Edge computing technology has experienced exponential growth in recent years as more and more organisations seek to provide their global customer-base with a unified digital experience. With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing companies towards greater and more versatile digitisation, coupled with a soaring consumer demand for 5G and the IoT, the corporate migration to edge computing looks set to become one of the most defining technological events in the post-coronavirus world.
The global lockdown has also generated a renewed appreciation amongst consumers for their digital solutions and services. This in turn has driven organisations of all types to re-think and re-evaluate their online infrastructures with increasing numbers of established and emerging players now integrating AI and automation into their everyday processes.
It is no exaggeration to state that edge computing technology will not only be deployed as an effective tool to improve online communications and commerce as the world recovers, but also to avert the socioeconomic ruin of further outbreaks, should they occur.
Pre- and post-pandemic demand for edge technology
It’s important to reiterate the fact that the current migration towards edge computing is not happening because of coronavirus, the pandemic has merely expedited the pace of that migration. As the IoT, AI, 5G and open-network infrastructures have filtered into the mainstream during the last five years or so, an urgent challenge presented itself: How will the associated storage and transmission of data across these technologies, via limited bandwidths, be accommodated?
It was here that edge computing began to take off, with leading Silicon Valley giants such as Google and Microsoft developing the technology that would allow data to be processed at the edge, i.e. as close as physically possible to the location of their customers. Not only does this lead to a significant enhancement of processing speeds, massive bandwidth cost-savings can also be made.
Cost savings and speed
As with any disruptive solution in business that attracts a burgeoning user-base, the appeal of edge computing primarily lies in its ability to do things faster and cheaper. As organisations began migrating to the Cloud years ago, many were shocked to learn of the considerable bandwidth costs they subsequently incurred. It was the dissatisfaction with these costs that spurned the early moves towards edge computing architectures.
If it was dissatisfaction with Cloud bandwidth costs that prompted the walk towards edge computing, it was the enhancements in processing speeds that turned that walk into a sprint. Organisations with large amounts of data to process and who had migrated to the Cloud found latency issues became common. For organisations deploying real-time applications, such as facial recognition, the latency experienced from running algorithms through the Cloud, became intolerable.
Through edge computing, even critical and data-heavy applications such as real-time augmented reality, smart cities and self-driven cars can operate with a responsiveness the Cloud simply cannot match.
Edge computing and 5G
With the global lockdown forcing millions to work from home, the internet has been tested in a way not seen since its inception. Generally, it has coped well but there have been reports of organisations experiencing network connectivity issues, diminished response times and more frequent periods of downtime.
With the risk of multiple COVID-19 waves necessitating further lockdowns and a renewed appreciation of the benefits of remote working, such incidents cannot and will not be tolerated by the corporate world. Established players such as Microsoft are already developing solutions by fusing edge computing with 5G technology to create network infrastructures comprising edge computing devices, cloud-native software applications and 5G wireless services.
This combination of edge computing and 5G has the capability to reduce network latency down to a few milliseconds.
An unstoppable direction of travel
There are certain technological developments with capability so profound that their market domination becomes inevitable. In recent years, we can look to the likes of smartphones and streaming entertainment services, which offered such compelling advantages that their predecessors quickly became antique. The same trend is occurring with edge computing.
Amongst the startling figures emerging regarding the growth of edge computing has come from American global research and advisory firm, Gartner. They recently predicted that, according to current trajectory, 75% of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed at the edge by 2025.
As this piece has hopefully illustrated sufficiently enough, this is unsurprising. Edge computing offers much faster responsiveness, lower costs and can handle the data processing needs of the most demanding and critical applications.
The Great Migration to the edge is underway and if lockdown has granted your business time to explore options for building resilience in the new, post-coronavirus world, it’s where that exploration should begin.
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