Edge computing has been talked about for many years but, until recently, the reality has been consigned to theoretical discussion about its future use. Happily, that future is now the present, with more and more applications utilising the many advantages of the technology.
While the rollout of corporate edge computing is still in its infancy, as the reality of 5G occurs and large enterprises and developers factor the advantages into their business models, so its real-life use will increase. Much in the same way as the internet became commonplace, once the infrastructure of edge computing is in place, its use will increase exponentially.
In the simplest of terms, edge computing means to bring the storage of data closer to where it’s being generated. With the advent of smart tech and the massively increased amount of information this produces, the use of micro data centres (MDCs) is set to play a significant role in a wide variety of situations.
The following discusses 4 key ways that edge computing and associated MDCs are set to reset the world of computing as we know it today.
#1: Edge computing will happen in stages
The technology of edge computing is likely to evolve in three distinct phases. While it’s true that certain entities have already brought data storage on site using MDCs, widespread use will more likely follow a more measured course.
- Multi region: Moving to a multiple region cloud storage approach is already a reality for many organisations, such as Amazon Work Spaces (AWS). While this might not technically be seen as true edge computing, the use of multi-regions – and therefore multiple cloud storage – is the first step towards harnessing all the technology and advantages that the edge will bring.
- The regional edge: The second step is to move from the above to a deeper layer that consists of hundreds or even thousands of data centres spread across global regions. This might seem ambitious, but there is already a solid infrastructure in place. Content Delivery Networks, such as Cloudflare, Limelight and Fastly, have been developing such tech for over two decades. Now, as demand increases, these are being opened for general use, meaning businesses can utilise such serverless functions to enhance their operations.
- The access edge: This is, perhaps, the true essence of edge computing, bringing data storage as close as possible to where information is generated. Micro data centres will be key. These will range from a small single unit (approx the size of a refrigerator) to larger trailer units as needs grow. The crucial aspect of this final edge computing stage is that on-site data capacity can be increased pro rata to needs, simply by adding additional MDCs.
#2: Edge computing will enhance, not replace, the cloud
One important aspect to understand is that edge computing is not likely to replace the cloud. Instead, the tech will become an extension of it, with the lines between the two blurring and eventually both working in a seamless interaction with each other. Micro data centres will offload the pressure that increasing data traffic is causing to traditional cloud storage. This brings many benefits, including a reduction in latency and server issues that are already beginning to show as we move towards an increasingly smart, tech-driven world.
#3: Edge computing, latency, microdata centres and cloud offload
One of the greatest advantages of edge computing is that of reducing latency. As well as this, the ability to offload the pressure on the cloud, as discussed above, remains the greatest driver of the edge rollout. As we increase the amount of some of the hungriest bandwidth needs of audio and visual data, so the ability to process this as close to the source as possible becomes more necessary. Much of this data will never need to move far from the source, so processing it close by makes perfect sense. If necessary, a subset of data that does need to move further afield can be created, leaving the majority in place without clogging up precious regional or global bandwidth.
#4: Edge computing needs new/additional software
Naturally, additional software will be needed to support the rollout of full edge computing. The past few decades have concentrated on software that utilises a single data storage centre, and the evolution of edge computing and micro data centres will require something rather different. This is already in hand, with both start-ups and large companies (think Google and Microsoft) already well on the way to providing this.
Ultimately, edge computing is likely to integrate with centralised data storage and the new norm will be a coexisting collaboration between the two. Only time will tell how quickly this rolls out – but history suggests that the snowball effect is highly likely. Right now, we’re at the beginning of the avalanche. The speed at which this advances isn’t yet pre-determined. But we’re at the beginning of a monumental shift, and rapid change is likely just around the corner.
So watch this space…
Clinton Keeler is the CTO and co-founder of Zella DC based in Perth, Australia.
Clinton is an industry expert on micro data centre construction, edge infrastructure deployments and operating mission critical infrastructure at the edge. He is in charge of all research and development projects and his experience spans from remote environments to metro areas and everything in between.
This experience includes in-depth knowledge of the difficulties experienced by all IT managers deploying critical infrastructure into edge locations across the world. For more information please follow us on Facebook or LinkedIn.
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