With 50% of enterprises planning to implement IoT within the next three years, the transition to a hyper-connected and data-driven future will bring about many challenges associated with data management, analysis and control. In order to be able to analyse and act on data in real-time, for instance, new measures will need to be put in place.
Edge computing could represent a viable solution to the questions posed by the explosion of IoT, allowing information processing to be moved closer to the data source. Going forward, it will likely become integral to accelerating the analysis of data generated by connected devices, as well as increasing the speed and efficiency of data processing.
So, what precisely is edge computing and what role will it play in the continuing evolution of the global connectivity landscape?
What is Edge computing?
Edge computing describes the practice of moving data processes closer to the source of the data—be that a smartphone, automobile or other any connected device.
The technology hasn’t always received the attention it deserves, but many are now waking up to the value edge computing could deliver. According to Gartner, edge computing is set to become an “innovation trigger,” with mainstream adoption expected as early as 2020, alongside other enabling technologies such as 5G, blockchain, serverless computing and quantum computing.
Businesses are realising the vital role edge computing is set to play in wider IoT deployments, as there are a number of benefits attached to moving data processes to the edge. These include greater reliability, improved data privacy, and lower service latency – as well as the ability to carry out data analysis in near real-time.
By removing the need for super-fast connectivity between devices and traditional data centres, edge computing will also help reduce costs. Super-fast connectivity can be reserved for data that needs to be processed urgently and other connectivity arrangements can be made for non-urgent data.
Then there’s the security issue. People today are extremely conscious of the ways in which data is stored, accessed and shared, making data privacy more important than ever before. Moving data processes to the edge means less information is transmitted and exposed to the outside world, reducing the possibility that sensitive data will fall into the wrong hands.
Put simply, the intelligent inference previously achieved through centralised processes will be available in real-time on-device. This will help organisations to scale networks and capture the true value of next-generation connectivity solutions such as 5G networks.
Where will data centres fit into the edge computing equation?
Edge computing will change the way data is stored and processed, but traditional data centres will remain pivotal to processing core data that requires long-term retention.
In the future, it’s likely we’ll see a change in the data centre landscape characterised by a move towards a more distributed system. Larger numbers of smaller data centres will be built closer to population centres like cities and business parks and there will likely be more storage hubs in regional markets and smaller cities.
As more computing power and storage is needed to handle rapidly growing numbers of edge applications, it also makes sense to place this on top of existing infrastructure. That’s why we’ll see micro data centres bolted onto parts of the existing communications facilities such as telecom towers.
With the impending data deluge, driven by the explosion of IoT and connected devices, will come a definite need for more storage, in both traditional and modular data centres. Other fields such as machine learning and AI are also growing, both of which require computing power that the edge is incapable of providing. So, although changes are on the horizon, there will be plenty of opportunities for data centres to capitalise on our hyper-connected future.
Providers of data centre solutions will need to cater to the need to store and process vast quantities of data in the most effective and appropriate way. Demand for this level of service already exists today and, to this end, many organisations have started to create cloud infrastructures for batch-processing high volumes of information gathered from sensors and connected devices.
There’s no escaping the fact that edge computing will have a major impact on global connectivity, lowering costs and improving privacy by moving data processes to the edge of the network. Data centres should be be prepared to adapt to these imminent changes and carve themselves a new position in the global connectivity landscape of tomorrow.