Moving to the edge: What’s the rush?

In fact, there’s good reason to rush to the edge, starting with financial.

David Williams, executive vice president, products and marketing, RF Code
David Williams, executive vice president, products and marketing, RF Code

By David Williams, RF Code

The edge looms large as companies figure out how to architect their IT solutions for the best use of their resources. This distributed network topology is driving many of the IT trends that underlie business models in many different sectors. As Gartner predicts, the processing of enterprise data is rapidly moving to the edge. And IDC points to a slow and steady increase in real-time workflows, a key driver of edge computing. Companies that aren’t adding edge computing to their IT arsenal are being left behind.

Why are companies moving some of their processing and storage out of core data centers and putting it closer to the point where the data is generated and used? It’s where the money is—in terms of improved operations, increased revenue, and better data analysis to enable real-time business decisions. Look to customer expectations of real-time computing in businesses like retail, banking, and entertainment; artificial intelligence and monitoring that enable manufacturers to optimize plant operations and increase productivity; and smart buildings and smart cities that are leveraging sensors and WiFi to make access more reliable and efficient, and to enable management and monitoring of utilities, services and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Think about the consumer market and the ever-growing demand for live video as people move away from cable and over-the-air television and turn to streaming services like Hulu, Amazon, YouTube and Netflix. Video traffic over the internet is expected to quadruple by 2022, to 82% of all IP traffic. If only 10% of New York City’s approximately 8 million residents want to stream movies from Netflix at the same time, that would require 1.6 terabits per second of network traffic. Without edge equipment to deliver and cache the data, network traffic from video alone would overwhelm the system and impact the viewing experience—and hit the bottom line of entertainment companies that are not delivering on their promise.

As the Internet of Things grows, both on the consumer side and among enterprises like manufacturing and shipping, it’s putting more demand on data centers. Gartner expects more than 20 billion IoT devices connected to networks by the end of 2020. Though the on-board power of IoT devices is increasing, they still have to send their data somewhere for processing. Edge computing reduces latency and improves the service to and from these devices. This enables real-time operations for consumers using services like smart lighting and smart appliances in their homes. For smart cars that alert drivers to road hazards in real time. And for uses like shipping, where companies can outfit containers with monitors to track location and alert the shipper if something goes wrong, such as a failure of refrigeration in a food shipment.

Retailers and bank locations use edge computing to improve customer service and increase revenue. Shoppers expect fast service; 85% expect in-store retail associates to be able to check inventory and pricing in real time with handheld or fixed devices. Banks and retailers use beacons and GPS to personalize in-store advertising with digital signs or to make localized offers via a consumer’s smartphone, and gather data for analysis. They may also use augmented reality or virtual reality to support customer experiences. Banks and other financial services firms are large users of edge computing because even a millisecond of delay in a financial transaction or stock trade can mean the loss, or gain, of millions of dollars.

Companies using edge computing are benefitting their bottom line by enabling their companies and customers to operate in real time, leading to improved operations and increased revenue and improved ability to analyze data. From any angle, the edge is where the money is.

David Williams is executive vice president for products and marketing at RF Code.

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