Five questions that we need to answer about the edge
What I enjoyed most about being an analyst was that it let me indulge my natural instinct to ask questions. The most important part of my job was to ask questions about everything, of everyone, myself included. While I (unknowingly) asked the standard 5W and H questions rookie journalists do, the one I was always most interested in is, “why should anyone care?” When it comes to the edge, the answers are as multi-faceted as the issue itself.
I got to thinking about this after reading Mike Dano’s article about how edge computing might help address performance issues with videoconferencing. A few things jumped out at me. First was that many people assume that latency is the main or sole reason for application performance issues. I won’t claim to understand all of the underlying technical issues, but I suspect that Dean Bubley and others are right to say that it is more complicated than just latency. Software architecture, underlying hardware and more can impact the end-user experience. And if you’re talking about anything non-local, there are lots more places where latency can be introduced that will be unaffected by the location of the application itself. I was intrigued by the hierarchy of development needs from Cloudflare which states quite clearly that speed is not the only criteria and certainly not the most important one – to developers, at least.
I also noted the assertion that data sovereignty might be the “killer app” for the edge. This idea did come up a few times in my research, but it’s not nearly as sexy as driverless cars, so it didn’t get much play. Something not so surprising: Vendors are bullish on the edge. Of course they are. It (in theory) dramatically increases their addressable market. But a question: How close is close enough?
I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that there are still so many unanswered or unsettled upon questions. After all, “edge” is a location (or should I say, multiple locations), an architecture, a business model, an attribute – with the definition dependent upon who you are and what you’re trying to do. And like any emerging technology, there are fundamental questions about the edge that need to be answered:
What are the business drivers?
By this I mean, what will operators, enterprises, consumers be able to do that they couldn’t do before? Perhaps more importantly, what will operators, enterprises, consumers be able to do better, more quickly, more cheaply than they could before? Only after these questions are answered will we see deployments of any scale. Right now it seems like a land grab to position for the future since very few services need real-time processing. The $64 million question: Who will pay for those services?
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