Edge Cloud 101 [Everything you NEED to know]
Is Edge Cloud merely a rebadged Private Cloud?
The rise of cloud technology has enabled a huge centralisation of systems that were previously distributed across thousands of datacentres across the UK. One of the key benefits of cloud is the tremendous economies of scale that result in lower prices and improved service levels. By having multiple workloads on the same platform, everyone benefits from higher utilisation levels, less redundant infrastructure and a democratisation of otherwise cost prohibitive features like security and innovation.
So, whilst Public Cloud has been instrumental in creating this paradigm shift, it has become increasingly clear over recent years that Public Cloud isn’t suitable for everything – hence most experts agree that multi-cloud will be the standard for some time to come.
Multi-cloud recognises that different clouds are required for different purposes – and most organisations will need to mix-and-match different IaaS, PaaS and SaaS clouds, across different security domains and different locations (edge, on-premises, hosted or hyperscale).
How is Edge different to on-premises?
Whereas on-premises hosting has been used for a long time, the capability to push cloud services out to the edge is relatively new. The difference is location. Typically, on-premises hosting refers to the datacentre – which sit at the hub of an organisation’s network. This centralisation provides an economy of scale as resource requirements across the various sites are consolidated. This model has worked very well for traditional client/server architectures and supports trends such as thin clients (HTML5, VDI, etc) and ‘dumb’ terminals.
However, devices at the edge are increasingly becoming more ‘intelligent’. Technologies like Internet of Things has led to a proliferation of ‘things’ (devices and device types such as sensors), whilst the increased volume and variety of data that these devices are generating increasingly requires local storage and processing capacity. Hence, there will continue to be a demand for resources in closer proximity to the edge.
So, Edge Cloud is the further decentralisation of resources from the hub towards the edge. Public Cloud is the centralisation of resources from the hub to regional or global locations. They all exist on a continuum and the diversity of demands and trends will mean that these options will co-exist for some time. It’s not about Edge Cloud or Private Cloud or Public Cloud – its about finding the right mix of them all.
Is there a single Edge?
No. Edge can actually cover a range of locations:
- Device Edge (or endpoint) – this is where storage and processing sits on the actual device (e.g. Camera, Sensor, etc).
- Near Edge – this is usually within a couple of network ‘hops’ from the end device. This could be within a branch office or potentially at each Cell Tower / Base Station.
- Far Edge – this is usually an aggregation point where a large number of endpoints converge. In the UK, given the distances involved and the target (sub 10ms latency) – Far Edge use-cases can be delivered from national datacentres.
- Non Edge – beyond 10ms latency, we’re usually talking about regional or central datacentre facilities.
(Source: Gartner (Adapted from Bell Labs and Zeeta Networks)
What are the drivers of Edge Cloud?
There are four key drivers behind the Edge Cloud trend.
First is to do with latency – the time it takes for data to move from the device to the cloud and back again. Latency is primarily a function of distance – the greater the distance between the edge and the cloud, the more time it takes. This is challenging for use-cases that require real-time processing and decision making.
Related to this are issues to do with bandwidth. For example, high bandwidth applications like video surveillance could benefit from edge storage and processing to minimise the amount of data that actually needs to be transmitted, stored and processed centrally.
Third is autonomy – enabling devices at the edge to run independently. This is particularly important for operational systems where it is essential that services are uninterrupted regardless of connectivity to the centralised systems.
Finally, there may be security or privacy benefits in storing and processing things at the edge. This is especially true in countries which don’t have sovereign cloud service providers or public cloud data centres in country. In the UK, we have both options, so the security use-case for Edge Cloud is less obvious.
What are my options for Edge Cloud?
The key challenge for organisations is how to manage the large number of Edge Cloud deployment required in a decentralised model.
Vendors like VMware are promoting technologies like VMware Cloud Foundation which makes it easier to achieve consistency of operations and lifecycle management across multiple locations. Each of the hyperscale providers are promoting small extensions of their cloud platform – for example, AWS Outpost, Google Anthos and Microsoft Azure Stack Edge.
UKCloud provides the best of both worlds. We can build and operate an Edge deployment of any of our cloud stacks (VMware, Azure, OpenStack or OpenShift). Indeed, it is likely most organisations will need different Edge Cloud technologies to support different use-cases. For example, software defined 5G most often requires OpenStack, whereas many IoT applications may require Azure and more traditional Edge applications are proven on VMware.
How does Edge Cloud fit with Digital Reef?
Digital Reef focuses on driving digital adoption across a geographic region such as a town or city. This immediately brings technology closer to edge devices, users and applications – all of which will typically be using regional datacentres or public cloud.
Digital Reef promotes a couple of Edge related concepts:
- Edge Cloud – Digital Reef position UKCloud’s primary data centres as the “centralised data centre” with Fabric Edge Cloud’s being a local deployment of the UKCloud platform hosted within ‘the Forge’. This supports the latency, bandwidth and autonomy use-cases by providing storage and processing capacity close to the actual edge devices, users and applications.
- Edge Connect – Digital Reef recognises that their vision for a fully digital ‘place’ is dependant on abundant connectivity between devices, users and cloud services. For this, their proposition includes a modern 5G implementation based on software-defined OpenRAN technology which can leverage the storage and processing capacity within the Edge Cloud.
What are analysts and vendors saying about Edge Cloud?
Gartner tracks ‘Cloud and Edge infrastructure’ as a Strategic Technology Initiative. They state, “Edge computing is entering the mainstream as organizations look to extend cloud to on-premises and to take advantage of IoT and transformational digital business applications”. Their view is “Edge computing doesn’t compete with cloud computing but will complement and complete it. As noted in in the diagram below, edge computing is part of a distributed computing topology in which information processing is located close to the physical location where things and people connect with the networked digital world.”
Gartner’s view, “Edge computing augments and expands the possibilities of today’s primarily centralized, hyperscale cloud model and supports the systemic evolution and deployment of the IoT and entirely new application types, enabling next-generation digital business applications”, is depicted in the diagram below.
VMware has a similar vision, with their technology being able to span Public Cloud, Private Cloud, Telco Cloud and Edge Cloud:
(Source: VMware and Telco)
VMware describes Edge Cloud as:
- Providing a Common Platform – enabling applications to have a consistent infrastructure wherever it is deployed (even at the Edge).
- Supporting Dynamic Scale – Allowing applications to scale-out and simplify capacity management.
- Delivering Consistent Operations – simplifies lifecycle management by having a consistent operations capability wherever it is deployed.
Getting started with Edge and UKCloud
Here are some of the ways UKCloud can help you understand and adopt Edge Cloud:
- Commission a Professional Services engagement. Our experts can help you discover how you could benefit from Edge Cloud, and support you in creating the strategy and business case to accelerate your adoption.
- Our multi-cloud capability can be deployed at your Edge – mix and match technologies from VMware, Red Hat and Microsoft to meet your specific use-cases.
- Ensure you are able to manage and protect all your workloads deployed at your Edge using UKCloud’s Security Operations Service and Managed IT Operations Service.
- Request a meeting with our partners, Digital Reef, to understand how digital technologies such as Edge Cloud, 5G and IoT can transform your campus, town or city.