Cloud is morphing into the hybrid cloud to meet the various data storage and management needs of industry. Already the next fine tuning of the data market for IoT is underway – at the edge, writes Anthony Savvas. This shift in the market is progressing rapidly, with plenty of support from vendors.
IoT sensors in homes, public buildings and vehicles can be better served by data centres at that edge of the network, close to them, being able to tell them what to do quickly.
To efficiently process data nearer to its source, whether from IoT sensors or 5G mobile masts, various service providers are deploying data centres at the edge to fulfil that need. The idea is to reduce latency in the processing of data by not sending it all to cloud-based data centres for full processing and then grabbing it back from the cloud to support processes and applications at the edge.
“Organisations that have embarked on a digital business journey have realised that a more decentralised approach is required to address digital business infrastructure requirements,” says Santhosh Rao, principal research analyst at Gartner. “As the volume and velocity of data increases, so too does the inefficiency of streaming all this information to a cloud or data centre for processing.”
Gartner’s prediction is that by 2022, as a result of digital business projects, 75% of enterprisegenerated data will be created and processed outside the traditional, centralised data centre or cloud – up from less than 10% in 2018. Research by Global Market Insights found that the global edge data centre market is set to exceed £13 billion by 2024, as more organisations set up their infrastructure facilities close to the source of data generation.
When it comes to applications like IoT and analytics for artificial intelligence (AI), companies want more control over data processing and storage at the edge of a network, rather than placing it in a centralised warehouse. The advantages include reduced network traffic, enabling real-time data analysis, lower operating costs and better application performance.
The telecoms sector is also expecting high adoption of edge-based resources. Increasing demand for 5G connectivity and the new use cases it can support are forcing operators to locate data facilities close to 5G towers to ease data management and improve security.
Given this background, it’s no surprise that leading technology vendors are rushing in to support the developing edge market.
Last year, Microsoft said it would invest $5 billion in IoT over the next four years. This built on the action it took in the previous year, launching network edge server systems in partnership with companies like Dell and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) to make it easier for organisations to connect IoT platforms to Microsoft Azure clouds to manage and process their data.
Julia White, corporate vice president of Microsoft Azure said, “We’re planning to dedicate even more resources to research and innovation in IoT and what is ultimately evolving to be the new intelligent edge. With our IoT platform spanning cloud, OS and devices, we are positioned to simplify the IoT journey so any customer – regardless of size, technical expertise, budget, industry or other factors – can create trusted, connected solutions that improve business and customer experiences.”
Martin Courtney, an analyst at TechMarketView, said of the investment, “Microsoft no longer doubts the scale of the commercial IoT opportunity now presented. And it is keen not to be outdone by its rivals – including Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services and BT Global Services – all of which are moving fast to stake their own claim in a rapidly growing market for IoT products and services.”
As for other major players, HPE has launched its Edgeline Converged Edge System solutions that promise to ease and speed the deployment of edge applications. Based on an open platform, enterprises can easily integrate a broad ecosystem of applications and operational technology (OT) devices, says HPE.
“This enables customers to act on the vast amounts of data generated by machines, assets and sensors from edge to cloud to drive efficiency and innovation,” the company said in a statement.
The new solutions include HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform, an open system that automates interplay between diverse operational technologies (OTs) and standard-IT based applications at the edge to support intelligent and autonomous decision making.
The systems management for HPE Edgeline is to ensure enterprise-grade reliability, connectivity and security. Or as Tom Bradicich, vice president and general manager for converged servers, edge and IoT systems at HPE, put it, “With this offering we enable our customers to accelerate the delivery of applications that capitalise on edge data, safeguarded by enterprise-class management.”
Nokia has launched an edge cloud data centre solution to meet the diverse low-latency data processing demands of IoT and 5G applications, while at the same time addressing the developing cloud radio access network (RAN) market.
The Nokia AirFrame open edge cloud infrastructure expands Nokia’s AirFrame portfolio, delivering a layered network architecture that “optimises performance and operator costs as they evolve their networks and prepare for 5G”, according to the company.
The new AirFrame solution is pitched as a supporting technology for applications like virtual and augmented reality, video and real-time industry automation as 5G networks are rolled out commercially.
Cloud RANs will be key to delivering on the 5G promise of ultra-low latency and massive data throughput, and will need to be supported by a highly efficient cloud infrastructure solution, which is what AirFrame is, Nokia said.
Its AirFrame Open Edge server is compact; small enough for deployment even at base station sites, enabling operators to optimise network resources. The solution intelligently distributes workloads across the network, based on the type of data traffic and the latency and throughput each type requires. It is analogous to how the now legacy multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) is widely used by telcos to ensure the right packets go to the right destinations, at the right time.
