Over the last three years, enterprises worldwide have significantly progressed in digital transformation projects. Many have accelerated the move to cloud-based IT in response to the new demands created by the work-from-home model during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, new delivery architectures for enterprise networking and network security were developed, gaining mindshare among enterprise thought leaders. These new ideas spawned Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), seamlessly linking networking (SD-WAN) to business and application security.
However, SASE is wide-reaching, and more recently, Secure Service Edge (SSE) has emerged, which decouples the primary security capabilities of SASE from the WAN capabilities (e.g., SD-WAN).
Edge computing use cases
Edge computing is an IT architectural shift to lower the overall latency of time-critical applications by bringing the processing point closer to the end user while reaping the economies of scale and compute resourcing benefits of the cloud. The idea is to take the centralization of computing in the cloud and push it closer to the end user.
The key driver for this change is emerging application demands and IoT use cases, such as autonomous driving enabled by low-latency 5G mobile networks. In networking, the observation that large enterprises often have and will avail services from multiple public cloud providers has led to solutions where edge computing is being leveraged to provide enterprises with multi-cloud connectivity.
One emerging use case is about combining edge computing with network automation to service a large swath of smaller businesses with affordable yet secure, application-aware networking capabilities.
SD-WAN is a service that combines networking, security, and automation. One of the critical tenets of SD-WAN is to distribute intelligence at the customer premise by deploying programmable appliances at the customer locations. Still, the Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) add costs, and there is no appetite in the small and medium enterprise/business (SME/SMB) segment (5 - 250 employees) to take on additional charges.
Furthermore, SMEs/SMBs have no personnel to spare, let alone monitor, manage, or debug service-related issues that may arise with the appliance. Hence traditional SD-WAN services don’t make sense. But that doesn’t mean this SME/SMB enterprise segment does not need the on-demand connectivity, performance, and security that a typical SD-WAN service provides.
Edge computing for delivering networking to SMBs
Enter edge computing. It can significantly change the dynamics of internet and cloud on-ramp services. With edge computing, ISPs and CSPs could deliver the SD-WAN service from a shared system deployed in their network edge point of presence (PoP) to cover their entire fixed and/or mobile network footprint. With slight integration with the carrier’s network, SD-WAN service could be delivered from these edge computing PoPs to many SMEs/SMBs, thus eliminating the need for additional SD-WAN or security appliances that drive up the service costs for this segment.
This service model would thereby achieve the economies of scale required and drive down the service price for each business. Intelligent integration between carriers’ networks and edge computing platforms deployed at the edge PoPs for network automation will be the key to this service. End-to-end network automation can significantly help SMEs/SMBs to consume the SD-WAN service from the edge.
Subscribing to any over-the-top streaming services on an existing internet connection requires no additional hardware; it is on-demand and fully automated. Similarly, it would be business as usual for the SME/SMB to procure a low-cost business internet service. With the power of network automation, that internet connection can be boosted with this new service that starts at the network edge PoP leveraging edge computing. Fully automated, on-demand, and requiring no CPE. The edge PoP is where network and application security are processed, and advanced business functions such as application prioritization, internet site blocking, and antivirus/malware scrubbing are performed.
With these functions performed by edge computing, the per SME/SMB costs lower significantly, resulting in a much more intelligent business service for the SME market at a value point that makes economic sense. The potential for edge computing for network services for SME/SMB segment is significant and ensures that no business is left behind.
(Editor’s note: This article is part of our regular series of articles from the industry experts at MEF.)