Edge computing to gain traction in 2020: Forrester

More compute capabilities are moving to the edge of the network, thanks to a confluence of factors such as AI apps and the increasing availability of 5G and Wi-Fi 6. So what does that mean for your network architecture?


Network pros are starting to live on the edge—the edge of the network, that is.

While we’re seeing the emergence of edge architecture that brings computing to the edge of the network, 2020 could be the year it truly gains traction. That’s according to Forrester Research, which predicts this emerging category will ‘make the leap’ in the coming year.

That’s not simply because of the Internet of Things. Edge is gaining momentum thanks to a confluence of factors: the emergence of AI apps, the increased use of analytics and machine learning, and the parallel momentum of 5G and Wi-Fi 6, which serve as supporting technologies at the network’s edge.

By localizing data at the edge (via a user device, IoT device or edge server)—so it doesn’t have to make a trip to the cloud and back—bandwidth and latency are significantly reduced. This is necessary for many on-demand or real-time applications, such as collision detection for autonomous vehicles.

Related: Why edge should be on your radar in 2019

Multi-vendor innovation

So what does this mean for the year ahead? Forrester says there aren’t many single-vendor solutions that can address all aspects of edge, so we can expect to see more multi-vendor solutions.

We’ll also see more innovation from providers (including telcos and colocation providers) “to provide basic infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and advanced cloud-native programming services on distributed edge computing infrastructure,” says Forrester analyst Abhijit Sunil in a blog post.

“Due to ubiquitous bandwidth and connectivity limitations, maintaining edge computing platforms will drive organizations to work with integrators to support their edge computing solutions instead of building and deploying their own,” he says. “This is applicable across industries including retail, manufacturing, and transportation and logistics.”

Forrester also expects to see the development of more custom form factors in this space. Take Pensando Systems, for example. The startup by former Cisco CEO John Chambers recently unveiled its software-defined edge services platform, which will offer a highly programmable processor optimized for edge computing.

Empowered edge

Gartner, too, is predicting a big year for what it calls the ‘empowered’ edge. “Empowered edge looks at how these devices are increasing and forming the foundations for smart spaces, and moves key applications and services closer to the people and devices that use them,” according to a Gartner blog post on the top 10 strategic technology trends for 2020. “By 2023, there could be more than 20 times as many smart devices at the edge of the network as in conventional IT roles.”

But that’s not at the expense of cloud—which isn’t going anywhere.

Gartner also predicts various forms of cloud will be among the top three areas of investment by global CIOs over the coming year—while managed cloud services are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

“In fact, by 2022, up to 60% of organizations will use an external service provider’s cloud managed service offering, which is double the percentage of organizations from 2018,” says Sid Nag, research vice-president at Gartner, in a release.

New architectures

While edge and cloud don’t cancel each other out, edge computing does signal a shift in network architecture. As Jon Gold points out in an article for Network World, form factors “will shift sharply away from traditional rack, blade or tower servers in the coming year, depending on where the edge technology is deployed.” An autonomous vehicle, he says, “won’t be able to run a traditionally constructed server.”

The increasing availability of 5G could also make businesses reconsider their edge strategies, he says, to “take advantage of capabilities like smart, real-time video processing, 3D mapping for worker productivity and use cases involving autonomous robots or drones.”

Edge is gaining momentum, not just because of an increase in sensors, but because the network of tomorrow needs to handle the coming demands of AI, machine learning and analytics. And the future—at least in the tech world—is often closer than we think.

Images: Just_Super/iStock; ivanastar;iStock

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