The adoption of a hybrid work environment has reverberated across the technology ecosystem. Employees expect fast, secure, and reliable access to corporate resources from any location, and the traditional walls of centralized security and applications have been dismantled as organizations look to support a geographically distributed workforce. This shift, combined with the growing amount of data generated by IoT devices, has given rise to edge computing as a game-changing technology for applications requiring real-time decision-making. Its distributed architecture provides the necessary compute, storage, and networking functions through edge clouds located closer to the resources they serve. Moreover, these resources are increasingly accessible through first-mile internet loops, providing rapid and dependable connectivity.
One of the most significant benefits of edge computing is reduced latency. Since data is processed closer to the source, the time it takes to transmit and process data is significantly reduced. This is especially important in use cases requiring real-time data processing, such as autonomous vehicles, healthcare monitoring, and industrial automation. Edge computing enables these applications to process data in near real-time, leading to faster decision-making and increased safety. It also improves data privacy and security by keeping data within a more localized network, making it harder for unauthorized parties to gain access. This is particularly important in industries that deal with highly sensitive data, such as healthcare and finance.
Standardized software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) and secure access service edge (SASE) have emerged as crucial use cases for edge computing due to the growing adoption of cloud services and remote workers who require access to resources in proximity to their location. SD-WAN and SASE allow the provisioning of computing resources and connectivity needed to enhance application performance, minimize latency, and enhance the user experience.
SD-WAN enables organizations to connect multiple sites, including branch offices, data centers, and cloud environments, and provide greater agility, security, and performance while reducing costs. SASE, a cloud-based architecture that combines SD-WAN network connectivity and security in a single, integrated solution, ensures a comprehensive and unified approach to network connectivity and security. At times management of SD-WAN and SASE solutions can be complex, especially with hundreds or thousands of endpoints. To simplify management and operation of these environments, network automation is key.
Network automation allows organizations to define policies that automate the configuration, monitoring, and management of SD-WAN and SASE endpoints. This includes automating the process of deploying new endpoints, configuring security policies, and managing access control configurations. It also provides greater visibility into SD-WAN and SASE environments, including the ability to monitor network traffic, detect and respond to security threats, and analyze network performance metrics.
The benefits of network automation in SD-WAN and SASE environments are numerous. They include:
- Increased Agility: rapidly deploy and manage SD-WAN and SASE environments and respond quickly to changing business needs.
- Improved Security: detect and respond to security threats in real-time, automatically quarantine compromised endpoints, and quickly deploy security policies across the entire network, including the ability to dynamically apply security policies based on user context, device context, and application context.
- Reduced Costs: reduced costs to manage and operate SD-WAN and SASE environments by reducing the amount of time and resources required to manage network endpoints and reduce the risk of human error.
- Simplified Management: a centralized view of their entire network makes it easier to manage and troubleshoot issues.
An enterprise may opt for managed SD-WAN and SASE services, which can be deployed by the service provider over an edge computing infrastructure. Integrated into the larger automated service delivery ecosystem, these offerings can be equally effective while providing the same benefits. On-demand, real-time capabilities enable streamlined deployment and management of services while optimizing user experience and improving business agility. Standardized APIs, such as those offered by MEF, automate the business and operational functions that are critical for enabling services over an interconnected, automated ecosystem.
Another promising use case for edge computing is network-as-a-services (NaaS). Edge computing enables providers to offer more efficient and effective as-a-service offerings closer to where they will be consumed. In future articles, we’ll explore NaaS and how it can support enterprises in their digital transformation efforts. In the meantime, what’s clear is that as the number of connected devices grows, the importance of edge computing will continue to grow as well. Organizations that embrace edge computing will be well-positioned to take advantage of its benefits and remain competitive in today's rapidly evolving digital landscape.
(Editor’s note: This article is part of our regular series of articles from the industry experts at MEF.)
Pascal Menezes is Chief Technology Officer at MEF. He is focused on SD-WAN, SASE, cloud scale architectures, real-time media networks, Software Defined Networks (SDN), Network Function Virtualization (NFV), and Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO). He is a former Principal from Microsoft Skype for Business Global Carrier Group, where he spent close to 10 years working on many real-time media and network technologies. Pascal has worked on five startups with multiple successes, has received numerous industry global thought leadership awards, presented extensively in numerous events worldwide, and currently serves on the Capacity Media Editorial Board. Pascal holds 30+ patents and patents pending and has co-authored many standards in the IETF, MEF, and Broadband Forum (MPLS). See his collection of Network Computing articles here.