What’s pushing edge computing forward, and what’s in store for enterprises in the post-pandemic Cloud era?

Now that cloud computing has firmly established itself as a mainstay of ubiquitous data storage, processing and application hosting, the workplace has become more connected, collaborative and autonomous than ever.

It was this cloud empowerment that precipitated the accelerated development of technologies such as 5G, IoT, IIoT and Wi-Fi 6 to exploit the large-scale supercomputer processing, storage and analytics capabilities now available at the tap of the mouse.

Huge lakes of data can now be easily collected through connected sensors, cameras and other smart devices; actionable insights can finally be mined quickly for businesses to attain agility and customer responsiveness. However, with so much data coming in, there arises the need to sort, sanitize and then unify the information in a meaningful way before it even reaches the Cloud for optimal processing.

This is where edge computing comes in—the technology lies at the edge of the network nearest the cloud, ensuring the high-speed collection of data from ubiquitous smart devices such as laptops, smartphones, cameras and IoT sensors. Edge computing is built around high speed, low latency automated pathways, facilitating the preconditioning of raw data into a form that benefits from subsequent processing in the cloud.

Research group Gartner predicts that by 2022, about 75% of all locally collected data will need analysis and action at ‘the edge’. This edge-cloud continuum is expected to boost efficiencies and complement cloud technology while filling a void at ground level where the challenges of data collection abound.

Pushing edge computing forward

The world has embarked on a new decade with an ominous wake-up call: digitalize or disappear.

Especially now, with an impending global recession brewing, corporate survival will hinge strongly on all the critical benefits of digitalization such as agility, customer focus, smart-everything automation and tight control of cybersecurity, collaboration and communication. So, while it took 15 years for cloud computing to take root and develop use cases across multiple industries, edge computing will take much less time to gear up for its complementary role to the Cloud. It may even spin off new areas of data mining and digitalization.

Recently, IDC has identified edge computing as  one of the top 10 key drivers for IT over the next five years. Forrester, too, has cited the benefits of edge computing as an approach to achieve digital transformation. But what specific developments can we expect the edge to deliver in the current and near term?

Here are 7 edge computing trends we can look forward to:

  1. The post-pandemic era will see businesses large and small rushing to digitalize and improve on existing modernization efforts. This will, in tandem with 5G rollouts and the maturation of Wi-Fi 6 and IoT, catalyze Industry 4.0 measures to tap on robotic process automation, AI and machine learning—all parts of the Cloud-Edge continuum of improving productivity, market responsiveness and self-adaptive business agility.
  2. IDC has predicted that by 2023, more than 50% of new enterprise IT infrastructure deployed will be at the edge rather than corporate data centers, up from less than 10% today; by 2024, the number of apps at the edge will increase 800%. Post-COVID-19 economic concerns may push these estimates even higher.
  3. The economies of scale promised by the cloud are maximized when operated at hyperscale. Until recently, edge computing was considered a niche technology by cloud vendors and planners, due to modest expectations and the widely dispersed communications nodes assisting in the delivery of IaaS. However, implementation realities have led hyperscalers to conclude that both centralized cloud and distributed edge are necessary. The relentless growth of cloud computing is therefore going to expand edge computing more affordably and painlessly than previously anticipated.
  4. As connectivity, acquisition of massive data sets and computing power grow in speed, security and affordability, edge computing will empower even small startups and SMBs to take advantage of data science and other technology enablers (previously the province of only the richest conglomerates) to give large organizations a run for their money.
  5. Gartner stated that “Edge Computing will become a dominant factor across virtually all industries and use cases” naming it one of the top 10 strategic technology trends for 2020. 2020. Complex edge devices, including robots, drones, autonomous vehicles and operational systems will accelerate this shift, with the foreseeable economic climate being conducive to hyperautomation, and human augmentation.
  6. By 2022, more than 50% of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed outside the data center or cloud. Organizations that have hitherto been focused squarely on cloud transformation will also find investment opportunities to tap into edge computing. Again, the estimate may need to be adjusted upward in view of the current economic forecast up to 2023.
  7. Increase in attack surface will also necessitate stronger management of cybersecurity. Failure to keep ahead of the curve could result in edge computing being a victim of its own success because hackers can harness AI just as well as the rest of us, if not better — because they are not bound by data protection regulations or any laws of decency or conscience.

Overall, companies will be looking to achieve increased momentum quickly by adopting edge computing across industries, especially large and mid-sized companies. These early adopters are demonstrating leadership at the edge and showing other companies that now is the time to get on board or run the risk of potentially getting left behind.