Industry experts expect increased investments in edge capacity to reduce latency and support personalized content delivery and custom security policies.
IDC predicts that the edge computing market worldwide will grow to $250.6 billion by 2024. Dave McCarthy, the firm’s research director of edge strategies, thinks edge products and services will power the next wave of digital transformation.
Companies will need to think about how to build out edge capacity with new infrastructure and services. Industry experts predict that companies will start to incorporate edge computing capabilities into the software deployment pipeline and use this infrastructure to support personalized content and streaming services.
Ali Fenn, president of data center consulting firm ITRenew, said that edge computing is fundamentally about how to do compute close to data sources and data users.
“2021 will see major enterprises and tech companies driving towards homogenous, cost-effective infrastructure across these tiers, from public cloud, to private in colos, to modular commercial, and to consumer-proximal,” he said. “Winners will look to advanced and modern paradigms for IT and networking, and untether from conventional stacks, racks, and vendors, to deliver plug-and-play, operationally efficient IT, at the lowest possible cost.”
Keith Higgins, vice president of digital transformation for Rockwell Automation, describes the edge as the new cloud. He predicts that real-time availability of mission-critical workloads will be vital for companies scaling smart factory initiatives in 2021.
“Edge computing will complement existing cloud infrastructure by enabling real-time data processing where the work takes place: motors, pumps, generators, or other sensors,” he said.
The industry will continue to move toward more decentralized compute environments, and the edge will add significant value to digital transformation initiatives.
“By integrating edge functionalities with existing cloud infrastructure, organizations will worry less about logistical IT considerations and, instead, focus on rethinking what’s possible in a smart machine,” he said.
Here’s a preview of what 2021 trends in edge computing will look like.
Moving more services to the edge
Aruba launched its Edge Services Platform (ESP) in June 2020 as an AI-powered, cloud-native platform to automate, unify, and protect the edge.
Aruba CTO Partha Narasimhan said the company defines “the edge” as where the users and the actions are, which could be offices, sports stadiums, or homes. He said that edge computing provides the infrastructure to understand how people use physical spaces as well as to deliver experiences.
“If you create a connectivity layer that is always on, seamless, and secure, that drives participation,” he said.
One trend in edge computing that he sees is a push to bring services closer to the connectivity layer to reduce latency.
“Authentication could be centralized but fulfillment will be local,” he said. “Companies will have to rethink how to extend zero trust to the edge.”
Narasimhan said that Aruba has built its services around a zero-trust model since 2002.
“We don’t trust our own access points, they have to authenticate,” he said. “Built-in authentication determines what policy gets applied to each device.”
Automating some of this process is the only way edge computing will work well, Narasimhan added.
“Policies should be used on demand when and where you need them,” he said. “That means not just automation for provisioning from the cloud, but provisioning locally where security rights and policies have to be plumbed in where the user connects.”
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Narasimhan said that companies should use two types of tactics to accomplish this: Automation that relies on scripting and automation that learns and changes over time. Developers should monitor how services are working, measure user satisfaction, and monitor new devices and use this information to tweak automated processes as needed.
“This learning type of automation is even more important at the edge,” he said.
Narasimhan also sees potential in low-power sensors than run on ambient light or ambient radio-frequency energy to expand compute power and data collection at the edge.
“If you can run these lick and stick sensors without batteries, you’ll deploy more of them and you’re not just installing sensors but also building analysis power,” he said.
Companies should think beyond traditional workloads and network design to leverage all forms of available infrastructure to expand edge compute options, Narasimhan said.
- New revenue streams in the form of personalized experiences for shoppers
- Improved mobile experiences with turn-by-turn navigation or augmented reality
- Better business agility based on new availability of real-time data
- Less downtime and lower maintenance costs due to improved monitoring
Using the edge as a content delivery network
Limelight Networks is expanding its expertise with content delivery networks to the world of edge computing. Steve Miller-Jones, vice president of edge strategy and solution architecture at Limelight, said that the company is helping industrial, retail, business, and telco customers distribute apps, content, and services in disparate locations served by Limelight’s private network.
“Edge functions allows you to customize the experience and gives you instant scale into more locations than most clients can easily manage,” he said.
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Miller-Jones said he has seen a big shift over the last year in Limelight customers using the edge as code.
“Customers are integrating edge capability into their deployment pipeline to deploy their own processes and workflows,” he said. “They don’t have to do any distribution, the code just runs where their requests show up.”
Customers are using edge capabilities to personalize content, aggregate data, and direct traffic.
“Companies are taking those decisions and abstracting them into code,” he said.
Using a serverless approach is key to reducing latency and getting the ROI out of edge solutions, Miller-Jones said.
“If you can use a serverless environment and have processes run on demand, that delivers the value of edge sensors and you get more agility and operational ability,” he said.
This is particularly importanting for the gaming industry to be able to offer customers faster access to servers and more intelligent routing without having to send everything to the cloud.
Miller-Jones said that he expects to see an expansion of capacity to support streaming services as well as content personalization.
Security concerns with edge computing
As more workloads move to the cloud, chief information security officers are looking to take a cloud-first approach to security, Gartner Senior Analyst Nat Smith said, and that’s where secure access service edge (SASE, pronounced sassy) services come in.
“SASE is largely about connecting people or devices to service, which can be private or public,” he said. “The big advantage of this approach is that IT teams don’t have to set up and maintain access.”
This approach reduces operational mistakes which in turn improves security, Smith said.
Gartner predicts that by 2024 at least 40% of enterprises will have plans to adopt SASE up from less than 1% at the end of 2018.
In a research paper about SASE “The Future of Network Security is In the Cloud,” Gartner analysts determined that “digital business and edge computing have inverted access requirements with more users, devices, applications, services and data located outside of an enterprise than inside.”
Also, complexity, latency, and the need to decrypt and inspect encrypted traffic one time will increase demand for consolidation of networking and security capabilities into a SASE platform delivered via the cloud. Companies also need a “worldwide fabric of points of presence” to ensure low-latency to users and devices.
To accomplish this, Gartner recommends IT security leaders take these steps:
- Move inspection engines to the sessions instead of rerouting the sessions to the engines
- Shift security staff from managing security boxes to delivering policy-based security services
- Work with network architects to plan for SASE capabilities
Companies should look for security vendors with significant experience setting up other customers in the cloud and protecting those environments.
“Moving things to the cloud is a fairly important trend from a security perspective because in most cases we have just opened up a lot more of our real estate and we’re not protecting it as well as we would like to,” he said.