Will The Edge Really Consume The Cloud?

Change in the IT world is unavoidable

However, some changes can come as a shock, especially when they come sooner than anticipated. While the cloud is still a valuable resource for business, some experts are already pointing to an existing IT model that might supplant it: edge computing. In his recent blog post entitled ‘The Edge Will Eat The Cloud,’ Gartner VP and analyst Thomas Bittman suggests edge computing will reign supreme as we move towards an increasingly interconnected world.

Driving the move toward edge computing is a phenomenon related to the cloud itself: the Internet of Things. IoT computing spreads out networks, both physically and virtually, and performing more processing on the edge of networks can lead to better reliability for IoT devices, often a critical necessity when it comes to safety and reacting to customer demands in real time. Edge computing makes it easier to scale as IoT networks continue to grow; it’s often easier to add processing power to the IoT devices themselves rather than having to continually build out a more centralized server.

While cloud applications typically provide ample responsiveness for humans, some fields, such as self-driving cars, demand nearly instantaneous results, and the sheer volume of data self-driving cars generate means sending everything to a central server unrealistic. As edge computing finds its way into more devices, businesses and technology experts will explore new ways edge computing can help; devices developed for certain domains may prove useful in other areas, expanding the reach of edge computing.

“The truth is that IoT will fundamentally overwhelm what is centralised IT today” predicts Andy Isherwood, EMEA Managing Director at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

With security issues, data corruption issues, transmission errors, I think it becomes more important to have intelligence at the point of collection.

We spoke in depth with Andy about the increasing need for intelligence at the edge. Listen below.

Read Andy’s LinkedIn post ‘Is the driverless car the worst thing for car-lovers?

A Streamlined Network

Even when latency isn’t the primary consideration, there are still significant benefits to using edge computing within a network. Although the cost of bandwidth continues to drop, demands for bandwidth continue to grow at an even greater rate, and the projected future of IoT devices means moving processing to the edge can save businesses significant investment. Some analysts predict IP traffic will increase three fold in the next five years.

Edge computing also helps fight against data redundancy, leading to more streamlined networking. Devices stay online if networking performance suffers or drops because edge devices can retain data until the network is back up and running. In terms of data security, sending less information across networks helps narrow threat vectors.

One of the clear benefits of public or private cloud computing over traditional datacenters is its versatility and flexibility. Internal computing power is easier to grow with cloud computing hardware compared to traditional hardware, and simpler end-device management provides a tremendous boon. In today’s enterprise environment, however, more versatility is always in demand, and edge computing delivers a great way to make networks more flexible and responsive. Networks of the future will take advantage of machine learning to adjust automatically, and devices on the edge can serve as powerful tools for improving performance and adapting to change.

The Ebb and Flow of Processing Power

The history of computing has always been a tug of war between centralized and end-point computing. Early mainframe computers used a centralized computational model to serve multiple terminals, while later workstations moved much of the processing power to user devices. The cloud represents a shift toward a more centralized model, even if cloud networks are less physically centralized than the mainframes of the past. Edge computing represents another shift, back away from centralized processing power where the cloud just isn’t fast enough to meet the zero latency needed.

Edge computing will encroach on some of the ground the cloud occupies, but the benefits of cloud computing mean it will no doubt endure. Edge computing devices can be integrated into the cloud itself, helping smooth out some of the rough edges of cloud computing. For those making technical decisions, it’s best to view edge computing as a complementary partner to cloud computing for when speed and decision making at the point of collection is most valuable.