The edge is quickly becoming one of the most discussed areas of enterprise technology as enterprises move to the hybrid cloud. The trends driving it, how to best use it, how it fits in with the traditional cloud, and other questions are at the forefront of what organizations are trying to figure out as the IoT and other technologies push them to consider the edge for certain workloads and data.
We had these questions in mind, and more, when we recently sat down for an edge computing roundtable. Ian Moyse, sales director at Natterbox, and a thought leader on all things cloud; George Crump, the president and founder of Storage Switzerland; and ClearSky co-founder Laz Vekiarides had a wide ranging discussion on what the edge means for companies now, and how it will change the way we do business in the future.
Below are three critical questions about the edge that the panel addressed, three quotes and three follow-up questions that need to be answered if the edge is really going to take off.
How do you use your data?
“You have to ask, is there a use for this data if I store it?” -Laz Vekiarides
Cloud vendors are happy to store data for you, and the connectivity we have now, and that’s coming with 5G and other technology, letting companies store a virtually unlimited amount. When the edge comes into play, companies need to decide how much data they need locally – at the edge – to process and make decisions in real time.
A great example is security cameras. They are constantly generating data, and when they catch something bad happening, actions need to be taken immediately. Since latency is unacceptable, this is a great use case for the edge. How much of that data then needs to be stored in the cloud? It depends on the types of data and workloads.
Follow-up question: What types of data and workloads need a long-term solution, and what does that solution look like?
How do economies of scale work for edge?
“One of the things that is going to drive the size of the edge is the price of real estate – edge data centers have to be in big metros. The edge has to be smaller than the cloud because there’s only so many places you can put this stuff.” -Laz Vekiarides
One of the biggest cost advantages the cloud has is that its data centers can be anywhere. Inexpensive real estate, in areas with cheap energy options, in climates that don’t require as much air conditioning, for example, give the cloud a huge advantage cost-wise. At the edge, optimizing cost advantages isn’t as possible. Real estate in cities – almost by definition where edge data centers need to be – is more expensive and scarce.
This means at the edge providers and users will optimize for use cases, rather than just cost. Companies will have to ask how mission-critical each app and piece of data is, then determine the best place for it. If this sounds a lot like the current model for determining what data to move to the cloud, it is. The edge provides one more extremely useful option for companies to employ on the road to optimizing their data footprint.
Where will the edge be in five years?
“It’s a convergence of technologies. People will look at the outcome and won’t know if it’s a bit of edge, a bit of cloud, etc. – and they won’t even care.” -Ian Moyse
Let’s end with a look at the future of this quickly evolving technology. It won’t matter to the next generation of enterprise computing professionals whether something is edge, cloud, on-prem or a combination. It will all be behind the scenes. The most important thing won’t be where data and workflows ultimately live, but how they perform and interact.
Follow-up question: Between baby clouds, metro clouds and others, what exactly does the next generation of edge look like?
These are, of course, just three of thousands of questions enterprises have about how the edge fits in with other data and application options. The panel discusses many of the most critical ones – including all the “follow-up” questions listed above – in the roundtable video.
Click here to view the roundtable discussion, “Edge computing: friend or foe of the cloud.”