I recently attended the first USA Edge Congress developed by the BroadGroup. In case you do not recognize them, it is because they have a very prolific international presence but just breaking into the U.S market. They are known for their presence in the data market and produce events such as the Datacloud Africa, and Nordic, and Edge Europe. Their focus is on the data center, the cloud, the Edge and IT infrastructures.
One thing that is emerging as a trend is how data will be concentrated at the edge. While the edge is still, somewhat, ambiguous, there is no doubt that the edge will be the most significant element of the upcoming 5G ecosystem. BroadGroup has their finger on the pulse of the edge and their knowledge of this segment is impressive. From what I saw, I believe they will be a significant player in advancing edge technology in the 5G space.
Now, on to the Congress.
I was impressed by the lineup of speakers and technical sessions. Rather than regurgitate the sessions and their content, if the reader is interested in who spoke and the sessions, go here: http://www.edgecongress.com/america.
This congress was a networking sweet spot. I was able to attend, at least partially, almost all of the sessions and I was impressed at how realistic the discussions were. Usually at the traditional, large venues there is so much going on it is impossible to get a global feel. And missing was the usual 20-minute speaker promos that left only 15 minutes for meaningful discussion. Introductions here were short and sweet and the sessions got down to business, quickly. Perhaps that is why regional conferences are becoming more popular.
Overall, the information covered a lot of ground, from powering the edge to how it will play in the 5G, Internet of Everything/Everyone, cloud, autonomous vehicle, smart “X”, and more, spaces. Here is a quick rundown of some of the salient points made by presenters and what they mean.
Powering the edge is a hot topic, especially around the various flavors, and types, of small cells. Power is one of those vectors that has a multiplicity of options. One of the statements made by a speaker was that edge cells can be as small as a credit card. Therefore, the power industry will have to develop a plethora of solutions, from energy harvesting to generator-backup mega supply for the large multi-cell sites. And they will have to be extremely efficient and unobtrusive, in many cases.
Existing wireless towers will not be the edge. This was not surprising. The reasons vary but, perhaps, the best explanation was that it would be too costly to add edge networks to existing towers. Since edge hardware does not currently exist, tower players will be reluctant to invest in, what is currently considered, “spookware” (it is, after all, Halloween).
As well, there is, currently, a diverse menu of solutions for users, most are specific and many are proprietary. Eventually, the edge must be an autonomous, neutral place with on-the-fly programmability to address changing conditions and needs. In other words, edge data centers must be autonomous, agile and responsive.
The market is nascent. Interesting statement considering all the hype surrounding the edge. That means there is no real direction or long-term vision of what the edge will look like. However, one thing most everyone agrees on is that 5G will be crucial for the edge’s vision as it is seen today. The consensus is that the edge will be the access point to the 5G infrastructure.
The edge will empower the Internet of Everything/Everyone.This was an interesting discussion. Some of the discussion was around what will come first. One of the statements by a speaker was that it will be 15 to 20 years before there is a massive IoX rollout.
Opinions vary, but I tend to agree with that. Realistically, rollout timelines for the IoX, the edge, 5G, and other platforms are defined by a cornucopia of variables and definitions. Therefore, at this stage of the game, any set of timelines can be promulgated by just about anyone. One thing, however, that most attendees agree on is that full deployment of IoX will depend heavily on the proliferation of both the edge and 5G.
5G is the front end to the edge and cloud platforms.An interesting statement. This was elaborated on by noting that the edge is more data than communication. That seems to be realistic because of the interest in the edge by companies like Amazon, Netflix, Google, and others, specifically around content. etc. However, one notable point made was that those interested in the edge are in no hurry to add edge technology to their networks. Why? Because, as was noted early in this missive, the edge is still nascent and these players will wait until use cases are visible.
The edge will be a significant enabler for autonomous vehicles.There is a lot of excitement for this application. The term “micro clouds’ was mentioned. Vehicles will have embedded LTE modems and communicate through these micro-clouds, giving rise to another acronym; mobility as a service (MaaS). Essentially vehicles will all be micro-clouds interfacing with edge networks, near networks, even the cloud.
Overall, these, and other vectors will shape the edge. The conference showed that while we have a generic concept of what the edge is, it will undergo several iterations before we have a clear vision of it. There are a lot of fragmented players in the space at present. One of the first quakes will be a significant consolidation as the edge gets traction. Next, will be a series of partnerships around use cases. Of course, all of this is interdependent with 5G and the IoX. In the end, content will be king and will drive the is evolution.
In conclusion, what I came away with from this event was from a statement during one of the keynotes. The message was that edge players should be cautious and not fall into the trap of overpromising and under delivering. Hmmm…perhaps the 5G players could take a page from this book.