Edge computing is anticipated to grow exponentially within the next several years as organisations seize the opportunity to bring computing closer to the local source, whether that’s the device, telco, or network edge.
Estimates predict the edge computing market will grow from $10 billion in 2020 to $543 billion in 2030. Edge computing is already an accessible technology, and broadly, the term refers to decentralising computing. In current practices, much of enterprise computing takes place in the cloud. Mobile edge computing, or multi-access edge computing (MEC), is expected to be built off the functionality of 5G standalone, which is a secondary rollout of 5G that is yet to come. In fact, the GSMA predicts that we are several years away from 5G standalone being available, based on survey results from Mobile Network Operators (MNOs).
It’s important first to understand how edge computing breaks down. The edge can be seen in two different categories – MEC and fog computing. Fog computing refers to a hybrid, edge-cloud approach, and can be pinpointed in three distinct locations:
Telco edge: The telco edge is, in general, located near mobile cell sites and/or nearby data centres, which creates a combined infrastructure of cloud and regional data centres. By leveraging local data centres, the telco edge benefits from low latency and reduced backhaul. By adding in cloud computing, the telco edge offers scalability and mobility.
Network edge: When discussing any type of edge computing, it really comes down to the decentralisation of where data is processed. Network edge brings the computing closer to the originating point. Since the network is closer to the origin than the telco edge, lag time is minimised.
Device edge: Edge devices compute closest to the sensor that is collecting data, making this the fastest edge approach. The device sensor could be a tracker on an asset, artificial vision in a video camera, or sensors in smartphones. If data is collected and processed at the edge, the response of the device can be much faster.
While latency from a device to the cloud seems minimal, mission-critical applications that have an extremely low tolerance to lag – such as robotics or autonomous vehicles – can benefit greatly from the least amount of lag time possible for near real-time data communications.
MEC is dependent on the 5G capability of network slicing and virtualisation, which will be achieved through 5G standalone. Drivers for MEC include IoT, data volume from over-the-top (OTT) applications, and anticipated use cases like autonomy and machine learning that require low latency.
No matter where the edge sits for applications, it stands to create benefits to optimise business processes.
Speed and lower latency: As previously stated, the ability to shift computing away from the cloud closer to the device that is reading the data helps increase speed and lower latency.
Cost reduction: Cloud computing has revolutionised the ability to reduce data storage costs through virtualised data centres. That being said, if an operation is generating massive amounts of data, cloud storage costs are going to increase operational expenses (OpEX) significantly. If all, or even a portion, of that data load can be distributed along the edge, it reduces cloud OpEx.
Reliability: When communication channels are unavailable or slow, edge computing can still operate, providing reliability in operations that struggle with consistent connectivity, such as remote locations or mobile applications.
Scalability: Scaling with edge computing can be simple by just adding new edge devices to existing infrastructure. Because this is a decentralised approach to computing, like the cloud, scaling is much more accessible when not leveraging physical infrastructure.
The opportunities for computing to optimise business processes, create new applications with edge, and scale existing operations are growing, and it comes at the intersection of the cloud, edge, and 5G. Learn what role IoT plays in this next generation of computing and how to maximise emerging technologies in this report featuring KORE expert Niklas Ekarv, “From Cloud-Native to Zero-Touch: The future of 5G.”
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