Edge Computing after Covid-19
Thu 18 Mar 2021 | Nick Offin
The shift to edge computing solutions is a business must and will continue to be as organisations initiate post-Covid recovery strategies
IDC estimates there will be an 800 per cent growth in the number of applications being launched at the edge by 2024. When you consider the explosive amount of data now being generated outside of the data centre, it’s no surprise that edge computing is beginning to take centre stage in 2021.
The topology of the edge has been around for some time now. However, it’s been pushed further into the limelight by the rapid implementation of hyperscale cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT), especially over the last year in the face of COVID-19. As organisations react to the changing business world that the pandemic will leave behind, this technology is now coming to the forefront as a necessary component of network infrastructure. It promises to support this new distributed workforce, maintain a competitive advantage and, together with next generation technologies such as 5G and artificial intelligence (AI), it can help businesses strengthen their IT infrastructures to support post-crisis recovery.
Overcoming IT infrastructure challenges in a post-COVID age
The ongoing pandemic has shifted business to the edge, creating dramatic changes in network traffic patterns and producing significant amounts of data being generated across disparate devices in multiple locations. For many organisations looking to a post-COVID era, the future vision is an “anywhere operations model”, as coined by Gartner, which allows for business to be accessed, delivered and enabled anywhere. And with a newly distributed workforce likely to become the norm, they need to deploy technology that can provide the same level of network performance at home as in the office environment.
Edge computing provides just this. By decentralising compute it not only reduces pressure on data centres and service provider networks but also preserves bandwidth and enables real-time processing closer to the users and devices, rather than sending data to more central locations in the cloud.
Staying ahead of the competition
Collecting and processing data at the edge, closer to the source, also has a number of further operational and commercial advantages. For example, car production fell by almost a third last year to its lowest level in 36 years as a result of COVID-19 and uncertainty about the Brexit trade deal. For enterprises who are looking to recoup revenue lost from last year, one benefit is the ability to process and make use of data faster than ever before and at much lower costs. For example, in manufacturing where optimising both yield and product quality are paramount, edge computing can support with precision monitoring of the production line right on the factory floor.
Importantly, this rapid collation of actionable business insights also enables swift operational responsiveness to unforeseen events, something that naturally many businesses have realised the importance of over the last year. Real-time data processing at the edge enables the gathering of more immediate data from connected systems and devices. The ability to analyse data at the point of creation, rather than send it to the cloud, leads to faster reactions from leaders and ultimately more informed decision-making within the business.
Integrating next-generation technologies
For businesses who are increasingly making use of next-generation technologies such as IoT, artificial intelligence (AI) and wearables, there is a strengthened business case for implementing edge computing solutions. Because of its ability to support local, real-time data processing, edge is key to grasping the opportunities that these data- and performance-intensive technologies present.
For IoT and wearables, which has seen a 34 per cent uptick in adoption over the past year as many sectors have accelerated a push towards remote business and automation, edge has the potential to enable smarter supply chains and improve worker safety and productivity. As well as reducing the strain on an enterprise’s network, thereby reducing or eliminating potential latency.
AI and edge computing also go hand-in-hand. Edge is required to power AI-based applications. AI modelling development requires a huge amount of data and compute power. For enterprises who are experimenting with these models, the edge delivers a suitable place to capture this required data. That said, the relationship between the two technologies is mutually beneficial. AI and machine learning (ML) will, of course, play an increasingly significant role in managing and analysing real-time data at the edge.
Explore 5G-powered opportunities
Finally, we couldn’t discuss the edge without exploring its relationship with 5G. COVID-19 has reshaped consumer behaviour with people now relying on connectivity to work, learn and be entertained. As such, businesses are having to adapt to providing a more digital experience for both employees and customers. 5G has the power to support this and, as a result, is expected to play a key role in global economic recovery while kick starting growth in some sectors that have slowed during the pandemic.
The gradual roll-out of 5G is intrinsically linked to the current and future development of edge computing. Much like IoT, AI and wearables, edge and 5G is a match made in network heaven. To render the 5G vision of connecting millions of devices with ultra-low latency and ultra-high reliability – and at reduced costs – requires edge computing. To achieve said low latency necessary for many 5G-powered use cases, edge computing significantly reduces the physical distance that data has to travel for processing, ultimately limiting lag or delay.
A recent IBM survey found that an increasing number of business leaders already recognise the value of edge computing, with 91 per cent expecting their organisation to implement it within five years.
Ultimately, the shift to edge computing solutions is now a business must and will continue to be so, especially as organisations look to initiate post-COVID recovery strategies. It won’t be long before living on the edge is commonplace in any organisation, both as a result of and in spite of the pandemic’s effect on businesses.