What is the "edge"?..and what it means to be connected to it

Introduction

Over the next four to five years commercial tenants in office buildings and retail centers will need to use all the new technologies to be found in the pending explosion of connected things and real-time user interfaces that will fundamentally change their computing needs and network topologies.  Further, the architecture of IT will flip upside down, as data and content moves from a centralized core-located Cloud (the "Cloud), with its mega data centers, to the “Edge”, pulling computer data processing and storage with it. This huge increase of connected things that produce data is viewed by Gardner Research Inc. as the primary driver, but they also state that the interaction between people and things will become more immersive and highly interactive and dynamic.  Thus, a commercial tenant’s digital business needs will blur the boundary between the digital and physical worlds, with most of this "blurring taking place at the “Edge.”


It is Connected Edge Partners, Inc. (CEP) that is at the forefront in the enabling of these “Edge” locations that are located in improved and transitioned MPOE’s (minimum-point-of-entry) that we call Colocation (or Colo) located in the basements of our property owner partner buildings.  This is an upgrade to the usual and customary MPOE.  CEP’s Colo environment is non-discriminatory and carrier-neutral, one that will improve CEP’s property owner partner’s real estate valuations due to these points becoming valuable exchange and connecting-of-network-traffic points for “Edge” services between themselves (aka “peering”) and/or with tenants in the building.     

Carrier requirement: The "old" Cloud need only provide support to the "Edge"

Not surprisingly, we now find that traditional networks-based Cloud computing cannot fully meet the needs of the digital economy. It simply can't scale due to its centralized locations at the core of networks (typically at a mega-data center) in ways that meet the needs of the billions of things that will soon be "turning on" digitally.  It can’t meet the needs of people who are gradually shifting from textual browsers and apps to more interactive experiences and immersive technologies. Granted, Cloud computing has given us wonderful access, at the backend, to massive amounts of centralized computing and storage power, but it doesn't deliver on the front-end the kind of agility and physical/digital convergence businesses and enterprises require at the “Edge.” This “old” Cloud is simply too far away, as today the bulk of new data is not being created in the Cloud, it is being created at the “Edge.” And computer processing should always go to the data.

    

The “old” Cloud's priority is the reduction of computing costs, whereas the “new” Cloud, with its proximity to the “Edge”, has as its priority agility and the focusing on specific nearby use-case requirements.  Everything continues to compute at an ever-lowering of cost, so the value is in provisioning and storing whatever is out there, closer at the “Edge”, rather than transporting it great distances to a general-purpose centralized location at networks’ core. This tradition must be remodeled and CEP will do this by replacing and moving the functionality of these mega data centers closer to the source of the data (the “Edge”), anywhere near where the data originates and is received as data


So, centralized Cloud computing’s role is being dwarfed by the pending explosion of the more autonomous, more intelligent “Edge,” with all its IT-led growth and opportunities.  As a result, property owners with commercial and retail tenants should take notice of this fact and the fact that centralized Cloud computing is now shifting to Edge Computing wherein owners will need to be able to manage the transition of huge amounts of applications and data from the Cloud to their “Edge” locations that, ideally,should be located on their properties.  For the amount of data produced by things, the need to interact locally, and the need for real-time analysis will push computing to their commercial and retail properties, closer to tenants and the machines they depend on who are both at or near the “Edge.” 


Immersive technologies, real-time interfaces and the need to push computing and data closer to its end-users will all require low latency, (less network distances) requiring that the computing paradigm be flipped. And, automation at the “Edge”, together with machine learning, is becoming critical in a tenant’s relationships with its customers, with “Edge” application architectures that need to factor in latency, computing, location, technologies and autonomy in their designs.


(See our “Latency Challenges” page under “More” for a comprehensive analysis on how important the “Edge” is in addressing the issues of network latency as faced by both businesses and carriers.)

Automony thrives at the "Edge"

People and things on the “Edge” need 100% uptime, and can't rely on a remote network connection in order to function. Autonomy needs at the "Edge" must cut the real-time cord to the central Cloud, as people will expect low latency in everything they do.  There will be a day when the “Edge” will consist of millions of “Edge” locations, doing dramatically different things.  So there will never be a single “Edge”, even for one person, or one thing, but instead there will be many “Edges” that each offer different edge services for a location, for specific types of things or people.  It is this unique customization that Connected Edge Partners (CEP) partnered buildings will have, all based on in-building tenant needs, surrounding Smart City needs and the needs of interconnecting carriers.  This will consist of a variety of services offered by multiple edge computing devices located in the CEP enabled Colo.


