We are firmly in the cloud computing era. By the end of this year, an estimated 67% of enterprise infrastructure will be cloud-based, with an additional 82% of workloads.
With such high cloud-adoption rates, this will create a staggering 40 zettabytes of cloud-based data flowing through cloud servers, network and storage. For those wondering, a ‘zetta’ denotes a factor of ten to twenty-one – that’s twenty-one zeros – and cloud data is around 40 times that again.
Cloud is now fully engrained in every aspect of our life. However, like all technologies its relevance and role will change over time. The next ‘big thing’ in technology is always hard to predict, but many signs point towards the rise of edge computing.
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Like cloud and IoT (internet of things), edge is a buzzword so it can be hard to nail down a specific definition. The easiest way to look at it, is via geographical location.
Edge computing is computing that’s processed at or near the data source, unlike cloud computing which requires that data is sent to a data centre. With data no longer required to travel long distances to be analysed and send insights back, this provides low latency and real-time data processing.
Edge won’t necessarily replace the cloud, but it will play a distinguishable role in IT environments and technologies of the future. With the explosive growth of internet-connected devices and demands of ever faster network technology such as 5G, there’s no shortage of drive for edge computing solutions.
For many businesses, speed is absolutely vital. The financial sector for example relies upon real-time data for stocks and shares, and in the health sector an unresponsive IT system could mean the difference between life and death.
As well as businesses, many technologies require low-to-no latency speeds. For the idea of driverless cars to become a reality, they need data to be processed in real-time to analyse situations on the road and make informed decisions. If a crash is about to happen, there isn’t time for that data to be sent to a cloud environment to be processed, analysed and returned with instructions.
This is the biggest benefit of edge computing. The ability to process and store data faster enables non-existent latency times which in turn enables efficient real-time applications. A lot of future ‘smart technologies’, from automated vehicles, to smart cities, will rely heavily on the development of edge computing technology.
The prospect of expanding IoT and turning all of our devices smart and connected may seem like a security risk. The idea of someone hacking your life by accessing your toaster does seem slightly alien to us right now, but that’s part of the point. This technology is a way off yet, and so is the security that will no doubt be developed in conjunction.
Where cloud computing is centralised by nature, with edge, computing is distributed. Distributed systems eliminate a central ‘owner’, meaning all users can access its data and applications equally and independently. This means the individual components in distributed systems are free from centralised failures and security compromises.
Distributed edge computing does bring its own security challenges. A large, spread out environment with independent data processing and storage creates an expansive attack surface. It can be very hard, near impossible, to maintain visibility and adequately protect ubiquitous environments such as these at scale.
With latency times said to be as low as 1 millisecond, 5G will rely heavily on edge technology as devices increasingly demand real-time responsiveness and control. With many mobile network carriers deploying 5G this year, this could see a surge of investment in edge computing strategies and developments.
In its recent report ‘Why 5G Will Drive Virtualisation and Edge Compute’, Futuriom states “Applications using 5G technology will change traffic demand patterns, providing the biggest driver for edge computing in mobile cellular networks”. Low-latency 5G applications such as IoT analytics, machine learning, virtual reality, autonomous vehicles represent “new bandwidth and latency characteristics that will require support from edge-compute infrastructure.”
The latest edge computing marketing forecasts estimate a global value of around $28 billion by 2025. It’s no surprise then, that we’re already seeing huge attention and deployments from the world’s tech-giants.
This month, Amazon introduced their latest project ‘Snowcone’, a $29 billion edge computing project. The device will be small enough to fit in a standard US mailbox (that’s about the size of a box of tissues), and portable enough that it could be put in any bag or backpack.
The Snowcone has been designed for a variety of uses in environments that lack sufficient network connectivity, and / or require a portable network. The edge computing device will allow data to be collected and processed locally, making applications more efficient and adaptable.
AWS VP of Storage, Automation and Management Services, Bill Vass, said “With more applications running at the edge for an expanding range of use cases, like analysing IoT sensor data and machine learning inference, AWS Snowcone makes it easier to collect, store, pre-process, and transfer data from harsh environments with limited space to AWS for more intensive processing”.
Amazon aren’t the only tech giants investing in edge technology. Dell have a variety of edge products, including units designed for deployment in challenging environmental conditions and modular data centres. IBM have laid out a plan for their new ‘IBM Edge Ecosystem’, an open standards-based cloud native solution that can be deployed and autonomously managed at the edge at massive scale. Microsoft have also been working for some time now on integrating edge capabilities with 5G networks and Azure cloud services.
It remains to be seen how the cloud will adapt to all of this. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that edge technology will usher in a new era for cloud; one more limited to storage responsibilities and long-running computing models that don’t require real-time processing. One thing is for certain though, for long-promised automative technologies, this is the start of a very bright and exciting future.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post. As always, if you have any questions or you’d like to talk to us about any of Secura’s cloud services, please feel free to get in touch.
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Matthew is Secura's content specialist, producing gripping, emotionally complex, edge of your seat, cloud hosting articles and videos.
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