While movement in edge technologies and platforms has been visible for a couple of years now, much of it has been lofty. There have been some deployments but they have been limited in both scope and functionality. That is primarily due to the fact that there is not much of a common platform for edge computing. The word is that is it good for off-loading data and crunching data that does not need to move in or out of the core, as well as multimedia. Those are pretty broad boundaries and putting that into actionable items has been elusive.
Much of that is because, so far, there is not a compelling case for edge computing. 4G is handling the load relatively effectively and 5G is not yet in existence. That is going to change starting in 2018 but how quickly depends upon how fast other technologies and platforms gain traction.
As peripheral platforms move forward (the IoX and 5G particularly) the case for edge computing becomes more pressing. Edge computing has a lot of application to the IoX. That is because there will be scads of IoX devices and networks that will not require a lot of communication with a core network, (WLANs such as smart “X”, Wi-Fi, small cells, mmWave, and others). And when they do, they use wideband, dedicated backhaul channels to the core (IP, fiber, cable, or microwave).
For example, some experts believe at least 40 percent of IoT-created data will be stored, processed, analyzed and acted upon close to, or at, the edge of the network by the end of 2018.
Edge computing will lead to something called “computing everywhere.” That is where computing is done where it lives – be it the edge, the data center, the cloud, wherever. However, the trend will be to do as much as possible at the edge.
2018 will see the development of edge computing become a priority. The movement will be to increase funding, research and develop new edge computing capabilities as the data tsunami continues to roll. This is necessary because of the proliferation of low-power, wide-area (LPWA) networks that consist largely of resourced-constrained IoX edge devices. The current practice of using on-premises data centers or cloud resources will begin to shift to the edge in 2018, if edge technology moves far enough.
Much of this will be driven by the acceleration of the industrial IoT (IIoT), aka the next evolution of machine-to-machine (M2M). This is an area where use cases and RoI exist and edge computing is a natural evolution to improve data analysis and reduce costs. As well, IIoT vendors are moving quickly to develop and manufacture devices capable of working at the edge.
Furthermore, edge computing will provide a cornucopia of analytical data in other segments (such as retail, transportation, utilities, remote monitoring, etc.) that will not have to rely on constrained bandwidths with limited data I/O capabilities. Analytics become almost instant with edge models offering real-time decision capabilities.
2018 will also see more attempts to make sense out of the “big data” that has been promised as the solution to everything and anything. Movement will be seen in actually turning these mountains of data into leverageable information. Edge technologies will pick up momentum this year in proving business value. Therefore, we can expect the adoption rate to rise, possibly exponentially, as the demand of IoX devices and applications emerges.
There will be an acceleration in edge products and applications as well as more serious talk about standards. There will be an uptick in alliances, partnerships and M&As as companies begin to position for the ramp up in edge advancements in all vectors.
Dr. Spincer Koh of Gorilla Technology makes a good point when he says, “edge computing is coming and it’s going to be big.” 2018 will give us a better look at how all this will shake out in the wireless, as well as other segments.
There are a few possible disruptions to edge computing. Number one is security. However, the advantage here is the containment of the network. That makes it a bit easier to secure them. On the other hand, there will be so many of them, that keeping all of them secure will be a monumental undertaking.
There are solutions on the drawing board. One is to reposition existing products to address edge network security concerns. Another is to develop targeted security solutions that are specific to a layer in the stack, or a particular vertical. However, edge deployments are still in the early stages; so is the security thinking. Much of the security mentality is of the wait-and-see kind.
There is validity to that. Investing in security before the industry really has traction is difficult to sell, regardless of lessons already learned.
A second dilemma is managing edge devices. From the IoX to smartphones, tablets, laptops, sensor networks, peer-to-peer and ad hoc networks. Add to that the next generation of roving data centers (smart transportation elements, remotely piloted vehicles) and the management of edge networks and devices become even more complex. AI will be required to wrap one’s arms around all of this. That will start to emerge in 2018 and we will see edge networks melding with AI.
Another issue is the diversity in edge models. It will be challenging to manage distributed applications across a wide girth of players, platforms, interfaces and inter-edge connectivity. Some vendors are working on solutions to help manage this disparity, which will start to emerge in 2018. However, it will be well past 2018 before any clear directions in edge computing emerge.
Overall, there is little doubt edge computing will catch on. There are just a lot of issues that need to be resolved. This year will see progress, but more in the development of solutions for the issues versus actual deployments.
Executive Editor/Applied Wireless Technology
His 20-plus years of editorial experience includes being the Editorial Director of Wireless Design and Development and Fiber Optic Technology, the Editor of RF Design, the Technical Editor of Communications Magazine, Cellular Business, Global Communications and a Contributing Technical Editor to Mobile Radio Technology, Satellite Communications, as well as computer-related periodicals such as Windows NT. His technical writing practice client list includes RF Industries, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Agilent Technologies, Advanced Linear Devices, Ceitec, SA, and others. Before becoming exclusive to publishing, he was a computer consultant and regularly taught courses and seminars in applications software, hardware technology, operating systems, and electronics. Ernest’s client list has included Lucent Technologies, Jones Intercable, Qwest, City and County of Denver, TCI, Sandia National Labs, Goldman Sachs, and other businesses. His credentials include a BS, Electronic Engineering Technology; A.A.S, Electronic Digital Technology. He has held a Colorado Post-Secondary/Adult teaching credential, member of IBM’s Software Developers Assistance Program and Independent Vendor League, a Microsoft Solutions Provider Partner, and a life member of the IEEE. He has been certified as an IBM Certified OS2 consultant and trainer; WordPerfect Corporation Developer/Consultant and Lotus Development Corporation Developer/Consultant. He was also a first-class FCC technician in the early days of radio. Ernest Worthman may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.