The new hardware solution is complemented by an Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV)-compatible OpenStack distribution, built to run in small data centres while providing the performance and low latency required by the edge environment. In addition, Nokia’s ‘cloud-wise’ services and cloud collaboration hubs are designed to help operators plan and deploy edge cloud.
Dimitris Mavrakis, research director at ABI Research, remarked, “Nokia’s AirFrame open edge cloud infrastructure distributes established AirFrame capabilities to the edge and offers a graceful introduction of edge computing. Its orchestration and feature compatibility with existing Nokia products provide for a lower friction transition to a distributed environment.”
The idea is that by combining the Nokia ReefShark chipset and its real-time cloud infrastructure software, the Nokia AirFrame open edge server will deliver “the right decentralisation” of 4G and 5G networks. Nokia said it could work with operators to ensure that data centres’ capabilities are deployed exactly where they are needed to manage demands as they expand their service offering.
Developing autonomous cars
The development of autonomous cars will be slow if all the data from the vehicles has to go to the cloud for processing, so AI car expert Teraki is working with Microsoft to streamline the process.
Berlin-based Teraki says it will enable the efficient, mass volume collection of sensor data from cars on the Microsoft Azure Connected Vehicle Platform. Teraki supplies the Intelligent Edge Processing platform for the automotive industry, building embedded software for within vehicles to aid the generation of efficient and accurate data preprocessing. The AI-based solution is designed to enable car makers to process vast amounts of sensor data within cars in an efficient way.
The pre-processed data ensures more accurate predictions and detection of events, enabling data algorithms at the edge to make better decisions.
Teraki Intelligent Edge Processing embeds in CPUand RAM-constrained chipsets in cars, and integrates with the backend for the storage, labelling, training and analysis of data.
High amounts of car data are required to train and develop new AI-based car models. Teraki claims its edge processing capabilities help by enabling ten times more data per test-drive to enter the cloud. This provides faster insights about the relevance of specific data streams for the training and model update process. And it helps in gathering more, high resolution data quicker, which speeds up training of new models in areas such as predictive maintenance or autonomous driving functionality.
Daniel Richart, CEO of Teraki, said: “We are providing a fully working data chain stretching from the individual sensors in a car up to Azure used by many of our customers in the field.”
MultiTech Systems introduced mPower Edge Intelligence, an embedded software offering that builds on the company’s established application enablement platform. It is designed to deliver programmability, network flexibility, enhanced security and manageability for scalable Industrial IIoT solutions.
mPower Edge Intelligence simplifies integration with various upstream IoT platforms to streamline edge-to-cloud data management and analytics, while providing the programmability and processing capability to execute critical tasks at the edge of the network to reduce latency, control network and cloud services costs and ensure core functionality – even in instances when network connectivity may not be available.
In response to evolving customer security requirements, mPower Edge Intelligence also includes a host of new security features including signed firmware validation, enhanced firewall and VPN settings, secure authentication and other capabilities.
The move towards edge networks will be driven by new alliances and new players, hoping to benefit from the biggest digital opportunity since the birth of the internet, delegates heard at the recentlyheld Datacloud Global Congress in Monte Carlo. At the Edgecon conference, which was held during the Datacloud event, Mark Thiele, director of engineering for edge compute at Ericsson, said, “Edge is an opportunity to work with people you wouldn’t normally be able to work with, including rivals, as the edge opportunity is so big and floats so many boats, there are plenty for everyone to climb into.”
He added, “In 1992, when the first internet was around we were messing around with Mosaic, lists and IP addresses not knowing what it would turn into. By 1995, grandma was using it, but most of us weren’t Jeff Bezos at Amazon who knew how to make money out of it.
“This is the next big opportunity though and we have to work together to build a network that can take advantage of it.”
Edgecon heard predictions of 75 billion connected devices by 2025, illustrating why new edge networks and data centres are required to make up for the shortcomings of the existing global internet, as it simply can’t cope.
Speaking at the new Finvest event, also held at Datacloud, Eddie Kilbane, CEO and co-founder of data centre services firm DataPlex Group, said, “The new edge networks will be built by new companies, not the telco incumbents as their existing networks are too old and cumbersome to build onto. The banks realise this and are ready to lend to make it happen.”
At Edgecon a number of companies announced they have set up the Kinetic Edge Alliance, which is an ecosystem of industry players that plans to share the blueprints necessary to deploy edge networks in various scenarios.
The Alliance is now calling for other companies to join it to have a better chance of success in the new edge world, and they would be wise to consider this invitation.