Will Big Tech dominate edge computing?

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has announced a global expansion of its Local Zones program, offering services typically delivered from the cloud from edge data centers close to its customers. While it may seem paradoxical that the world’s largest cloud computing provider would devote more resources to providing local services, the move reflects the interconnected nature of cloud and edge computing, and the extent to which Amazon and its Big Tech rivals have been key proponents of the emerging edge ecosystem.

High-tech edge computing

Edge data centers are becoming increasingly popular and large cloud providers are eager to take advantage of them (photo Kwarkot/iStock)

Local Areas will offer “compute, storage, database, and other AWS services at the edge of the cloud near large centers of population, industry, and ITaccording to Amazon’s announcement last week. Prasad Kalyanaraman, vice president of infrastructure services at AWS, added that being closer to its customers will allow the company to deliver the ultra-low latency and on-device data processing that have long been touted as key benefits of edge computing.

“The cloud edge is expanding and is now available pretty much everywhere,” Kalyanaraman said. “AWS Local Zones will now be available in more than 30 new locations around the world, giving customers a powerful new ability to tap into cloud services in just a few milliseconds from hundreds of millions of end users around the world.” .

Unsurprisingly, the biggest names in technology are keen to capitalize on the opportunity that edge computing presents. Until now, AWS and its cloud rivals have dominated edge deployments, but as the technology matures, they may find they have more competition for business.

Big Tech and Edge Computing: The Story So Far

The AWS Local Zones program began in the US, where there are now 16 active sites. Another 32 zones in global locations will be added over the next two years, Amazon says. So far, the UK is not on the list of sites.

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AWS also offers Wavelength, a platform for developing and deploying products and for the mobile edge using 5G networks. And in the US, it offers Sidewalk, a so-called “mesh” network that uses a small amount of bandwidth from Amazon smart devices, like its Echo smart speakers, in homes and businesses to provide stable network connectivity. in urban areas for connected users. edge devices.

Despite concerns about his potential impact on privacylast month Amazon announced plans to launch a ‘bridge’ device to help extend Sidewalk to areas where smart devices are less common, such as business parks, universities and public spaces. This suggests that Amazon remains confident that the network will be a hit with its customers.

The other two big players in the cloud computing market, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, have similar projects. google cloud offers edge services in locations around the worldand Microsoft is beginning to roll out its own edge zones in the US Azure users can also access Stack Edge, where they can request custom hardware for their edge deployments.

“We can see a trend in Big Tech companies towards developing their own edge infrastructure to bring their cloud capabilities out of the data center to the local cloud and then to telecom networks and finally to customer premises” says Alexandra Rotaru, research analyst at IDC. “The goal is to enable all types of customer workloads in different edge locations where it is more efficient and intelligent to deploy, reduce costs and improve performance through low latency.”

Big Tech’s interest in edge computing is likely due to two key factors: the expectation that spending on edge devices and services will increase dramatically, and the idea that enterprises will move more workloads to the edge to take advantage of lowest latency and highest security. As for spending, IDC expects edge computing spending to reach $64 billion by 2025 in Europe alonewhen Gartner predicts 75% of workloads will be processed on edge devices instead of in the cloud or traditional data centers..

Chris Drake, principal analyst for global IT technology and software at GlobalData, is skeptical that edge deployments will reach the level suggested by Gartner: The analyst firm predicts that the The edge computing market will reach 17,800 million dollars in 2025 – but says it’s inevitable that the edge will play a larger role for many companies.

“There are a lot of workloads that will require both the edge and the cloud, particularly if they involve AI algorithms that will likely require the cloud for training,” he says. However, he believes that the cloud will continue to play a central role for business users. “We’re not going to see a takeover by the Edge and the disappearance of the relevance and importance of the cloud any time soon,” says Drake. “But some services will change and there will be a gradual evolution.”

IDC’s Rotaru agrees: “Although the edge portion might be small at first, there is a huge opportunity for large tech companies to develop this area to include edge in their offering, as more and more customers appreciate that vendors can offer a complete technology stack,” she says.

What is the future of Big Tech and edge computing?

While Big Tech’s early edge implementations have focused on the general provision of its existing cloud services at the edge, more specialized use cases are beginning to emerge. Streaming giant Netflix was among the customers cited in Amazon’s local area ads. The company’s graphic artists, who previously used powerful, specialized computers, can now work on standard workstations thanks to the low latency offered by the Local Zone’s perimeter network, he said.

Other industries are also harnessing the potential of the Edge. “There are some interesting use cases in healthcare, being able to quickly analyze things like colonoscopy scans to determine if a tumor is cancerous,” says Kathryn Weldon, principal analyst for enterprise mobility and IoT at GlobalData. “There’s a lot of consumer and entertainment stuff, as well as anything that involves augmented or virtual reality training for businesses.”

Drake says Big Tech companies are likely to develop more specialized offerings for these types of use cases, as well as looking at how they can provide more cutting-edge services in hazardous environments where connectivity is an issue.

AWS already offers Snowcone to its customers, a device that weighs just 2kg and can store and process up to eight terabytes of data, and is designed for use by first responders or in harsh conditions where connectivity is limited. “This type of solution is useful for remote healthcare sites, as well as for sectors like mining, where autonomous vehicles might be operating,” she says.

Can anyone prevent big tech from dominating edge computing?

To date, Big Tech has typically partnered with telcos and equipment providers on its edge deployments, with the telco providing connectivity through its products and networks, and the cloud provider providing services. Microsoft, for example, has partnered with AT&T in rolling out its edge zones.

IDC’s Rotaru says these types of partnerships are likely to remain key to the development of edge computing. “Both types of vendors have different complementary capabilities that could be combined to offer an integrated edge solution and create a common approach to go-to-market,” he says. “Telecom providers are often expanding their core communications capabilities and adding cutting-edge services and features to connect every sensor, machine, or even person, and this is critical in many use cases or workloads.”

But big tech companies may have other plans. technology display has reported on the development of cloud-native 5G, where traditional network functions are delivered virtually from the cloud, and GlobalData’s Weldon says many telcos fear they will soon be out of the edge computing loop. “Many telcos blindly associated with cloud hyperscalers because they had been talking about the wonders of 5G and only late realized half the benefits of 5G without edge computing,” he says. “Now they’re starting to worry about these partnerships because in many cases co-monetization doesn’t exist, the tel is just providing the network and the hyperscaler is doing most of the work.”

Telecommunications equipment providers are forging partnerships with other technology companies. Nokia, for example, recently announced a deal with IBM’s former managed services division, Kyndryl., in which the companies will jointly offer edge network connectivity through private 5G networks, with Kyndryl managing the services. Drake says that more traditional IT service providers are better positioned to grab a piece of the edge market from hyperscalers. “Companies like Dell, IBM and Lenovo, which provide traditional data center services, are putting a big emphasis on the edge,” he says. “None of them are breaking their [edge] income still, but I hope that eventually, the edge will represent a reasonable part of the income”.

As for new entrants joining the market, Drake thinks that’s an unlikely prospect. “There are companies with interesting business models that offer more flexibility when it comes to cutting-edge services,” he says. “But more likely, if they are successful, they will become acquisition targets for big tech companies.”

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