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The Future of Edge Computing: Not Just for IoT

Our good friend and advisor, Debashis Saha (VP Infrastructure, Intuit), just published a great blog in InformationWeek that underscores the Rafay Systems thesis:

Edge Computing is so much more than IoT!

With the continuing avalanche of computing demand and data moving compute and data closer to the user is now a necessity.

Edge computing is killing the cloud. Edge computing is another use case for the cloud. Industry experts are lining up on both sides of the aisle to argue their case. Many think that edge computing is driven by the emerging needs of IoT networks, but edge computing has far greater implications than just IoT.

What is edge computing, and why are we having this discourse in the first place? For that, we need to first take a look at where cloud and SaaS are going.

Modern SaaS and the cloud need better infrastructure.Modern SaaS applications, delivered by the cloud, are maturing to become massively distributed and tend to run true microservices decoupled from the underlying public cloud infrastructure. In many cases, even databases are being deployed in a distributed fashion. Interestingly, state is also being also distributed.

One big reason the cloud has seen massive adoption with enterprises and end-users is that the overall experience approximates that of a local compute resource, while delivering on the instantly available, pay-as-you-go promise that launched the cloud era. But we are beginning to see this “local compute” construct break down as apps are getting distributed across multiple regions and multiple cloud providers. This app distribution exercise is forcing developers to rethink high-availability and security strategies across all of their points of presence in the cloud. Plus, with apps consuming and generating massive amounts of data, developers have to investigate new ways to process these sizeable and potentially distributed data streams to create value.

The rise in dynamic content leveraged by apps to deliver superior end-user experiences is resulting in a distribution bottleneck. Traditional content delivery networks are unable to meaningfully add value to dynamic content, particularly when such content requires near real-time processing before being served to the end-user. Because developers have some level of compute privileges on the endpoints (e.g. in the browser context or within the mobile app), frameworks are being created to push more logic to endpoints. This type of technique works in some cases, but breaks down when it comes to VR/AR use cases, where the compute required to properly render experiences is much higher than is available on battery-powered devices.

The rise of edge computing

Edge computing, or simply the “edge”, can provide significantly improved throughput, better performance and real-time experience by moving both computing and data closer to the user, and by personalizing the processing that needs to happen for each user. Here are a few examples:

  • By ensuring all app traffic first traverses an edge platform, only traffic that must absolutely be sent to the cloud or data center gets forwarded. As a result, developers can significantly reduce an app’s attack surface, so bad guys have fewer opportunities to mount attacks against the core app stack.
  • Developers can significantly improve application performance and deliver a much better end-user experience by allowing for dynamic content to be generated for each end user at the edge.
  • By validating end-user identities and enforcing API routing policies at the edge, legitimate end-user traffic can be routed via the best path to the right cloud environment, making the edge an ideal platform for the enablement of a multi-region, multi-cloud app footprint.
  • Developers can craft data processing models that meet local compliance and privacy regulations, such as NIST CSF, SOC2 and GDPR, easily by ingesting data at regional edges.
  • Finally, by decoupling the “awareness” of infrastructure locality from application logic, developers can realize the vision that the cloud promised: true elasticity and on-demand computing, while delivering modern, real-time, performant and intelligently personalized experiences to end-users.

Edge computing isn’t just for IoT

Many industry analysts and technology pundits have been focusing on IoT as the primary driver for edge computing. This makes a lot of sense since billions of things will need to interact with a nearby edge compute resource. But when you consider that a ‘thing’ isn’t just a sensor, but could be a car or a drone or even a mobile phone, it becomes clear why we must think way beyond IoT when it comes to the edge.

With the ensuing data avalanche — predictions are that the global datasphere is expected to grow 10x to 163 Zettabytes by 2025 — moving compute and data closer to the user is now a necessity. This, in turn, will lead to many different edge computing “platforms”; the wireless edge, mobile edge, building edge. And yes, the IoT edge as well.

As VP of Platform Engineering for Intuit, Debashis Saha leads the engineering teams responsible for the platform, developer and application services that enable developers to be productive and innovate for our customers. Prior to this, he was the Executive VP and CTO for Jiff, Inc.; and VP of Commerce Platform Infrastructure at eBay, where he led engineering teams.



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