

Edge computing can be viewed as the newest enterprise IT footprint, alongside bare-metal, virtual environments, private cloud, and public cloud. In a sense, it’s the culmination of the other four footprints, blending pieces from each to create infrastructure to address specific customer demands that traditional IT models cannot address.

But unlike the other footprints, edge computing has 2 key factors:

  1. It does not exist without the hybrid cloud, and
  2. The foundation of edge computing must be open or it will fail

Paul Cormier

“If edge computing is going to be a realistic future for enterprise IT, it needs the hybrid cloud and open source to thrive.”

Paul Cormier, Red Hat President and CEO

Red Hat's approach

If you can close the source, you didn’t think broadly enough.

Open source innovation has a critical role to play in ensuring open and interoperable solutions are created across a wide ecosystem. Creating a successful edge computing stack requires multiple elements that must all work together with different infrastructures and platforms.

Innovation can be easily crippled by fragmentation and, worse, the introduction of “proprietary” or open core models. You can look back 25 years to UNIX to see how painful this challenge was, where every hardware vendor had their own bespoke operating system that wouldn’t work except on their own boxes.

The introduction of enterprise-grade Linux® broke this chain, and kickstarted the innovation cycle, leading to virtualization, cloud computing, containers, Kubernetes and now, edge computing.

At Red Hat, we offer platforms based on innovations that began in open source communities. We collaborate with an extensive community of developers across multiple industries, and we test and validate integrations through our extensive ecosystem of technology partners.

Your team can’t do this alone. You need a community.

Red Hat is an active participant in our products’ upstream (a repository of code that is available to all members of the project), including open source communities like Kubernetes and OpenStack®.

We invest along 3 dimensions: features, architectures, and operations. Our contributions help make Kubernetes and other upstream technologies fit for the edge instead of fragmenting platforms by creating edge “editions” of software. These investments create new use cases for edge computing.

We work within open source communities and their ecosystems in an “upstream-first” way and actively participate in standards and open source communities like the Kubernetes IoT & Edge Working Group, OpenStack Edge Working Group, Akraino Edge Stack, and more.

Edge alone is not a strategy. It’s part of a hybrid cloud.

Edge computing is an integral part of Red Hat’s open hybrid cloud strategy. It extends the goal of providing a consistent experience for everyone from the app developer to the infrastructure ops team charged with deployment. This architecture works for any workload, using any footprint (public cloud, private cloud, virtualized, bare metal) to any location, from the core datacenters out to the edge server.

To meet the needs of various edge computing scenarios, an edge computing solution should support hybrid workloads of virtual machines (VMs), containers, bare-metal nodes running network functions, and AI/ML workloads in microservices architectures—or all 4. This solution needs to have operational simplicity by automating provisioning, management, and orchestration.

With the disparate nature of edge computing, consistency is key. This consistency is offered through the hybrid cloud—from edge devices to the network to the centralized datacenter, a hybrid cloud deployment provides sanity to what would otherwise be chaos across a technology ecosystem. It gives all of these varied components a common foundation upon which to rest—Red Hat® Enterprise Linux®, Red Hat OpenShift®, and Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform—enabling IT teams to manage 10,000 networked devices, just as they would their centralized IT.

Customers need a common horizontal infrastructure across their entire compute, storage, and network footprint that your teams can centrally manage. In this regard, Red Hat’s approach with hybrid computing aligns well with edge computing.

What is edge computing?

Let’s back up and cover the basics. According to a 2018 Forrester report, Emerging Technology Spotlight: Edge Computing, edge computing is:

Edge computing hyrbid cloud illustration

Forrester logo

Edge computing is a family of technologies that distributes application data and services where they can best optimize outcomes in a growing set of connected assets. It includes edge infrastructure and edge analytics software.

Our focus is on edge infrastructure.

To get there, let’s see how we got here:

1950s CIRCA

there was 1 big computer.

mainframe computer illustration
1970s CIRCA
computer terminal illustration

Then came the UNIX era, when we learned to connect to that computer via a “dumb terminal”

1980s CIRCA
personal computer illustration

Next came the personal computing era, when every household had their own way to connect to larger computers from a distance.

2000s CIRCA
mobile device illustration

That ushered in the current cloud computing era, where computer resources are housed in datacenters and apps run in different clouds: public, private, or hybrid.

