Think of cloud computing, and chances are you envision large-scale, centralized data centers running thousands of physical servers. But that’s only one, if the main one, among an increasingly diverse array of cloud possibilities.
According to Mark Collier, chief operating officer of the OpenStack Foundation, an organization dedicated to the distribution of an open-source cloud software platform, the need of most organizations for near-instant access to data and compute resources is driving them to the edge, to edge computing, that is.
As he explained the emerging cloud option in a recent column, “edge computing pushes applications, data and computing power services away from centralized data centers to the logical extremes of a network, close to users, devices and sensors. It enables companies to put the right data in the right place at the right time, supporting fast and secure access. The result is an improved user experience and, oftentimes, a valuable strategic advantage. The decision to implement an edge computing architecture is typically driven by the need for location optimization, security, and most of all, speed.”
By no means is edge a replacement for cloud computing, Collier insists. Rather, “it is the natural evolution. As more devices generate more data and more demand for compute and storage, it becomes more efficient to push cloud capacity to the edge.”
Telecoms are pioneering edge cloud, Collier says, with cell towers providing an obvious entry point, but he says many industries including retail and manufacturing are following closely. From robotics-driven warehouses to oil rigs to self-driving cars and hospitals, the use cases are only beginning to be defined.
“Eventually,” he predicts, “your mobile devices will be connecting to mini data centers in your coffee shop or even at the end of your street.”