Digital transformation is happening all across our society, economy, and various industries. The more it happens, the more data becomes necessary to thrive. Real-time data is especially valuable allowing for various entities — including businesses — to react faster and smarter.
At the same time, the library of available devices continues to expand, well beyond even IoT and connected tech. Smart and driverless vehicles, industrial equipment, renewable energy solutions, they’re all being upgraded and developed to both collect and process data.
Underpinning all these disparate data solutions is cloud computing technology, which helps to prop up things like big data and advanced analytics. Without the appropriate infrastructure, this data would have nowhere to go. Naturally, it also puts a strain on modern networks and data centers which must continue to grow as demand does.
All of these elements together, have helped spur the need for enhanced efficiency and power. One promising solution that has reared its head is called edge computing. It’s actually very similar to cloud computing, in general, except the idea is to move data processing and functionality much closer to end users.
It refers to a new style of architecture that is capable of computations and content delivery near instantly — we’re talking 10 milliseconds or less — serving end users faster than ever. It’s all carried out at or near the source of the data.
Because the computing is happening closer to the end user, most likely on a device directly or through a local service, it offers several benefits that make it more desirable than cloud solutions. For starters, latency or lag is less frequent if nonexistent. Privacy and security are enhanced especially if encryption is done locally. Finally, there’s a lot less bandwidth strain because functions can be handled on a device or closer to the users.
Automation and AI are helping to drive more rampant adoption of cloud computing, boosting the reliance on data centers. They rely on increasing stores of information, which alone calls for massive data storage options, but also for that information to be collected, processed and disseminated in real-time. Edge computing will naturally make this entire process much smoother and more efficient, by relocating a lot of the computing power so it’s closer to home.
But what does all this mean for data centers and their providers?
New demands, technologies and network solutions call for the adoption of edge computing elements within most data centers. Of the potential list of applications, IoT and AI-powered platforms require edge computing the most, simply because it speeds up the reaction and processing times. AI-powered tech especially needs to respond to commands and events near-instantly, a la driverless vehicles.
There will still be a significant focus on conventional and expansive data centers, and that’s not changing anytime soon, but alongside that is the growing need for edge solutions. It means that smaller data centers strategically placed will likely appear, and in greater numbers. These centers are positioned near highly-populated areas such as cities or business parks. Being physically closer helps decrease the latency and performance during service. It also means new opportunities for cloud computing and big data solutions.
In response, the big data and cloud computing markets will become more distributed and integrated with existing infrastructure. Imagine a micro data center that taps into a larger, remote facility while also using local telecom towers. The arrival of 5G networks — which is on the horizon — will only help to foster edge computing systems, even more, many of which will likely be placed nearby to boost communications.
Data center operations will clearly change to keep up with the market itself, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Security and privacy, as well as storage management, will become greater concerns in edge systems. The greater number of data centers coupled with the distributed nature of the technology will put a strain on security. These solutions will need to be implemented as part of the foundational planning and development process of most micro centers. It’s possible and viable, but still concerning nonetheless.
Either way, edge computing looks to play a significant role in the future of the data center industry. At this point, there’s no question whether or not it will change how the industry works, it absolutely will.
The real question is how everyone can leverage the new systems, benefits and opportunities that edge computing provides.
Kayla Matthews writes about data centers and big data for several industry publications, including The Data Center Journal, Data Center Frontier and insideBIGDATA. To read more posts from Kayla, you can follower her personal tech blog at ProductivityBytes.com.