2020 is All About Getting Closer to the Edge
2020 is a perfect year to move forward with perfect vision, even as technologies continue to converge and transform to support unprecedented innovation in an increasingly hyper-connected world. We are moving forward at a steady pace, evolving from the virtualization of the network to the cloudification of the entire network to mastering the very edge of the network. 5G is increasingly gaining traction, so what does that mean going forward?
Services: while moving to 5G and other modern communications technologies may seem daunting, once in place solutions including distributed clouds and Software Defined Networking (SDN) can simplify operations, drive exciting new services and reduce costs by flattening the network, removing components from a centralized core, and placing them closer to the edge. Advances in SDN, 5G and other technologies, building upon investments in virtualization functions in the core, can streamline the deployment of new services between the edge and core (where centralized cloud computing makes sense for specific applications).
Sophistication: more compute at the edge will also require investments in infrastructure for more advanced, resource-intensive technologies including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). With a simplified network that enables edge computing, more sophisticated analysis of data in real time will empower solutions including “self-healing” systems (for example, more automated management of networks, and closed-loop capabilities including resets and software updates that can be done without human intervention to keep applications running).
Systems Design: Edge computing adds the potential for improved network resiliency by providing alternate paths for data transmission and communication when architected and orchestrated in support of increasingly distributed groups of customers, employees and partners. Rather than establishing remote connections from a centralized location to provide access to data and services, infrastructure at the edge allows enterprises to utilize the applications and tools they need, where they need them, in a faster, more efficient and less expensive way. Those designing and engineering edge solutions must always think in terms of complete systems, not individual endpoints. Systems can be efficiently coordinated, automated and orchestrated only if there is a comprehensive strategy.
Security: As more data is being processed outside of the core, held in local storage, cybersecurity risks can skyrocket. This includes the risk of real time communications sessions (voice, data, messaging, video, collaboration) being compromised, so it is essential to consider security as part of any and every edge networking initiative. Edge networks will continue to revolutionize the digital economy, but given the expansion of the attack surface, policymakers are already responding to concerns with new technical standards and regulatory measures. Communications service providers are investing heavily as a result in not only security software solutions to protect the edge, but also in cybersecurity skills training.
Scalability: Software defined and 5G networks are already enabling applications that depend on ultra-fast communications at a very large, “industrial” scale. Autonomous vehicles, smart grids, public safety systems, remote medicine, and smart cities, factories, public transportation systems, universities, medical centers and more are already capitalizing on advances in AI – but we are only at the beginning. As a community, it is important for us to create standards, working with organizations like IEEE, 3GPP, IETF and many fine open source and standards groups to continue to collaborate, even as we compete in the healthiest ways.
There will always be a need for a robust core, for distributed systems, for cloud computing solutions and more, for real time communications, machine communications, and the crossover between human and machine interactions in the future. The real upside in 2020 and beyond will be the harmonization of the core and the edge, with the right architecture based on the requirements for each application, solution and system as networks “flatten out” to support the new tech stacks that make greater innovations and economic growth happen in the next decade ahead.