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There are many buzz words shooting around the digital workplace now, some of which are a reworking of old concepts and others that describe new technologies or business methods. Edge computing is one of the new technologies that is starting to make its presence felt across the digital workplace, even if it is still in early days.

State of the Edge

To understand and foster better practices across businesses and the technology industry, the Linux Foundation created the LF Edge in 2019 and rolled the State of the Edge into it last year. State of the Edge is a vendor-neutral platform for open research on edge computing that is dedicated to accelerating innovation by crowdsourcing a shared vocabulary for edge.

It also develops free, shareable research that is widely adopted and used to discuss compelling solutions offered by edge computing and the next generation Internet. There are four driving principles: 

  1. The edge is a location, not a thing;
  2. There are lots of edges, but the edge we care about today is the edge of the last mile network;
  3. This edge has two sides: an infrastructure edge and a device edge.
  4. Compute will exist on both sides, working in coordination with the centralized cloud.

Founded in 2017 by Vapor IO, Packet (now owned by Equinix), Ericsson's Edge Gravity, Arm, and Rafay Systems, the organization has so far published three major reports. Earlier this month, it launched the 4th annual report under the title State of the Edge 2021 Report. For any company working in the cloud space, or any company that is thinking about moving some of its computing load to edge machines, the insights here are invaluable.

It specifically shares insight and predictions on how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the status quo, how new types of critical infrastructure have emerged to service the next-level requirements, and open source collaboration as the only way to efficiently scale edge infrastructure.

Tolaga Research, which led the market forecasting research for this report, predicts that between 2019 and 2028, cumulative capital expenditures of up to $800 billion will be spent on new and replacement IT server equipment and edge computing facilities. More importantly, it points out that the pandemic is accelerating digital transformation and service adoption.

Government lockdowns, social distancing and fragile supply chains had both consumers and enterprises using digital solutions last year that have permanently changed the use cases across the spectrum. It also pointed out that open source is driving innovation at the edge by accelerating the adoption and deployment of edge applications.

There are several other highlights too. One of them is that off-the-shelf services and applications are emerging that accelerate and de-risk the rapid deployment of edge in these segments.

Related Article: 7 Big Problems with the Internet of Things

Rapid Innovation, Constant Improvement

Edge computing is a fundamental requirement for digital transformation. Competitive advantage requires the ability to innovate rapidly and continuously improve, and this is in large part driven by analyzing and understanding previously untapped data sources within organizations.

The key to this is the “new product mindset”, meaning the importance of developing products and services with the cumulative lifetime value they will generate in mind, compared to just the immediate value delivered on launch day, Jason Shepherd, VP of ecosystem at Santa Clara, CA-based Zededa, said.

With the new data generated by technology trends such as IoT and AI, organizations will develop applications to power intelligent products and services, which will drive entirely new customer engagements, and in the process, transform their business through a never ending cycle of innovation.

It’s important to think about digital transformation in terms of generating new customer experiences and business models, not just driving efficiencies. The sky's the limit with the former, and there is a practical floor with the latter. Key to all of this is placing strong focus on the edge, and more specifically an open edge. There are three key reasons for this, he says:

  • The necessity of edge computing as a general enabler for digital transformation
  • The importance of an open edge to realize the ultimate potential of digital
  • An open edge as a unifier for one of the most complex considerations of digital transformation — people

“We are now entering the era of the ecosystem and service economy, with offerings increasingly driven by a network effect spanning multiple entities and backed by a significant service component, he said. “Leading technology providers will be those that create differentiated value through services, domain knowledge, necessarily unique software and hardware — not those that are reinventing foundational infrastructure repeatedly.

IBM’s Cloud Satellite Platform

Already many vendors are rising to this challenge with new platforms and software One of the most significant is the recent release of IBM Cloud Satellite. Satellite, the company explained in a statement, helps organizations deploy and run applications consistently across all on-premises, edge computing and public cloud environments from any cloud vendor.

Basically, it enables IBM's hybrid cloud services anywhere: any cloud, on-premises and out at the edge. The release addresses one of the most recent, and arguably the most important, trends in cloud environments, notably distributed cloud. Among other attributes, distributed cloud involves running the public cloud on your infrastructure, using an architecture that overcomes two of the biggest problems organizations have with using public clouds, notably:

  • Regulatory issues when migrating applications to the public cloud.
  • Lack of control over your public cloud. IBM achieved this by integrating IBM Cloud Satellite with the Lumen edge platform to enable organizations to use hybrid cloud services in near real-time, making it possible for them to build solutions and work at the edge.

In practical terms, this means the platform can deploy data-intensive applications like video analytics across highly distributed environments such as offices and retail spaces and take advantage of infrastructure designed for single digit millisecond latency.

Chris Bergh, CEO of DataKitchen, a DataOps consultancy and platform provider that manages analytics creation and operations. He points out that the surge in IoT and mobility is becoming more and more critical to digital transformations is also forcing organize to the Edge. Data volumes are proving massive as a result, thanks to the countless devices enabled by 5G. Edge computing enables more efficient processing and at the same time, helps deliver more useful data from endpoints of new technologies such as VR, autonomous cars, IoT/ voice enabled appliances and others.

The key to delivering robust data edge computing to the enterprise lies in the analytics methodologies that turn data actionable. One way is though DataOps techniques, which provides the methodology, architecture, and workflow automation that can break down data silos coming from the edge processes. DataOps helps you take control of your analytic database.

“Under DataOps, the data engineer moves data from the numerous operational systems into a unified, trusted data lake and writes the transforms that populate schemas in data warehouses and data marts for data analysts and scientists,” he said. “The data engineer also sets up automated feeds from third-party databases. Tests verify data quality and business logic at each input and output stage of the data analytics pipeline.”

Democratizing Enterprise Tech

Edge computing is the change agent that will democratize AI and how people interact with companies. We will start to see more use cases leveraging edge computing to improve the customer experience, specifically in the areas of conversational-driven experiences, Anthony Macciola, chief innovation officer at Milpitas, CA-based Abbyy concluded. Conversation-driven experiences are the next wave of innovation that leverage content transformation, advanced RPA, and operational awareness, however, they must be frictionless, fast, accurate, and enable business to be completed — not just give a status or direct you to a live agent.

5G networks and smart devices will need to have the power to process AI conversations with no lag, as well as execute machine vision capabilities. This enables consumers to have more power in their hands to control processes.

For example, in an insurance claim scenario, rather than rely on a claims adjustor, edge computing would allow server side infrastructure to extend to devices and allow claimants to capture driver's license, insurance information, accident report, police officer's business card, photos of the damage, and a video walk around the accident. The insurance company's virtual assistant available through its mobile app could walk the claimant through these steps, confirming along the way that each step was completed successfully.