Edge continues to be exciting as it emerges from the murky land of hype. The shape of the edge is beginning to take form as the perception of what edge can do matures.
And this perception is maturing rapidly, with a significant shift toward the view of edge as an application distribution platform that can address digital business’ core concern today: performance.
Supporting both better performance for digital services (applications and APIs) and latency-sensitive services, the emerging edge is definitely a target for a significant number of organizations.
At the top of use case prioritization isn’t directly performance but rather a significant source of performance problems—the collection, processing, and analysis of data.
The ability to deploy data-related workloads at the edge is not as easy as dropping static content or standing up security services. Neither is it simple to deploy the application workloads supporting digital experiences, such as web front-ends. Both require a more robust platform than is available with traditional edge (CDN) platforms.
And though these platforms are nascent, there is clear demand for them in the market.
More than three-fourths of respondents plan to deploy data and app distribution workloads at the edge. Those plans will come to naught without a platform capable of supporting the development, deployment, and operation of those workloads.
That platform is needed because edge is introducing new application patterns that take advantage of proximity to its users—whether human, machine, or software. It is made more difficult by the fact that these patterns also rely on deployment of workloads in core and cloud.
Edge application patterns are unique because they focus not only on interaction patterns but include flow of data and control. In this sense, they are some of the first application patterns to bring together both IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operational Technology) requirements.
For example, the term data within application architectures generally refers to business-related data. Customer information, product catalogues, and even order/billing histories. But as technology expands to the edge, operational data becomes a component of the architecture. Configuration and policies, for example, are unique data constructs that must be factored into architectural decisions.
An increasingly important category of data is telemetry: the data generated by systems, platforms, devices, and applications about their condition. This includes status, errors, performance, and other operational details.
But you’ll note the application and data workloads planned for the edge are only a subset of those needed to deliver digital services to market. A significant percentage of a digital service is supported by traditional and modern application workloads representing many different functions: account management, order processing, payment methods, legal agreements, and more. Those workloads are not viewed as “edge” workloads, but rather will remain either in core or cloud environments.
The reality of applications spanning core, cloud, and edge platforms may explain an interesting relationship between edge and site reliability engineering (SRE). SRE practices are strongly correlated with more cloud-like operations that improve efficiency, speed, and scale of delivery. An edge platform will need to be cloud-like in its ability to support the same style of operations. Based on our research there does appear to be a correlation between SRE and edge, suggesting that the adoption of SRE practices put organizations in a ‘ready state’ to reap the benefits associated with edge computing.
Whether it’s the workloads planned for the edge or the flow of data producing a new set of application patterns, all signs show the need for an Edge 2.0 platform with a focus on application and data distribution capabilities.
That platform is cloud-like in its inclusion of software-defined elasticity for infrastructure and network resources. It is application-oriented and integrates fully with toolsets across the application lifecycle. It supports distributed security and data processing and analytics capabilities. It pays attention to the ops experience, and offers the observability needed by SREs to automate and optimize delivery via automation and a unified control plane.
That platform does not yet exist. But the data this year shows a demand for it that will drive one into existence.
Welcome to the Edge 2.0 era!
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