Further, as things and parts of things connect and depend on connections with each other, dependency on a network connection to a distant core-placed decision-maker (i.e. "the Cloud”) will simply not be realistic. Things and people at the “Edge” need to depend on interactions, analysis and immediate real-time decision making capabilities that avoid massive single points of failure that are found as data travels to a core. And, as latency and backhaul costs push more computing to the “Edge”, using a centralized core Cloud interactively will become more and more undesirable when a carrier’s network design direction champions a more autonomous, independent “Edge” based solution that communicates only occasionally with a central core. Already, cloudlets (independent, portable Cloud services that don't require a connection to a central Cloud) are emerging that only connect when it needs to for connected things and immersed people.


Thus, the role of a centralized at-the-networks’ core Cloud, with all its coordination, aggregation, archiving, back-end machine learning, and traditional back-office processing, is shifting toward the “Edge” with the Cloud providers now gradually transitioning and extending their business models closer to the “Edge.”  These will be the first to gravitate to CEP partner buildings, as they find out and realize that CEP’s real estate partners already have the architectures and infrastructures (including backhaul) in-place to support edge services and technologies.   Thus, those property owners who aren’t partners and don't react to these new tenant needs and to the carriers desiring to meet these needs will eventually find themselves noncompetitive in the real estate marketplace.

HOW THE EDGE IS DESIGNED FOR OUR USE

The “Edge” of communications networks is where the Internet of Things (IoTs) and people connect and start to converge with the digital world. The ”Edge” today is your smartphone, your router, your game console, your set-top box, a local cell tower, your smart speaker, your laptop, a micro data center in a business or manufacturing plant or intelligence embedded into your connected car.  For Connected Edge Partners (CEP) the "Edge" is the improved MPOE-into-a-Colo environment that we create for our property owner partners, where it also provides computer and data processing and storage similar to today's Cloud, for, in contrast with "the Cloud”, which is located at the core or center of the Internet, the “Edge” is located physically close to the things and people creating and receiving data.  As a result, localized edge services can be delivered by software that is provisioned in the CEP enabled Colo via a wide variety of platforms and hardware for a wide variety of use cases supporting our carrier partners and in-building/centers’ commercial and retail tenants.  And, by necessity, we will have a hierarchy of computing services provided throughout its topology from the “Edge” to the central processing cores of networks, i.e "the Cloud."


There has always been an Edge” to networks, but what is new is how the “Edge” is being used.  Instead of the old “Edge” being the way to connect to computing and data centers at far-flung centralized mega data centers, a new ”Edge” is now the primary source of data from an explosion of connected things and people.  And all this needs to connect to each other, machine to machine, machine to people, people to people and people to machines.  Also, how people interact with machines and data is changing — from transactional (which can take place at a distance) to immersive (which requires data and computers to be physically closer to the person, due to latency requirements.  This historc change in what the "Edge" is matches similar previous changes in computing technologies.  For a perspective on this read below's "The "Examples of "eating" of computing technologies over the years." 

Examples of the "eating" of computing technologies over the years

The types of transitions we've seen with other technologies is repeating itself with the “Edge”.  We have seen these before and now we're seeing them again.  And yes, in the world of computing, the analogy of “eating” is often used to help visualize this change.


Early 1980s: PCs (with servers) starts “eating” mainframes and terminals, pulling computing toward the “Edge”. 

Mid-2000s: Smart mobile devices (and apps) starts “eating” PCs, pulling computing away from the desktop. 

Late 2000s: Cloud computing starts “eating” enterprise data centers, centralizing most data and computing into mega data centers.  And, while the “Edge” “eats the Cloud, a centralized Cloud will continue to have a role, although less in real-time, and less central.  For example, in the areas of: Coordination: Provisioning and updating both the “Edge” and the things at the “Edge”, with automated provisioning and remote management, as detailed below:


Aggregation: Federating multiple "Edges" (or parts of “Edges”) together — for example, all retail stores for an enterprise.


