Over the years, we have seen many different types of computing evolve and affect our daily lives and industries. When computers were first developed, they occupied entire buildings, consumed large amounts of electricity, and produced great amounts of heat. The first computers developed in the 1930s were massive machines using vacuum tubes, weighing almost 50 tons and occupying about 1,800 square feet. Today we hold our smartphones in our hands which can process millions of transactions, unbelievable when you think of the computers used to send men to the moon. Smartphones today are more powerful than the supercomputers of the 1980s.
Edge computing is the next evolution of computing, allowing businesses of today to take advantage of compute power closer to the actual workload. Instead of having to send the data off for processing at a remote data center and then having to wait for the subset of necessary data to return, now we can deploy compute resources closer to the edge where it is needed.
This is useful across multiple verticals and industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, automotive, and entertainment. By utilizing edge computing in a manufacturing plant as an example, the machinery that needs to have data processed to take action can now be processed on site or very close to the manufacturing site, allowing subsequent steps to occur quicker. The edge compute processing can alleviate hours to even days of bottlenecks.
The number of organizations leveraging edge computing increased from 20% to 22% between 2020 to 2021. Adoption is increasing, but not nearly as much as it should be.
Why process closer to the edge?
1. Lower latency: By deploying the edge compute stacks closer to where the work is performed has the obvious benefits of lower latency for applications and data processing. It will allow for businesses to process data quicker, for things like price quoting or accurately managing goods and services, creating a better experience for the end customers.
It goes without saying that latency for applications and databases can be greatly reduced by placing the compute closer to them. Edge compute will require a redesign for some applications as they will need to communicate differently while also ensuring all underlying security needs are fulfilled. The possibilities for IoT sensors and edge compute are endless as everything in our world is becoming a connected device. Our cars, refrigerators, washers/dryers, heating, and AC systems all have sensors in them to tell us when to service them or even to allow us to control them remotely via our cell phones or tablets.
2. Enhanced customer experience: Edge compute is not just for the enterprise customer. It will affect the end consumers directly and indirectly. Our lives will be made easier by reducing, if not eliminating, tasks that currently require a great deal of interaction. We are already seeing some of the benefits of IoT in our smart homes and appliances, but businesses will be incorporating more automation with the help of edge computing.
Consumer experience will improve in several industries, particularly those where time is critical. Take healthcare, for example. Edge computing can enable healthcare systems and providers to better service patients in rural or hard-to-reach areas. For those consumers unable to quickly or easily access healthcare services, having devices gather and send critical information in real-time will allow for faster treatment and improved patient outcomes – even life-saving experiences. Finance is another sector where consumers will benefit – think of the importance of speed when it comes to matters like stocks and trading.
3. Ability to reach remote areas: Another benefit of edge computing is the ability to reach businesses previously isolated because of their geographic location and distance from where data is computed. With the innovation of edge compute and connectivity options like 5G, the reach to remote areas is becoming much more achievable. This will be extremely beneficial for those in the agriculture, gas, and oil industries that are located in more rural areas. They are operating large and lucrative businesses, with many heavily leveraging technology. The faster processing and lower latency of edge computing will help power these businesses.
Businesses leveraging large datasets need to embrace edge computing. All the benefits are there – speed, scalability, versatility. Being able to increase processing speeds will inevitably improve productivity and efficiency, but more importantly, edge computing will help with the management and use of data. In today's world and business environment, we have endless data being collected and transmitted. There is a major opportunity for businesses that properly and strategically use this data to achieve business objectives and serve customers. Having insight into business operations, consumer activity, devices, and equipment status will allow for increased agility when making business decisions. Companies who take advantage of the many benefits edge computing offers will be one step ahead in a world driven by data.
Jim Demetrius is a Cloud Infrastructure Architect at TBI.