Back in March 2017, Gartner’s Thomas Bittman concluded that cloud computing was eating enterprise data centres reflecting on the migration of enterprise data and compute needs to the cloud. More importantly, he predicted that the cloud will, itself, suffer a similar fate in a not too distant future driven by the significant shift of workloads and data and processing and business value away from the cloud to the edge.
Two-face edge computing
Under the umbrella of edge computing, cloud edge is one of two variants of this computing paradigm – the other being device edge, examples of which include AWS Green Grass and Microsoft Azure IoT Edge.
Cloud edge, early variants of which include content delivery networks (CDN), extends the data service provided by CDNs to include compute and network services.
The importance of cloud-edges is further highlighted in their relationship with 5G, which forms a symbiotic association with cloud-edge as a technological evolution of the cloud. Cloud-edge implementations promise new growth for the telecom industry.
The synthesis of cloud-edge and 5G presents an opportunity for communications service providers (CSPs) to provide complete end to end solutions for enterprise verticals.
For example, with their robust connectivity and 5G assets, the likes of AT&T, Telefonica, Verizon, and Vodafone could move up the value chain to service enablement layer for IoT, analytics, and other horizontal capabilities.
“A combination of cloud-edge compute and 5G ultra-reliable low latency connectivity is going to be the bedrock to propel post-COVID-19 growth. This growth is not just for telecoms, but also for a multitude of asset-heavy industries as they embrace digital-first processes and operations,” said Don Alusha, Senior Analyst at ABI Research.
Evolving business model
At present, there is no “right” business model for cloud-edge deployments. A key strategy for vendors like MobiledgeX, Ericsson, and Nokia is to target their products at the circumstances in which enterprises find themselves, rather than to enterprises themselves.
The critical unit of analysis must be existing operations and associated commercial circumstances, not the customer. There is a mass of enterprise requirements that must be satisfied with cloud-edge implementations that do not fit the ‘one-size-fits-all’ profile.
The ability to deploy edge-clouds across dispersed sites and supply chains in a uniform fashion is bound to be the defining feature to accelerate edge-cloud diffusion. This is particularly significant in a post-COVID-19 world where local compute, 5G, and fibre will continue to be the foundation for continued innovation and value creation.
As telecoms look closely at current market dynamics for cloud-edge opportunities, the key is to understand where it stands in terms of existing assets and complementary control points. The market for cloud-edge deployments promises growth, but it is composed of a plethora of players and technologies which must be intimately understood.
At present, the industry does not have all the answers but should realize the choke points in the near term to obtain growth in the long run. For example, CSPs need a clear sense of the industry or industries) they currently serve and what additional opportunity falls within the boundary of cloud-edge as they take the lead to rejuvenate the global economy post-COVID-19.
“Lastly, hyper-scale providers like Amazon and Microsoft are taking advantage of their lean operations to launch their cloud-edge offering. They have the vision to build capabilities close to the edge, but they do not necessarily have the penetration and distribution of network capabilities that CSPs have. Clearly, there is an opportunity to be addressed by somebody, but the jury is still out on who captures what parts of the emerging cloud-edge and 5G ecosystem,” Alusha concluded.