Archiving: Recording processed data or logs from the “Edge” for archival or later retrieval/processing.


Machine learning: While machine learning and training will take place at the “Edge”, longer-term learning, analysis and training models can be done centrally — with lessons learned pushed back out to the “Edge.”


Traditional back-office processing: Where real-time processing isn't critical, where scale matters more than agility, the networks’ core central Clouds may be more ideal.


Fallback Edge: Where there is a need to back-up the autonomous Edge, the central Cloud can take on that valuable role, albeit less efficiently and with less interactive agility.


And, starting in the early 2010s an entirely new class of user — the thing — started to emerge quickly, with connected things outnumbering connected people that are, importantly, net data producers, not just consumers.  This is expected to be followed by early 2020’s needs for human-machine interfaces that are multimodal, interactive and immersive.  These will be more the norm, as they will eventually “eat” smart mobile devices that only use apps and browsers.  Thus, the “Edge will eventually "eat" “the Cloud” because of the growth of the Internet of Things and the trends toward more immersive and interactive user interfaces, flipping the center of gravity of data production and computing away from centralized data centers and out to the “Edge”.


By way of further historic example, Gartner Research, Inc. has given us the example of computer mainframes that did not go away when PCs and servers emerged, but they did became much less dominant and became a much smaller percentage of Enterprise IT.  And, PCs didn't go away when mobile devices emerged, but PC sales peaked in 2011, and have been declining ever since. “The Cloud” will not go away either when an explosion of technologies and connected things become the norm at the “Edge”.  So, the “Cloud” of today is made up of centralized mega data centers, all of which are focused on economies of massive scale, self-service, automation and storage centralization and "back-office" processing, with data processing and its computing needing to be centralized. Yet now, with thousands of emerging Nodes being located at the “Edge” of networks, the “back-office” needs to move to the “front office” (at the “Edge”) so that the browser or an app no longer needs to “talk”  to data centers far away from the source (people or machine) with all its discrete request and response requirements.

Stores and offices living in a digital society

The “digital business” world is evolving in the context of a broader evolution to a “digital society” where it’s more than using digital channels to engage or interact — it's about the broader implications of immersive and interactive engagement between people and things, and between the physical and the virtual.  More and more physical objects are becoming networked together, with more and more of them containing embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with both their internal states as well as their external environments.  It is expected that by 2020, 20 billion "things" will be connected to the internet and as the number of connected things grows, the cost of connecting and its associated prices for sensors and cameras will continue to drop, creating a further accelerating of the growth of connected things and parts of things, all at the “Edge”.


All commercial and retail tenant businesses today must be “digital businesses” to survive, not only to use digital channels to engage customers (i.e. “digital marketing”) but also to execute digital transactions (i.e. e-business).  Because “digital business” is not simply about using digital technology to automate or replace existing processes, it is also about the implications of converging digital and physical worlds and creating entirely new businesses and industries and digital moments therein, moments driven by opportunities in which people, data, businesses and things work together dynamically to create added value. And, it is these needs that are fundamentally addressed for these tenants by Connected Edge Partners (CEP).


Yes, with an emerging “Edge”, legacy Cloud-based retailers need to change to an “Edge” based mini-Cloud structure.  They must do this, in part, because demands from immersive technologies, as well as the desire for immersive shopping experiences require that they create new mobile "virtual stores" closer to shoppers, closer to the “Edge.”  For example, it’s not by coincidence that Amazon (one of the world's premier cloud computing suppliers) will now, ironically, change its cloud-based retail architecture to extend virtual stores to the “Edge" when it makes its Whole Foods stores include “Edge” micro data centers for virtual stores.  This same scenario is also expected to play out at CEP Colos, as we also create, for property owners to control and carriers and tenants to use, similar micro data center capabilities at partnered buildings, allowing tenants (and their guests) to have the new business moments and immersive experiences that other, non-CEP buildings won't have.  With all this in-place CEP will also partner with Cloud computing vendors and suppliers who prudently will not be sitting idle while revenue opportunities move to CEP created Colo locations that are connected to the "Edge."

