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Unlocking the Edge computing opportunity

(Image credit: Image Credit: GaudiLab / Shutterstock)

A fundamental transformation is underway in the UK; one that will bring new opportunities for businesses to innovate and grow across every region. And the driver behind it is edge computing. 

With businesses under increasing pressure to improve user experience and performance, many are looking towards edge computing as the answer, adopting decentralized strategies which enable data, applications and content to be processed and managed at the network edge. And with promised benefits such as better performance, reduced costs and strengthened security, those businesses that fail to grasp the opportunity risk losing out to those that do. 

But while the end goal is clear, many businesses have so far lacked the ability to make edge a true reality, held back by concerns over cost, complexity and a lack of understanding on changing architecture, use cases or convergence with the cloud. So how can organizations simplify access to the edge and unlock the opportunity?

Understanding the opportunity  

For providers of online services and applications, customer experience is crucial to remaining competitive. In this always-on age, users expect rapid performance from digital products, whether they are using web and cloud applications, streaming content, gaming online or using business-critical services. 

At the same time, the world is becoming increasingly connected, fuelled by the rise of IoT, growth of high-bandwidth 5G and interconnection of devices across infrastructure and industries. By 2030 the number of devices connected to the internet could reach 125 billion, making data volumes unfathomable.

This data challenge is further exacerbated by the growing adoption of technologies such as AI, machine learning and deep learning which will only increase the volume of actionable data. In this new environment, processing data as quickly as possible is essential to meeting user expectations for performance, making latency and the flow of data increasingly critical. Those organizations that can find a way to analyze and use that data in near real-time will be able to refine their competitive edge through faster, more informed decision-making. 

Solving the access problem

The opportunities of edge stretch deeper than just efficiency and latency gains. Our own research indicates a clear regional divide emerging across the UK with the South East having better access to infrastructure, leadership and skills than the rest of the UK. Edge has the potential to restore the balance, removing barriers for regional businesses that were previously hindered by latency disadvantages of being located away from major technology hubs such as London. 

The crux of the edge opportunity revolves around bringing applications and data processing closer to where it’s collected, be that by employees, customers or devices. Whereas traditionally organizations and service providers have relied on centralized infrastructure strategies - often underpinned by global providers that have typically over-served areas such as London and the home counties - success in this new environment requires a different approach. One that spreads the load across three or four regional edge data centers, enabling data can be processed closer to each end-user, reducing congestion on the network, and improving latency.

Choosing a right partner

While the benefits and requirements of edge are clear, implementing an edge strategy is not as clear-cut. And with a plethora of vendors offering edge services and solutions, choosing the right partner can be difficult.

Organizations need to look for a data center provider that can provide a good geographical spread of sites across the UK, maximum coverage and fast, seamless connectivity to cloud services. In particular, a provider that can act as connectivity, delivering an agile, high-capacity and low-latency network. 

Other considerations are whether the provider has sufficient high capacity to meet bandwidth demands today and in the future, as well as full route diversity around the UK to protect against any major fiber outages. 

Organizations also need to consider wrap-around support and connectivity between data centers, cloud and colocation services. Choosing one provider with a nationwide network of cloud and data centers, rather than a partnership of multiple providers, can not only provide benefits in terms of security and resiliency of facilities but remove the headache of integrating complex IT services.

The broader potential of edge

Covid 19 has accelerated well-established trends towards digital transformation. It has also enabled enterprises to get comfortable with managing remote working and operating across multiple sites. Organizations have embraced mobile and hybrid working models and moving forward will need points of presence in regional data centers that are closer to their users to ensure they have fast, low latency connections wherever they’re located. 

Beyond the immediate opportunities of remote working, we will see edge start to transform the enterprise applications, IoT, content delivery and cloud gaming. It’s likely that the edge will help scale up applications that are currently in their trial stages today. This will include areas such as cloud-based augmented and virtual reality, efficient remote healthcare, real-time advertising, drone use and autonomous vehicles. 

The first step for organizations is identifying use cases that are likely to be of biggest benefit to the business. These could then we used as smaller projects before rolling out to broader areas.

Delivering the edge promise

Edge computing is not new – it’s been around in some guise or other for decades. However, it’s only now that we have technology such as 5G to make the vision a reality that businesses are starting to take notice. Despite being in its infancy, the global edge computing market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 38.4 percent to 2028, expanding from $6.29bn in 2021 to $61.14bn.

Unlocking the edge opportunity will hinge on leveraging both the right platform and additional expertise to implement effective edge strategies around technology, people and processes, enabling organizations to achieve their growth ambitions and compete in the digital world.

Development of a nationwide edge computing platform will be fundamental to delivering critical connections to digital, via strategically located regional data centers. For regional businesses and service ecosystems, including distributed multi-cloud models providers, this would be a game-changer, enabling them to take advantage of edge through one unified network with reach across the UK.

Simon Michie, Chief Technology Officer, Pulsant