Over the past decade, organizations have gained enormous advantages by accessing computer services via the cloud. But now, tech disruption has finally caught up with cloud computing.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has driven the need for data processing to move closer to the source of the data — that being the actual industrial machines. This has meant that edge computing has replaced some of the centralized processing and computing functions delivered from remote cloud locations.
The reason is simple — when it comes to real-time processing, analytics and action, edge computing beats out cloud computing. However, the growing popularity of edge computing does not imply that cloud computing is history.
Will “cloud” or “edge” reign supreme?
The benefits of cloud computing are proven. It has a wide range of computing models, so its scope goes well beyond the context of IIoT. The ability to consume virtualized compute resources such as CPU, storage and network through an optimized on-demand cloud computing infrastructure has resulted in cost reductions and improved efficiencies for businesses.
Edge computing, on the other hand, is more suited for IIoT applications where the immediacy of decision making is paramount. Edge computing refers to the shifting of computing functions from the cloud to a location closer to the source — namely the edge of the network. (Get a full recap here.)
This eliminates the need to send every bit of raw data to the cloud for analytics and processing. Edge computing leverages locally deployed intelligent devices such as sensors, controllers and actuators to gather data, analyze against predefined parameters and initiate actions, all without engaging the cloud.
Because both models offer their own unique advantage, neither “wins.” Instead, the two architectures will coexist to make IIoT environments more efficient.
Cloud computing will continue to do the heavy lifting, handling functions like big data analytics, data storage, business logic and definition of rules. Edge computing will ensure that timely decisions regarding the production environment can be made and executed without the intervention of the cloud.
Why the cloud is so essential
The dominance of cloud computing in office environments is evident. Just take a look at a typical office, where cloud-based applications are ubiquitous.
Productivity applications, like Microsoft Office 365, Google G Suite, and Apple iWork products are delivered from the cloud. As well, enterprise business applications like Salesforce.com, Workday, and DocuSign have become the norm while ERP applications such as Oracle and SAP are now available from the cloud.
Voice has become a data application with hosted solutions becoming more commonplace, and telephony call control sits in a cloud computing infrastructure somewhere geographically removed from the office. Communications and collaboration applications, like WebEx, Skype and Zoom Video Communication have displaced customer premise hardware and tools. Marketing departments leverage WordPress, MailChimp and big data analytics to improve the efficiency of their campaigns.
The consumer segment is no different. Over the past ten years, the FAANG companies (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) have all become integral parts of our social and digital lives. Their businesses rely on the scale and power of cloud computing.
The sky’s the limit for cloud computing
There is no indication that any of this is going away soon. Gartner’s Worldwide Public Cloud Services Revenue Forecast, published late last year, projects that the cloud computing market will grow to a whopping $411 billion by the year 2020.
The report goes on to say that Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) — the two components that businesses are likely to use — will continue to show significant growth over the coming years.
And just a few years ago, a “cloud-only” consumption model would have sounded like an improbable paradigm. But according to Sid Nag, Research Director at Gartner, “By 2019, more than 30 per cent of the 100 largest vendors’ new software investments will have shifted from cloud-first to cloud-only.”
Still, that won’t happen without the inclusion of edge computing…
The rise of edge computing
The proliferation of IoT devices and applications has had a direct bearing on the growth of edge computing. According to IDC’s Worldwide IoT 2018 Predictions, “By 2020, IT spend on Edge Infrastructure will reach up to 18 per cent of the total spend on IOT infrastructure.”
Industries such as oil and gas, power utilities, aerospace, automotive and others have spearheaded the way and leveraged edge computing to optimize their IIoT integrated operations.
Edge computing delivers clear benefits to IIoT. These include reduced network latency, lower bandwidth costs, improved response times, enhanced reliability and tighter security.
Cloud computing and edge computing are not competing architectures. Even within the narrower context of IIoT, they are complementary functions that work in tandem to improve the operational efficiency of industries. Both cloud computing and edge computing are here to stay. It’s the nature of your business that will determine the right mix.