Strategic Use of the Edge: If You’re Not on the Edge, You’re Already Behind

by | November 9, 2022

Some executives may think that their business isn’t ready for edge computing or they don’t need it because they don’t deliver digital products or services. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The edge is not something far off in the future. To be competitive in the modern digital business environment, edge computing is a strategic imperative.

Traditional data centers and the public cloud are no longer enough to support the data and processing needs of business. Companies of all sizes need agile, real-time computing to deliver data and applications to employees and customers where they are and when they need it. The architecture that delivers this is the edge, and it’s closer to your business than you think.

Why the Edge?

Putting compute power near the location where the data is created and used—the edge between the core IT network and the end user—speeds up access and enables real-time interactions and decision-making. Gartner predicted that the majority of enterprise data will be outside data centers by this year. Spending on edge is increasing, with worldwide spending in 2022 up 14.8% from 2021.

Businesses are looking for the same outcomes: speed, resiliency, lower operating costs, and the ability to scale as needed. Enterprise data centers and the public cloud may offer some of those benefits, but not all of them together. So many enterprises are directing IT budgets to the edge, both to recognize all of these benefits and because not everyone wants to own their own infrastructure.

The edge is not a single solution that works for everyone. It’s an architecture or paradigm for delivering secure and reliable critical infrastructure where and when it is needed while lowering data transmission costs and enabling real-time data to be used for analytics or on-site decision-making.

  • Enterprise edge: Regional or local data centers, including remote office deployments, colocation data centers, or micro data centers with no staff.
  • Device edge: Internet of Things (IoT), smartphones, and wearables.
  • Industrial edge: The convergence of IoT and operational technologies to deliver services on the factory floor.

Edge deployments are proliferating because end users, from employees to consumers, are demanding it. Gaming and streaming video are leading the way. These applications need to deliver the lowest latency possible, spread across geographies including the 179.6 million gamers in the U.S. alone—any delay creates a negative user experience. Companies in these spaces understand the need to provide real-time access and know the only way to do that is by putting servers close to their users.

Another industry embracing edge computing is logistics. Moving things to locations all over the world requires significant computing power, close to the action. Gartner predicts that by 2025 25% of all supply chain decisions will be made across the intelligent edge. Retailers are also recognizing the value of the edge, by putting computing power close to the consumer, with kiosks, point-of-sale systems, and interactive services on websites like videos and virtual fitting rooms.

In each of these examples, a centralized data center, which could be hundreds or thousands of miles away from the person using the technology, can’t provide the functionality or enable the real-time processing required to be responsive.

Moving to the Edge

Enterprises are already making the move. IDC predicts that by 2023 over 50% of new enterprise IT infrastructure will deployed at the edge. Yet, it is still only about half of enterprises that appreciate how the edge can deliver improved services. In some cases, those with existing data centers, legacy infrastructure and data, or who are already in the public cloud don’t see the need to make the move to the edge for computing power.

Successfully deploying the edge requires a comprehensive strategy—sizing of the servers, identifying available bandwidth and knowing the details of network performance, understanding the data and other resources in your enterprise will need to interact with the edge, and security considerations. Buying and managing equipment can be very expensive. Working with a provider of edge services, rather than building it yourself, means you use only the compute power and resources you need, when you need it.

When thinking about an edge strategy, CEOs and IT leaders should be asking:

  • What is the modern way to serve our clients?
  • What is the most secure, resilient, and scalable option?
  • Do I want to own the equipment or outsource it?
  • Which applications need to be high-performance and deliver services or results in real time?
  • Do I have qualified people who know how to do this?
  • How much support do we need and how much do we currently have?
  • What geographies do we need to address?
  • What compliance and privacy imperatives must we adhere to?

Edge Benefits

Part of defining an edge strategy is understanding the benefits to the organization. The five main benefits of moving closer to the edge are:

  • Flexible. Edge deployments look different depending on your needs. The edge can be a small data center located near a storefront. Or a mobile deployment with self-contained data centers like those used at the Olympics, concert venues, or field locations. Imagine rolling in compact, high-performance liquid-cooled immersion units, and when this deployment is finished, rolling them back on the truck, plane, or ship to move to the next location or into a traditional data center.
  • Low cost. By moving data processing and storage out of the public cloud or requiring expensive data center investments, the edge provides rented infrastructure as a service with predictable cost.
  • Resilient. Each edge deployment operates on its own separate power and accesses the network separately, with each operating independently. If a site is compromised by a power failure, natural disaster, or malfeasance, the core data center or other edge sites are operational.
  • Secure and accessible. Private cloud providers use service delivery platforms that allow for visualization and dashboards, and limit human access to the data center. Generally, these are Tier 3 facilities with better security and environmental controls than are on-premises data centers.
  • Compliant. Compliance becomes more complex globally. Edge computing can simplify and shift risk to operators who are themselves capable of maintaining various certifications and compliance. If data needs to be stored in a specific location, private cloud makes sense for data residency and data sovereignty. Public clouds do not exist anywhere.

Users and data are everywhere. Edge computing is the natural progression beyond public cloud, to enable enterprises to access data and applications in a reliable, resilient, scalable, and cost-effective way. Not sure how your business can benefit? Contact UPSTACK today to learn how we can help you build an edge strategy.