Use cases, challenges and how you can get involved.

There’s a lot of speculation about whether edge computing will disperse the dominance of the cloud.

But what exactly is it?

A group of open infrastructure experts put their heads together for recent white paper (.PDF) to detail the what, how and when of cloud edge computing.

The OpenStack Foundation (OSF)’s Edge Computing Group counts members from AT&T, Cisco, Ericsson, HPE, Inmarsat, Red Hat, Verizon and Walmart Labs and the report aims to disperse any doubts: At its simplest, cloud edge computing means “offering application developers and service providers cloud computing capabilities, as well as an IT service environment at the edge of a network.” The basic characteristic of edge computing, the authors elaborate, is that the infrastructure is located closer to the end user, that the scale of site distribution is high and edge nodes are connected by wide area network (WAN) network connections.

Titled “Cloud edge computing: Beyond the data center,” the report details the core benefits (mainly reduced latency and mitigating bandwidth) as well as use cases, scenarios and current challenges involved in cloud edge.

Allowing that there are probably already dozens of ways cloud edge can be used, the authors outline some common use cases:

  • Data collection and analytics: “Internet of things, where data is often collected from a large network of microsites, benefits from the edge computing model. Sending masses of data over often limited network connections to an analytics engine located in a centralized data center is counterproductive…”
  • Real-time/immersive: “AR/VR, connected cars, telemedicine, tactile internet Industry 4.0 and smart cities, are unable to tolerate more than a few milliseconds of latency and can be extremely sensitive to jitter, or latency variation.” More on how this could change our daily lives here.
  • Self-contained and autonomous site operations “These could include transportation (planes, buses, ships), mining operations (oil rigs, pipelines, mines), power infrastructure (wind farms, solar power plants) and even environments that should typically have good connectivity, like stores.”
  • Network functions virtualization (NFV)
    “NFV is at its heart the quintessential edge computing application because it provides infrastructure functionality. Telecom operators are looking to transform their service delivery models by running virtual network functions as part of, or layered on top of, an edge computing infrastructure.”
  • Network efficiency
  • Security
  • Privacy “Enterprises may have needs for edge computing capacity depending on workloads,
    connectivity limits and privacy. For example, medical applications that need to
    anonymize personal health information (PHI) before sending it to the cloud could
    do this utilizing edge computing infrastructure.”
  • Compliance
Mobile will become a common environment for cloud edge computing.

How to get involved

The 17-page report winds up with a call to action. “We recognize that there is work to be done to achieve our goals of creating the tools to meet these new requirements…and encourage the entire open-source community to join in to define and develop cloud-edge computing.”

In addition to checking for updates on the OSF Edge Computing page, you can help shape the future by: // CC BY