In its broadest sense, edge computing involves placing service provisioning, intelligence, and data closer to devices and users. With such a broad definition, it can mean edge services in an on-premise enterprise or in a cloud infrastructure. What the future holds for edge computing is a topic discussed by a recent ONUG panel. On the panel were:
The hour-long session began with the question — what are cloud edge services?
Whether it is drones delivering packages or operating a lab halfway around the world, the devices need to process the data they collect, share the information, and take action if necessary. In the past, this process required that the data be sent to a centralized server environment that manages an entire enterprise. The configuration often created latency and performance problems.
Cloud edge services, according to Preetha, enable real-time automation that delivers data without latency and performance delays. For CSL Behring’s David Mann, edge services bring the device and its data closer to the end-user, who may be an internal or external customer. It’s about delivering a better experience regardless of distance.
What cloud edge services need to provide are programmable and secure operations to ensure a quality customer experience. This requirement may mean implementing a hybrid solution that integrates on-premise and cloud technologies. It will require companies to disaggregate their services.
Moving workloads and infrastructure closer to the endpoints that generate and use the data opens a world of possibilities. For Michael Parks at USAA, moving to the edge means delivering needed services to military personnel no matter where they are. Active-duty personnel may need to address financial issues even if they are deployed to a foreign country. For example, a soldier serving in the Middle East receives a fraud notification. Edge services would allow the soldier to respond to the alert as if he were on base in the United States instead of working through email and telephone communications. By moving to cloud edge services, USAA can deliver a uniform standard of service.
FedEx has been working with edge technology for some time. Roxo is a delivery robot that automates shipping’s last mile, which is the most costly. The robot operates on sidewalks, roadsides, even bike lanes. It has the ability to navigate curbs, climb steps, and traverse uneven sidewalks. Auto-part retailers can use Roxo to deliver products within a three-to-five mile radius of their location.
To make the robot work, FedEx needs cloud edge services. No one can predict the obstacles Roxo may encounter on its delivery routes. The robot must be able to collect and respond to the information without latency or performance delays. The device can’t wait for the data to be processed by a central server when faced with looking at a large pothole.
Scientific research is far more collaborative than many people realize. It’s difficult to know what information will be of use to other researchers. Being able to collect, analyze, and share data quickly and securely is essential to success. For CSL Behring, the value of cloud edge services comes from the ability to spin up new labs faster and to adjust operations to changing regulations in different countries.
Creating a lab-connected framework means sharing data not only internally but with external organizations as well. Such a framework uses the data where it resides and gives labs control over essential instruments. It enables collaborative efforts without jeopardizing data security. For cloud edge services to work, the architecture must support low latency when it comes to equipment control and high performance when extensive data analysis is required.
Network infrastructures have not kept pace with cloud technologies. Cloud services lack standardization which forces customers to recreate their environments for each cloud provider. This lack carries over into governance and visibility, which factors into security. As a result, hybrid models of on-premise and cloud computing will continue until infrastructures can deliver the required standardization and security that businesses need.
Although edge computing can increase business agility, not every environment can fully utilize its capability. Highly regulated industries may find that cloud configurations lack the visibility to ensure data security. Other businesses may find that moving to cloud edge services is cost-prohibitive. Instead, these companies may look at cloud edge services on a use-case basis.
Business constraints may limit the use of cloud edge services. International regulations may make it difficult to relocate data from a central location to the edge. Connectivity continues to be an issue as network capabilities are not equal. Cloud edge services may simply not be available everywhere.
Consolidation offers cost savings, but data is needed at the edge. How do businesses balance the two? Today, public cloud and internet connectivity lack the bi-directional cybersecurity that organizations require. This limitation cannot be overlooked or minimized, given the increase in cybercrime.
Creating edge data centers may help with operational costs but building the centers adds to capital expenditures. Investing in architectures that lack standardization is risky and may constrain some enterprises from moving quickly to adopt cloud edge solutions. The lack of network technologies to support cloud edge infrastructures continues to force businesses to retain traditional configurations. Hybrid models may be the norm for the foreseeable future. Technology may drive businesses, but it can also hamper them.
Everyone points to 5G as the key enabler for cloud edge computing; however, Preetha and David pointed out that the technology is not available worldwide. It isn’t even available throughout the United States. In fact, some areas still rely on 3G infrastructure. For Fed Ex, the 5G/4G/3G divide is a reality that impacts daily operations. The same applies to CSL Behring, where their research facilities may not reside in locations with equal access to a strong communication infrastructure.
The panel’s closing thoughts on what is needed to promote cloud edge services included:
If this discussion has sparked an interest in cloud edge services or the landscape of network technologies, explore ONUG‘s website for upcoming opportunities.