Analysing edge computing’s potential for exponential growth – and the Internet of Everything

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

By 2025, cloud will lead the ICT infrastructure market, with edge computing exponentially growing – according to a new report from Reply.

The IT services provider, in its report ‘From Cloud to Edge’, looks at the cloud computing market after the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as edge computing and distributed cloud use cases. The report was a showcase of Reply’s Trend SONAR, a proprietary data-driven platform.

Similar to when Zach Shelby, CEO of Edge Impulse, was interviewed by this publication, the report makes it clear that edge is not a threat to cloud. “The relationship between the two is more complementary; edge computing can support computing tasks that cannot be properly done in the cloud,” the report noted.

Reply defines edge into four buckets; narrow edge – as defining a layer between the physical world and a centralised data centre – edge cloud, such as AWS Outposts or Google Anthos, mobile edge computing (MEC), and distributed cloud.

The latter is arguably of most interest, providing low latency compute without local infrastructure, while with the managed environment of a public cloud. “The whole infrastructure is owned by a public cloud provider,” the report noted. “This is also the business model of some telcos; they can open their switching centres and transmission towers’ own distributed cloud services.

“In combination with 5G, this will be a real differentiator.”

It is with this in mind that the report assesses how edge computing will play a vital role in IT architectures: latency, connectivity, security and privacy, and connection costs. The trade-off for organisations is with regard to high initial costs and maintenance overheads.

The report noted that in the next five years, edge computing will have exponential growth in both the ‘Europe-5’ – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands – and ‘Big-5’ (Brazil, China, India, UK, US) countries analysed. Germany and the US will see the largest increase across OT infrastructure and edge services, although the latter starting from a much larger base.

The report assessed specific industries for edge and distributed cloud use cases, including connected vehicles, digital government and smart cities, and smart retail. The maps for these industries can be seen as similar; a cloud platform, feeding into an edge device – in the case of connected vehicles, an on-board unit – before the sensors.

Of more interest was a section at the end which focused on lesser known use cases. Digital mining and exploration – using IoT and AI technologies to optimise exploration for oil and mining – was notable because the report said its requirements, in terms of connectivity, and transmitted data volume, were especially challenging.

Taking a wider approach into decentralised and distributed cloud infrastructures, this can feed into other emerging technologies. Reply Trend SONAR looked into an ‘Internet of Everything’ in the near future. It is defined thus:

“The whole edge computing and distributed cloud topic involve all the trends towards decentralised and distributed multi-cloud infrastructures as well as the cloudification of the edge, with cloud giants pushing the computational decision making to the edge,” the report noted. “Furthermore, the trend of the IoT cloud is growing with IoT/IIoT platforms enhancing device connectivity.

“A future of cloud-to-edge technology will enable what is termed the ‘Internet of Everything’, with the cloud as an aggregation point for most relevant data and back-end functions, supported by analytics and real-time functions at the edge. Decentralised cloud approaches are driven by advancements of edge platforms and artificial intelligence, as well as connectivity-enhancing technologies like 5G or Wi-Fi 6.”

The report concludes with Reply’s belief that edge computing, in all flavours, will become ‘an amazing enabler for companies interested in operational efficiency.’

“Where the coronavirus pandemic is leading to cuts in IT/OT budgets, the case histories shared within this research show how to use edge computing and distributed cloud as a strategic lever,” the report noted. “The collection of use cases demonstrates a broad range of possible implementation.

“We’re sure that the amazing effervescence of both hyperscalers and startups will enable us to design new cases every year, especially thanks to the growing relevance of 5G and the IoT.”

You can read the full report here (email required).

Want to learn more about topics like this from thought leaders in the space? Find out more about the Edge Computing Expo Europe on June 16-17, a brand new, innovative event and conference exploring the edge computing ecosystem.

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