Exploring Edge Computing as a Complement to the Cloud

5G networks and the substantial shift to remote operations are making edge computing a new frontier for digital transformation in the enterprise.

Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer

June 8, 2020

4 Min Read
Image: WrightStudio - stock.adobe.com

The foundation being laid at the edge is driving some rethinking of infrastructure, remote work, and how organizations might best benefit from the advances being made. In a webinar hosted last week by Kentik, a network intelligence platform, experts from Cisco and StackPath discussed how the evolution of the network edge reveals new opportunities for the Internet of Things, remote work, and the cloud. Kentik CEO Avi Freedman moderated.

Ongoing remote operations at many organizations, due to COVID-19 quarantines, introduced unexpected elements and even accelerated edge computing’s growth cycle. “We are now the edge,” said Matt Price, senior director of IoT engineering and operations with Cisco. “We’ve moved all of the compute and networking resources that used to sit in all of our offices out to the edge.” Those moves introduced new challenges, he said, such as dealing with network congestion as traffic from remote sites is routed back to central locations. “We’re seeing the IT world become the edge very quickly and be forced into rethinking how they secure a mobile work force,” Price said.

The acceleration of how organizations use edge computing may lead to new possibilities in cloud computing. “[The edge] is a complement to public cloud and your private data center,” said Wen Temitim, CTO for StackPath. “It’s not replacing public cloud.” He said the edge can be where network-sensitive applications run, for example. That will require sizing up how those applications might run differently based on traffic flows and how much of the population needs to be served, Temitin said. “The biggest challenge is rethinking that application architecture.” The first step will be to identify components of the application that need to evolve to run at the edge, he said.

The definition of the edge can be relative, Temitim said. For example, hyperscalers and organizations may have a data center-focused edge. Others may see the edge as the collection of Tier 1 carrier hotels where different companies interconnect. Price said Cisco sees different slices of what the edge is; his primary portfolio item is a control center for cellular enablement and management for more than 150 million devices. “The edge is really the devices connecting to the cellular network and managing traffic flows from those customers,” Price said.

Cisco has seen this trend intersect with the industrial IoT space, he said, where the edge meets oil, gas, and transportation. “There’s some great use cases for the edge in pushing compute and networking out to devices that previously had not been connected at all.” This also makes the network complex to manage, Price said, as with devices from different sources and technology connected while maintaining seamless delivery of applications and functionality.

This year’s migration to 5G, Price said, in the cellular IoT market is enabling significantly more bandwidth and lower latency applications at the edge with no signs of slowing down. Carmakers, for instance, are getting on board with 5G to advance connectivity with autos. “The amount of data volume coming out of new vehicles with new capabilities is astronomical,” Price said. That includes the collection of telemetry data and pushing software updates to the vehicle. As more complex cars become available, the data flow is expected to escalate, he said. According to price, a typical internal combustion vehicle on 4G network passes along about 50MB of data per month. An electric vehicle on 5G passes along nearly 1 GB per day, he said.


The expectation of more data and computing at the edge has StackPath in discussions with telecos about the acceleration of mobility, 5G, and leveraging platforms for the future, Temitim said. “How do we get more applications and build an ecosystem at the edge?” Price said Cisco sees many of its customers pushing more work to the edge, where they need to manage a rapidly increasing pipeline of devices and resources. “Applications at the edge are now talking back to really complex applications in the cloud,” he said. “That enables them to do things that would be unimaginable four or five years ago.”


For more on edge computing and 5G, follow up with these stories:

How 5G Rollout May Benefit Businesses More than Consumers

How to Sharpen the Blurriness in Edge Computing

Get Your Enterprise Ready for 5G

About the Author(s)

Joao-Pierre S. Ruth

Senior Writer

Joao-Pierre S. Ruth has spent his career immersed in business and technology journalism first covering local industries in New Jersey, later as the New York editor for Xconomy delving into the city's tech startup community, and then as a freelancer for such outlets as TheStreet, Investopedia, and Street Fight. Joao-Pierre earned his bachelor's in English from Rutgers University. Follow him on Twitter: @jpruth.

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights