India is yet to auction spectrum for the launching of 5G services. But, the action today is in Edge Computing, which involves getting resources for applications close to end users, typically within or at the boundary of operator networks. This has resulted in companies distributing cloud computing across locations and resources. With data taking centre stage, commercialisation of the telco Edge has started.
According to IDC's new Worldwide Edge Spending Guide, the global edge computing market will be $250.6 billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 12.5 per cent during 2019-'24. What edge computing does is bridge the gap between the promise of 5G networks and the capability of the current networks to meet increased demand for services with the ability to deliver better experience for high bandwidth services. Edge computing will accelerate innovation, where applications and services be built across multiple cloud providers, and create opportunity for organisations to see telecom companies as more than just connectivity service providers.
Over the next few years as Internet of Things (IoT) applications generate huge amounts of data, by processing this data closer to the source, edge computing can help reduce network bandwidth. As 5G networks are rolled-out over the next few years, enterprises and service providers will continue to transform into hybrid multi cloud platform providers .
While industries at the cutting edge have adopted edge computing, now traditional enterprises too are beginning to adopt it to support remote/branch offices, retail locations, manufacturing plants. Even cloud service providers have recognised the need for processing data closer to source.
Marshal Correia, vice-president and general manager, India & South Asia for US enterprise open source solution provider, Red Hat points out that edge computing has decentralised cloud services and distributed them to sites closer to end users or data sources allowing applications to deliver a better quality experience. According to analyst projections, the edge services market is poised to grow 50 per cent this year alone. Adds Correia, "While we've started to see edge deployments across the globe with Vodafone Idea, Rakuten, Pluribus and others, we expect widespread enterprise adoption over the next few years."
In May 2020, Red Hat joined hands with IBM for a partnership with Airtel to build its new 5G ready telco network cloud to support core operations. This cloud will aid Airtel deliver better customer experience through enhanced network performance. Red Hat also joined hands with Vodafone Idea to enable it's IT and Network applications to run on a common cloud architecture. "With the deployment of our Open Universal Hybrid Cloud, we will be able to play a significant role in the future deployment of new technologies," says Correia.
Edge Computing needs hybrid cloud and open source to thrive. It turns the concept of cloud computing on its head. Where "traditional" cloud deployments are about centralising on a single infrastructure that can scale up as business needs dictate, edge is focused on "scaling out" geographically.
An edge deployment could be hundreds of thousands of tiny sensors which help provide real-time feedback to what the sensors are monitoring. This consistency is offered through the hybrid cloud - from edge devices to the network to the centralised data center, a hybrid cloud deployment provides stability to what would otherwise be chaos across a technology ecosystem. It enables IT teams to manage thousands of networked devices just as they would cater to their centralised IT system.
Any company deploying 5G needs to deploy compute resources much closer to the antenna to deliver 5G's low latency. Edge computing can similarly benefit an oversized number of use cases including utilities, transportation, healthcare, industrial, energy, and retail. For service providers, Edge computing can help improve the standard of experience of their customers by moving applications or content towards the edge tiers within the network hierarchy. They can also deploy a completely new class of services on the edge to take advantage of their proximity to the customers. As network edge represents a majority of the operator's capital and operational expenses, it is also a key area of interest for network modernisation efforts.