On The Edge
"We are seeing the pendulum swing back to much higher performance, localised processing for applications around the home, in business environments, supporting transportation and across city districts": Oliver Jones, CEO - Chayora Ltd
Cloud Expo Asia Hong Kong 2018 will be exploring the latest trends to hit the fields of technology and computing. One notable trend is Edge computing, the means of optimising Cloud computing systems by performing data processing at the edge of the network, close to the data source.
Oliver Jones, CEO, Chayora Ltd, says that there are a number of advantages to Edge computing. "The primary benefits lie in optimising network capacity (rather more than pure storage capacity) and performance and enhancing the user experience through instant responsiveness and interaction between devices across platforms." Oliver adds that with much higher processing capabilities in modern devices, the need for centralised processing of all data captured is starting to be removed. "The governance challenge is that in addition to legal compliance and support corporately, requirements for auditability, accessibility, data control and standardisation have to be managed requiring new and clear protocols for what matters’ and what doesn’t matter or matters less. This is made more complex with GDPR and the recent Facebook data distribution challenges."
So, what are the key developments and trends with respect to today's Edge computing? As Oliver explains, "Constant mobility requirements, incessant technological innovation and the march of 'sensors in everything’ through IOT is driving the development of localised edge computing. But this is not a new phenomenon, as many retailers, banks and others have been capturing and pre-processing data before uploading to central DC hubs for some time. What's new, however, is the speed of change, which as Oliver outlines, is 'seeing a swing of the pendulum back from a long-term trend towards central data storage to much higher performance, localised processing for many more applications around the home, in business environments, supporting transportation and across city districts amongst many more uses."
On the subject of speed, Edge computing trends are also exemplified in relation to driverless cars. "Major drivers (excuse the pun) include driverless cars as anticipated in many global markets along with more innovative transportation and to deliver services to meet insatiable consumer demand for more 'stuff’, faster," says Oliver. In terms of driverless cars, it is argued that very little of the data captured when moving needs to be held for any more than the milliseconds to which it relates as the vehicle will use it or disregard it. However, that is before lawyers get involved as whilst that presumption is right in technical terms, as we have recently seen, when accidents happen, all data is likely to be needed to protect the operator and address accident investigation. This presents a practical problem as an hour of a self-driving car will generate between 2 and 4TB of data, so the real challenge is how to transmit and download this if it is all required if the legal requirement has to be supported as will probably be the case.
Unlike some forecasters who see the demise of the centralised data centre, Oliver argues that we need to recognise that Edge computing is an extension of our engagement with the embracing of technology. Major data centres won’t just continue as Edge activity grows, instead they will become much larger hence the hyperscale developments becoming common today supporting public and private Cloud and the associated distributed edge systems linked thereto.
With respect to potential issues such as virus attacks and performance failures, Oliver comments: "Risks more readily addressed centrally such as virus attacks or hacking are likely to be harder to manage initially with Edge computing systems and only failures will highlight this. Performance failures will need new approaches, as the systemic collapse of future Edge networks could have very damaging consequences. The IT world of data centres and networks is still highly unregulated compared to other critical systems’ sectors (such as a modern aircraft). So, if and when large numbers of people die as a result of network or system failures (as was a risk in last year’s UK health service system hacking) and unfortunately this may become a very real prospect with mass adoption of many new transport or city control systems, new regulatory and investigatory bodies will inevitably need to be formed."
Corporations will also need to restructure their IT support teams in the future to cover much more diverse data capture points and input elements along with a much greater series of networks, such as personal, device dedicated, local area, wide area and corporate. "The manner in which data secured in these many ways needs to be accessible and held for relevant periods and must be searchable," says Oliver. "Retention of records and information today will look very straightforward compared to all manner of environmental and circumstantial considerations that the longer term Edge computing will require tomorrow."
A final point with regards to the future of Edge computing is that socially, nation states will need to be clear on the line between security and all-seeing devices and the demands for privacy to be respected in many locations. The lawyers are likely to have a field day!
Summing up the general future of this sector, Oliver concludes that "Edge computing is an exciting new chapter and is here to stay!"