Living on the edge: 5 emerging trends from IT's "next great frontier"

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It is difficult to have a conversation about technology right now without touching on the concept of edge computing. The term has worked its way into the vocabulary of CIOs, technology suppliers, and service providers.

It routinely appears on the agendas of industry conferences, product websites, and corporate strategy plans. The level of interest rivals other in-demand technology such as 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), and AI.

International Data Corporation (IDC) tracks this market closely. Worldwide spending on edge computing is expected to reach $176 billion in 2022, an increase of 14.8% over 2021.

Enterprise and service provider investments in hardware, software, and services for edge solutions are forecast to sustain this pace of growth through 2025 when it will reach nearly $274 billion, according to the IDC Worldwide Edge Spending Guide.

To understand why edge computing is receiving so much attention, you must consider the megatrend that preceded it. The advent of cloud computing had a significant impact on how organisations purchased and managed technology.

It also brought with it a new mindset on how to build and scale applications. All of a sudden, it seemed like anything and everything would move to a cloud data centre.

However, that was not the case. Some workloads never moved to the cloud and the IDC IaaS View 2021 global survey reports that 61% of cloud Internet-as-a-Service buyers have moved workloads out of the public cloud.

Limitations

This reflects certain limitations that are inherent in public cloud solutions. For example, network latency between an endpoint and a cloud data centre can be prohibitive for real-time applications where milliseconds matter.

Regulations or corporate governance policies may dictate where sensitive data can be transmitted or stored. There are also resiliency concerns regarding business continuity if the cloud or connecting network is suddenly unavailable.

Edge computing can address all of these limitations, acting as the perfect complement to cloud and data centre infrastructure. It has become a critical element in digital transformation strategies, leveraging data in the field to automate operations, create rich customer experiences, and launch new products and services.

Here are 5 emerging trends from the IDC EdgeView 2022 global survey:

  • Edge is viewed as a strategic initiative: 72% of respondents are using edge technology to create scalable business models with 70% expecting to generate immediate profitability. As more data is generated in edge locations, businesses are looking at ways of using that data to create differentiation and competitive advantage.
  • Edge deployment locations are increasingly diverse: Often referred to in a singular sense, edge locations range from remote office/branch office (ROBO) to industry-specific locations like factories, warehouses, and retail stores. This diversity often translates to different hardware requirements such as ruggedisation or specialised form factors.
  • Edge elevates the role of IT: While cloud adoption increased the visibility of developers in technology decisions, the physical nature of edge infrastructure puts IT management back in charge with almost 3 times the influence of any other functional area. This reflects the importance of skill sets related to the remote management of multiple sites.
  • Edge requires consistency with cloud and data centre environments: Early edge deployments were bespoke in nature, requiring a high level of customisation and integration with other systems. Today, organisations are selecting edge solutions based on interoperability with legacy infrastructure and the flexibility to deploy across multiple environments.
  • Infrastructure Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are the top source of edge solutions: When asked where organisations are procuring edge solutions, respondents indicated infrastructure OEMs as the most popular source. While there are many new entrants in the edge computing market, the history and reputation of IT OEMs are considered essential for mission-critical applications.

In many ways, edge computing is the missing link for use cases like predictive maintenance in manufacturing and other industries that rely on expensive, revenue-generating assets where maximising uptime is a key metric.

These companies had invested in IoT to capture more data from connected equipment, using machine learning and AI in the cloud to gain insights. However, they lacked the ability to easily apply those insights back into the field. By collocating analytics models within the facility, it is possible to automate this intelligence, reducing unplanned downtime events.

Retail is another industry that is seeing a significant impact from investments in edge solutions. A modern retail store is filled with technology, including point of sale terminals, digital signage, and inventory tracking systems.

It is also a place that is increasing its use of video cameras and vision-based analytics to enable customised shopping experiences and loss prevention. The unifying element for all of this technology is edge infrastructure that can serve as an aggregation point, enabling applications to share data locally for quicker, more accurate decision making.

Edge can be considered the next great frontier in IT as it builds upon previous modernisation efforts by extending cloud and data centre infrastructure to new locations, fueling the next wave of innovation.

As enterprises create strategies for managing these distributed environments, learn how Dell Technologies and VMware are providing their customers with consistent infrastructure, operations, and services that span public cloud, private cloud, and edge locations.

About the Author

Dave McCarthy is a Vice President within IDC's worldwide infrastructure practice, where he leads a team of analysts covering shared (public) cloud, dedicated (private) cloud, and edge strategies.