Connected Edge Partners, Inc. brings value to Property Owners at the "Edge"

HOW HUMAN INTERFACES WILL BECOME MORE SATISFYING, INTERACTIVE AND IMMERSIVE AT THE "EDGE”


Human-machine interfaces are coming that are more interactive and multimodal, with immersive technologies soon to be an important digital way that people will want to engage, particularly as the cost of computing continues to decline, and everything eventually computes.  This is known as ubiquitous computing, which is the opposite of virtual reality (VR).  Whereas VR puts people inside a computer-generated world, ubiquitous computing forces the computer to live outside in the world with people, where more interactive, immersive human-machine interfaces will force data and computing to move closer physically to people located at the “Edge”.  For example, smartphones are already used as augmented reality (AR) devices, and Gardner Research reports that by 2020, 100 million consumers will shop in AR, mainly using their phones.  And, as technology continues to improve, immersive technologies will become more integrated through various forms of wearables.  All this requires, more “Edge” interconnected nodes (Colo) to move augmented information faster to connected things and to interact with them in real-time for needed immersive interactions at the “Edge”.


For example, soon all sorts of businesses, offices and public buildings will light up with things that people will want to interact with as they walk and drive by them (remember the Tom Cruise movie “Minority Report”?).  And, rather than searching in a mobile devices browser for digital information about something or someone, we'll simply point the phone at it, or we'll just look at it.  And we'll engage with it.  And they will engage with us, all at the “Edge” where Connected Edge Partners' (CEP)  buildings will be connected with technologies that are fully immerseable.  Again, Gardner Research reports that the AR and VR markets (and headsets and glasses to support them) will go from expensive and niche just two years ago, to grow tenfold from 2017 to 2020 as immersive technologies become the expected way that humans will want to interact with businesses, things and other people — and this will create a profusion of new interactive "business moments" that commercial and retail property owners will want to leverage to be real estate competitive.


Further, as the name implies, Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), located at CEP enabled Colos, will allow content to be delivered locally with lower latency essentially caching content closer to its users.  So, as the source of data flips from the centralized core of "the Cloud" to the “Edge”, CDNs will also flip by, instead of being the cache for the Cloud, CDNs will be the cache for the “Edge.”  It is in this new environment that CEP will enable CDNs to develop at its partnered building’s Colo to cache data closer to the end-users located at or near the “Edge", and where interactions need to be much more immediate and truly interactive, where delay (latency) is unacceptable and where the bulk of data is being produced, consumed and analyzed.


Finally, let us not forget consumer concerns over data information privacy and security.  This too is addressed by CEP at its Colo at the “Edge” in ways that will make its property owner partners’ commercial real estate portfolios even more valuable as this issue continues to grow and as an explosion of new data and real-time contextual information about people are being produced, with all its new demands for personal data to be network-limited and restrained to the “Edge”.  


WIRELESS APPLICATIONS AND 5G DEPLOYMENTS AT THE “EDGE"


Commercial and retail property owners will also want to use its “at-the-Edge” location benefits to support carrier wireless applications and 5G siting needs (and its associated backhaul and bandwidth requirements) as the amount of wireless and 5G traffic is expected to explode exponentially, with its cost of backhaul encouraging users to process their wireless/5G raw data and interactions at the “Edge.”  This is also true for all the machines that have multiple wireless sensors and actuators that must connect digitally at the office and in the store.  It is also true of things that are interacting wirelessly in fleeting ways, as they move, as they travel, for it is backhaul costs that will force carriers (and tenants) to bring its wireless traffic to a CEP-like Colo at the “Edge” for localized cheaper distributions to networks and to, as needed, the larger Cloud.


Connected Edge Partners’ approach to wireless networking is pragmatic by encouraging its property owner partners to have wireless cell and 5G traffic and data collection points conveniently located on their properties and readily available for use and for peering at its provided Colo, as desired, with other carriers - all this within reasonable competitive costs, with mini-Clouds and mini-POPs contained therein.  Such close locations, provided by CEP partners, could replace (or at least augment) today's need for the use of local government's "street furnitures" of traffic and light poles, signage, etc. and will, most certainly, replace today’s need for 5G traffic to travel longer backhaul distances, with all its associated network disruption threats along the way.