2020s CIRCA

That leads us to edge computing

Chris Wright headshot

“The shifting global architecture—from private to public to edge—and the proximity of compute to data is critical.”

Chris Wright, CTO, Red Hat

Why does edge computing matter?

It helps solve problems at the source with real-time processing

As newer technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) become more prevalent, the need for information in real time becomes critical. Think of a manufacturing plant: robotics and just-in-time manufacturing systems mean computing is already ubiquitous. But if that infrastructure is supplemented with video and telemetry systems with real-time analytics, worker safety can be enhanced, maintenance issues can be anticipated and managed autonomously, and resources can be allocated to the highest-value activities to improve overall productivity.

Whether companies are looking for low-latency or intermittent connectivity across footprints, edge computing can improve infrastructure resilience and application availability.

For service providers, edge computing improves the customer experience by moving applications or content toward the lower-edge tiers in the network hierarchy. They can also deploy entirely new classes of services in the edge to take advantage of their proximity to customers. Since network edge represents a majority of the operator’s capital and operational expenses, it’s also a key area of interest for network modernization efforts.

Edge computing complements the hybrid model

In this model, centralized computing is used for data-heavy workloads, data aggregation and storage, AI/ML, coordinating operations across geographies, and traditional back-end processing. Edge computing can help solve problems at the source in real time.

Enterprises across industries are investing in edge & expecting significant savings

By 2021, consumer-facing industries will annually spend more on the network, computing, and storage resources in edge locations than on upgrades in core datacenters. This makes edge computing a critical consideration for infrastructure vendors. By decentralizing their datacenters, companies can create faster, more consistent user experiences by saving load times and deploying online services and data closer to their users.

“Survey suggests that enterprises will spend an average of 30% of their IT budgets on edge cloud computing over the next 3 years.”

Analysys Mason logo

Strategies for Success at the Edge, 2019

Edge computing can provide benefits in a large variety of use cases, including utilities, transportation, healthcare, energy, retail, and telecommunications. According to a report by Analysys Mason, the majority of organizations across all verticals expect “a 10-30% reduction in costs from using edge computing, with an average expected savings of 10-20%.”

5G is changing the world, and edge is changing 5G

Telecommunications is a major use case for edge computing. As service providers modernize their networks, they’re moving workloads and services out of the core network (in datacenters) toward the network’s edge, around points of presence and central offices. Virtualizing central offices―one of the last physical interfaces for service delivery―will help service providers reach the goal of deploying services at the network edge.

Edge computing enables 5G technology and opens up new use cases

These use cases particularly rely on mobility and highly distributed operations. Information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) convergence makes edge computing more valuable, because it fundamentally changes business operations, not just service delivery.

Service providers were early adopters of edge computing as they extended their network modernization initiatives (software-defined networking and network functions virtualization) to include virtualizing and containerizing the radio access network and distributing the processing for containerized core network functions. These investments are fundamental to delivering 5G services, and Red Hat is supporting service providers in this transition.

Look to the future with an eye on the edge

Emerging use cases like analyzing sensor data for predictive maintenance and quality control, augmented reality systems for remote operations, and personalized ‘connected experiences’ for customer and supplier engagement—are fueling awareness and the growing need for edge computing. The decentralized approach and improved resilience and user experience of edge computing allows businesses to reach customers faster, leading to differentiation and the creation of new revenue streams.

Edge computing can be expanded by connected devices and systems where AI/ML data can create insights that support innovation. When faced with the trade-offs of providing services closer to the core or to the edge, we recommend adopting an edge solution that’s innovative, hybrid, and open.

“The majority of respondents expect edge computing use cases to lift organization revenues 6% after 3 years.”

Analysys Mason logo

Strategies for Success at the Edge, 2019

No single vendor can provide a complete edge computing solution. Instead, a solution has to be formed from multiple components. That’s exactly what open source is here for. When using open source solutions, edge technologies work across a wide ecosystem, without the vendor lock-in of a proprietary technology stack.

Red Hat is actively investing in the open source communities that power the next era of cloud computing technology. Combined with our strong evolving portfolio of products, we’re well positioned to serve our customers’ current and future edge computing needs.

Read the edge computing article

Continued learning on edge computing

Resource edge computing predictions illustration


Predictions 2020: Edge Computing

cloud edge computing

Red Hat blog

Explore the edge computing channel

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