TMT Predictions 2021: Intelligent Edge Computing | TMT | Deloitte Netherlands

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TMT Predictions 2021: Intelligent Edge Computing

Enhancing cloud services through 5G and the edge

The intelligent edge will make cloud computing more versatile, driving a new wave of innovation.

Cloud technologies and services have fundamentally changed the way in which we interact and transact. But the cloud is only just getting started. In the next phase, we will see many online apps and services move to the edge of the network (closer to end-users), fuelling another major step forward for the digital economy.

As it expands to the edge, the cloud will bring advanced applications, such as artificial intelligence, much closer to consumers and companies, making them more responsive and easier to use. As one leading semiconductor company has noted, we are about “to create an internet that is thousands of times bigger than the internet that we enjoy today.[1]” 

Although cloud services are very dynamic, they are currently also quite centralized. Most consumers and companies access cloud services from data centers hundreds of kilometers away, possibly in another country. This of course drives scale, with benefits in efficiency and costs.

TMT Predictions 2021

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Long distance computing can impact performance

But the downside of relying on central cloud hubs is that large volumes of data often have to travel long distances increasing both bandwidth costs and response times – some data-intensive applications, such as video analytics, image editing or immersive games, can be sluggish when they run over long distances, rather than on a local server or a computer. 

Major cloud providers, telcos, content delivery networks and other players are now deploying cloud solutions closer to end users. These so-called edge facilities will make it practical to use cloud computing to support very demanding use cases from real-time computer vision to remote control of drones.

The edge can also help with keeping the data close to home and address worries about potentially sensitive data travelling across international borders. In some markets, there are regulatory requirements around data sovereignty – the notion that data should not be transferred to a location where different legal rules apply. 

Welcome to the era of the edge

In its TMT Predictions 2021, Deloitte forecasts that the global market for the intelligent edge will expand to US$12 billion this year, continuing a compound annual growth rate of around 35%. By 2023, Deloitte expects 70% of enterprises to run some amount of data processing at the edge.  

For example, rather than relaying video images hundreds of kilometers to a conventional cloud data center to be analyzed by image recognition software, a connected security camera could send the images to an edge data center 10 km away or even much closer. Intelligence at the edge of the network would allow the images (or other data) to be processed and analyzed faster and at lower bandwidth costs.

In many cases, an edge data center and a central data center will work together, with the former acting as a filter for the latter. In the case of a connected security camera, an edge data center might filter out the 98% of frames in which nothing happens, only relating the remaining 2% of frames to a central data center where they can be analyzed by sophisticated image recognition software.

Alternatively, advanced machine learning algorithms could be deployed at the edge of the network. In this scenario, all the real-time analysis would be conducted locally - only specific frames would be relayed to a central cloud hub to feed models and training sets, which can then be used to refine the algorithms at all the edge locations running the same system. 

The edge and 5G go hand-in-hand

One of the major technological advances driving the deployment of the intelligent edge is the rollout of 5G cellular connectivity. The edge and 5G are expanding in tandem for two reasons. On the one hand, 5G provides the bandwidth to enable consumers and companies to capture a lot of data. At the same time, it is driving the deployment of new base stations – 5G requires a much denser network than previous generations of cellular systems. As a telco installs a new base station to provide 5G coverage to a factory, for example, it could also co-locate an edge facility designed to enable remote control of machinery.

Multinational telco Vodafone2, for example, is embedding Amazon Web Services’ compute and storage services at the edge of its 4G and 5G network. One of the companies looking to take advantage of the low latency of this new edge platform is HERE Technologies2, which is based in Amsterdam. As its solutions help vehicles detect obstacles ahead, and then send targeted messages to other road users to warn them, HERE needs access to both highly responsive and highly reliable computing systems.

Of course, edge computing won’t always be the best option. For many use cases, it may be more cost-effective to relay data to a central cloud hub than to deploy new computing resources at the edge of the network. The balance between centralized and distributed resources will evolve continually as new uses with new requirements emerge. 
  
The development of the intelligent edge creates new dynamics in the market, raising questions about which companies are going to deploy and manage edge facilities close to end-users. As the public cloud providers, telcos and specialist players jostle for position, edge computing may develop differently in different markets.

But these wrinkles shouldn’t obscure the big picture – edge computing, along with 5G and artificial intelligence, will shape the future direction of the digital economy.

[1] Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickmoorhead/2020/09/13/its-officialnvidia-acquires-arm-for-40b-to-create-what-could-be-a-computing-juggernaut/?sh=189e44e94973

[2] Source:
https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/industries/aws-and-vodafone-business-bring-edge-computing-closer-to-organizations-in-europe/

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