5G, AI and blockchain: technologies to unlock the edge computing opportunity

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5G, AI and blockchain: technologies to unlock the edge computing opportunity

This is a guest post by Tilly Gilbert, Senior Consultant at STL Partners.

5G, AI and blockchain are all emerging technologies, at differing stages of maturity. They have their own individual use cases and can deliver benefits to operators, MSPs, SIs and cloud providers in terms of unlocking new revenue and/or driving cost efficiencies. Something they have in common, however, is the potential for them to be key enablers of edge computing.

Why is edge computing an exciting opportunity?

Edge computing is an exciting proposition – it has the potential to change their core business and enable new revenues. However, in order to accelerate its deployment, all edge stakeholders (from telcos, to data centres, to tower companies, to application developers, to hyperscale cloud providers etc.) need to engage fully with the edge ecosystem and begin to explore the partnership opportunities that they will need. To do this, they will also need to understand the supporting technology which will enable edge computing. This is what we will explore in further detail below.

AI and automation

What is it?

Automation just means doing with machines something that before required human input or assistance. Artificial intelligence (AI) takes this a step further, using computing capabilities in order to perform activities traditionally associated with the human brain: thinking, planning, predicting, learning etc. Essentially, in automation, a human has written the script for the machine to implement, whereas in artificial intelligence the human will set the desired outcome or goal, but algorithms will figure out how to achieve it.

What might its role be in enabling edge computing?

With more distributed compute and storage (e.g. in edge computing sites across a country or region), this infrastructure will need to be run and managed without humans having to frequently visit the site. In particular, demands for edge computing will likely fluctuate – the amount of compute required at any one time will be different depending on user demand, for example. It is therefore particularly important that provisioning and orchestration of edge services can be triggered automatically, rather than relying on a human to move workloads manually as requests come in.

Who are potential application partners / ISVs working on this already?

MEC platform companies are looking to ensure that workloads are automatically managed between edge sites. This includes companies like MobiledgeX and Alefedge. Other companies are considering AI as a key possible use case for edge computing, such as Smart Embedded, who provide video analytics at the edge, or Solecular, who are developing a distributed AI platform.

Blockchain

What is it?

Blockchain and edge computing have unique capabilities that help enable one another. The key thing to know is that it is a technology that allows multiple parties to share a common, append-only database. This is useful for enabling transactions between organisations, departments or individuals without relying on an intermediary, by creating a transparent, timestamped history of every transaction.

What might its role be in enabling edge computing?

Application developers may need to rearchitect their applications in order for them to be hosted at an edge computing site. This will include interfacing with the necessary APIs to provide them with dynamic access to edge computing resources. Developers will not want to have to do this repeatedly and differently for each operator offering edge computing. Blockchain could provide a single interface that edge infrastructure plugs into, or, in other words, a decentralised edge computing marketplace matching suppliers of edge infrastructure with those who demand it.

Who are potential application partners / ISVs working on this already?

Difuon, Akash, Golem and Dadi are all working on blockchain-enabled edge marketplaces, the majority using the Ethereum framework.

5G

What is it?

5G is the next generation of mobile networks. It promises to be able to deliver lower latency, to handle higher bandwidths and to enable more flexible network services, such as network slicing.

What might its role be in enabling edge computing?

5G will enable new use cases that may also drive demand for edge computing. This includes use cases where latency has to reliably be under 30ms, such as telesurgery in healthcare or virtual reality applications both in consumer and enterprise. Additionally, next generation network services will require a level of virtualisation if they are to be flexibly spun up, configured and spun down depending on the requirements of the customer. As operators virtualise their network functions, this may be an opportunity to host third party applications at the edge too.

Who are potential application partners / ISVs working on this already?

More than 50 operators globally already have commercialised 5G offerings with many more taking part in spectrum bids throughout 2020. Several major operators are talking specifically about 5G and edge computing, such as Vodafone and Orange.

What should readers do next?

Edge IR readers should:

1. Ensure understanding of edge computing and the way that supporting technologies will enable it.

2. Engage with the edge computing ecosystem to build the broad number of parties that will be needed to deliver edge computing solutions.

3. Develop their edge computing strategy including understanding the key use cases, types of customers who will require edge computing and ways that edge will be delivered to them.

About the author

Tilly Gilbert is a Senior Consultant at STL Partners, specialising in edge computing, AI and automation. Visit STL Partners’ Edge Hub.

DISCLAIMER: Guest posts are submitted content. The views expressed in this blog are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Edge Industry Review (EdgeIR.com).

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