The Beauty of Edge Computing

The intersection of edge computing and cloud is creating new ways to leverage distributed and centralized computing.

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The age-old saying that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” may help explain why virtually everyone has their own view on what we can expect from computing at the edge. For some it’s the realization of autonomous vehicles; for others it may be industrial automation or more effective monitoring of patient health. The reality is that edge is a concept that is subjective to an individual’s experience and vision, with applications and use cases still taking shape and many more not yet on the drawing board.

Just as today’s cloud computing environment has moved seemingly light years beyond the application service provider bubble that went bust more than two decades ago, edge computing has moved far beyond early concepts of the Internet of Things (IoT). What is increasingly clear is that edge computing is intersecting with the cloud and revealing new ways of leveraging the capabilities of distributed and centralized computing.

With that in mind, we sought the insight of IT practitioners and influencers on the topic of how edge impacts cloud strategies. Their responses illustrate the excitement and the uncertainties surrounding the known unknowns of this new dynamic.

“Emerging technology areas, including autonomous vehicles, smart cities, smart buildings, and digital health systems, all require secure processing of larger data sets for real-time applications. Edge computing is often the most reliable, cost-effective, and secure infrastructure option for localized, real-time applications that connect the digital and physical worlds,” says Isaac Sacolick, President of StarCIO, bestselling author, and digital transformation influencer (@nyike). “These use cases will be the early adopters of edge computing, but like other computing trends, as the infrastructure gets cheaper, simpler to deploy, and easier to manage, it will create new opportunities in industries such as manufacturing, government, education, and energy.” Sacolick says this is one reason forward-looking IT leaders must examine their cloud strategies and evaluate multicloud deployment options.

“Edge is where the physical world meets the virtual world,” says Vineet Jain, CEO and Co-founder at Egnyte (@CloudNotEnough). “With computing at the edge, we want to move compute close to where data is being collected, used, or resides. With cloud computing, we are consuming more centralized services but still need to address issues of latency (speed of light), bandwidth, and security.”

So much data

The volume and velocity of data generated at the edge is a primary factor that will impact how developers allocate resources at the edge and in the cloud.

“A major impact I see is how enterprises will manage their cloud storage because it’s impractical to save the large amounts of data that the Edge creates directly to the cloud,” says Will Kelly, technical marketing manager for a container security startup (@willkelly). “Edge computing is going to shake up cloud financial models so let’s hope enterprises have access to a cloud economist or solution architect who can tackle that challenge for them.”

With billions of industrial and consumer IoT devices being deployed, managing the data is an essential consideration in any edge-to-cloud strategy. “Advanced consumer applications such as streaming multiplayer games, digital assistants and autonomous vehicle networks demand low latency data so it is important to consider the tremendous efficiencies achieved by keeping data physically close to where it is consumed,” says Scott Schober, President/CEO of Berkeley Varitronics Systems, Inc. (@ScottBVS).

It’s not much of a stretch to view edge as an integral computing of the fast evolving hybrid cloud. “Essentially the further the edge is from an enterprise data center the greater the demand for a cloud strategy,” explains Frank Cutitta, CEO & Founder HealthTech Decisions Lab (@fcutitta). “The reason being the need for secure interactions between the computing nodes operating on the periphery, with computation and storage occurring in a wide variety of ‘orbits’ culminating at the center.”

Neil Cattermull, CEO at The Future as a Service (@NeilCattermull), notes that “edge computing is and will continue to be a major enabler for rapid cloud expansion.” Protected edge infrastructure, he says, allied with wider public cloud choice and heterogeneous awareness for other services promise, he adds, “More options, a more agile enterprise infrastructure and opens the doors to the emerging IoT trend for a sensory connected world with the associated data analytics being performed at the edge much faster than before.”

Expanded threat environment

As with any technology, security is a major concern. “Edge computing is risky business,” cautions Steve Morgan, Founder at Cybersecurity Ventures and Editor-in-Chief at Cybercrime Magazine (@CybersecuritySF). “It brings computing power and data storage from the cloud to endpoint devices - and that brings more cyber threats to endpoint devices."

Rob May, author of Human Firewall (@robmay70), concurs: “Edge computing is another factor in our digital lives that increases the attack vectors and widens the threat surface. It is essential that we continue to focus on and develop cybersecurity and resilience.”

The risks of edge computing may be tempered with hybrid architectures. “Private cloud can blend the benefits of cloud computing such as scalability, elasticity, reliability, speed, pay-as-you-go and the op ex model with the control, security and tailoring typically available only with on-premises infrastructure,” says cybersecurity consultant Dave Hatter (@DaveHatter).

Look beyond the hype

It’s easy to get caught up in possibilities of the next technology shift, but it’s important to remain grounded. “Edge computing is hyperbole,” declares Brent Kirkpatrick, cybersecurity consultant and researcher at Intrepid Net Computing (@DrBKirkpatrick). “The term is used to sell again the idea that proper computing resources located near the place where they are needed is actually the only solution that we were ever selling.”

Still, there’s no denying we’re on the cusp of great potential advance. “One of the exciting things we see with edge computing is the enablement of real-time performance, AI and machine learning, and IoT,” says Gene De Libero, chief strategy office with GeekHive (@GeneDeLibero). “Edge-enabled services and related data, filtered at the source, not only promotes integration with other applications and business data but offers improved security. This helps businesses develop a more strategic view of the role of cloud.”

Furthermore, adds FinTech innovator Enrico Molinari (@enricomolinari), “The edge gives us a distributed and decentralized IT architecture for data management and [to] avoid latency problems that generate a negative impact on application performance, reducing at the same time the amount of data that must be centrally processed.”

Plus, it’s good for the planet, according to Molinari: “Using the edge computing joined to cloud, as decentralized infrastructure, is a sustainable choice because does not link electricity consumption to the need to cool servers and storage, but at the same time allows the use of real‐time and data‐intensive applications.”

After all, not upsetting Mother Nature is as good a strategy as any.

Red Hat sees edge differently. See how: https://www.redhat.com/en/topics/edge-computing/approach?sc_cid=7013a000002w1CwAAI

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