It’s that time of year again where we look into our crystal ball and issue our prognostications for the year ahead for what we think the future of the edge computing marketplace might have in store. To compile this list, we canvassed our in-house experts and consulted with customers and partners about the trends they see shaping the edge marketplace in 2022.
1. Edge computing will unite IT and OT to drive industrial transformation
Industries like manufacturing rely upon a variety of operational technologies (OT) systems to monitor and control devices and workflows in their environment — everything from simple temperature sensors to advanced industrial control systems. As these old school industries begin to fully embrace IIoT devices, they must figure out how to leverage all of the data that these systems generate without burdening their existing networks. As Rob High of IBM noted in our recent Spiceworks video meetup, “most IoT equipment these days now includes some kind of general purpose compute embedded in the device itself – we’re seeing this with everything from cameras to industrial robots.” Edge computing enables data to be collected and processed closer to where it’s being generated so it can be immediately put to use. Scale Customers like Harrison Steel are using edge-based systems today on the factory floor, collecting data thousands of times per second to keep their precision machinery properly calibrated. We have no doubt that the coming year will see this trend accelerate further as other industries embrace edge systems so they can bridge the IT/OT gap.
2. New applications and use cases will fuel adoption of edge computing
Practically overnight, the global pandemic shifted how we work and businesses had to quickly adapt to connect their remote workforce to the applications they rely on to stay productive. If we learned anything from this experience, it’s that where applications are hosted matters a lot. In response, we’ve seen an influx of new hybrid-based computing models such as metro-based data centers that have been built in close proximity to where businesses and users live. As a result, forward-thinking IT leaders are taking a more thoughtful approach to their application portfolio by considering the trade-offs of latency, network throughput, resiliency and privacy issues. As new use cases and applications emerge, we anticipate that new hybrid edge models will evolve alongside of them that promise greater flexibility and resilience.
3. Orchestrated edge systems will become a viable public cloud alternative
Public cloud services such as AWS, Azure and GCP have completely transformed how IT services are managed and delivered. As Scale Computing’s founder Jeff Ready is fond of saying, “the cloud just means someone else’s data center” and while the cloud certainly has its advantages, it’s not without its shortcomings. Which is why we are poised to see new paradigms emerge by which businesses can essentially build their own systems with similar capabilities of public cloud infrastructure, but intended to be run at the edge of the network. By clustering together fleets of autonomously managed edge computing platforms and distributing them close to where users live, organizations will be able to benefit from cloud-like convenience without having to compromise on performance.
4. Edge innovations such as zero touch provisioning will ease the IT staffing crisis
According to a recent Gartner report, businesses think that talent shortage is the biggest barrier to the adoption of 64% of new technologies, compared to just 4% in 2020. This means that in many cases, IT leaders hoping to deploy a new technology solution might choose to instead delay an important initiative until they have the requisite skilled IT resources in place. But what if you didn’t need to have dedicated IT staff at every remote or branch office location to keep the IT ship upright? Zero touch provisioning, which enables a centralized IT staff to remotely deploy and manage their edge-based systems from a single console, promises to be a game changer in enabling resource-strapped organizations to remotely administer their systems without having to hire additional specialized IT workers.
5. Edge-enabled computer vision will create new opportunities beyond surveillance
Digital video surveillance systems are another aspect of operational technology that live primarily at the network edge. These systems generate massive amounts of data that typically require localized infrastructure due to bandwidth constraints. While most of these systems are used primarily for surveillance and loss prevention today, we expect to see a number of industries — most notably in the retail and manufacturing sectors — begin to layer AI-based computer vision technologies on top of these systems to deliver new capabilities that will improve their operational efficiency and responsiveness. From applying computer vision to track inventory in real-time to using video analytics to generate visual heatmaps to enhance the in-store shopping experience, these types of innovations will require a fast and flexible edge-based infrastructure to realize their full potential.
While no one can say with any certainty what the future will bring, the one thing that we can count on is that for businesses to thrive, they will need to embrace technologies that will enable them to quickly adapt to changing market conditions. To see how edge computing can help you better prepare for an uncertain future, learn more about how Scale Computing is enabling the next generation of edge computing by downloading this informative Gorilla Guide.