In my last short-take blog on the “evolving edge” I threatened my readers with the notion of this follow up blog, can’t say I didn’t warn you. Similar to the last blog, only looking forward, this time, I want to just briefly highlight the areas of change that we’re likely to see over the next 7 or so years that will help shape and create the huge market that edge is due to become.
Seven years was just random
There isn’t anything magical about the period of seven years that I’ve chosen, in fact it’s really not a good number. Seven doesn’t get us to 2030 and it’s longer than five, which is an easier period of time to hypothesize the future against.
Most market/use case opportunities have been waiting for decades to be exploited
The opportunity of Edge, similar to the opportunity of the Internet, was always there. Booking a flight online would have been just as useful in 1984 as it was in 2004. At issue was the size of the addressable market and the cost to reach that audience at the time. Between 1992 and 1997 we reduced the cost of reaching each customer, while at the same time exploding the number of potential customers. Things like lower cost laptops, more and cheaper broadband services, standard browsers and http/https meant that the market was really ready to be exploited by even the dumbest of ideas, like the “Farting Zombie” app for the iPhone.
Technologies and services that will further enable Edge growth
Infrastructure as Code (IaC):
Most of us give the large cloud providers an aura of magic. Like what they’ve built isn’t repeatable because it’s magic. Don’t get me wrong, their scale is almost insurmountable, but their tech isn’t magic and IaC among other things is helping to make supporting heterogeneity in distributed infrastructure something most any organization can handle. This area of opportunity is improving dramatically year over year, and by 2029 you won’t remember why everyone thought infrastructure was so hard.
Dozens of services will go mainstream
Pick your poison; is it distributed database services or an AI service? By 2029 you’ll be able to license or SaaS that service both inside and outside the framework of public cloud. How about application distribution services and Web3 managed data privacy, yep and yep. The cloud providers did much of the hard work of the first iterations of the above services and dozens more, but smaller organizations will make them consumable for Edge deployments and on-premises IT.
Even as a data center geek, it’s tough these days to keep up with the innovation in this space. There are data center solutions for most every opportunity. You want to drop a box in a gas station parking lot in the desert, the broom closet of the local drug store or the parking garage of a small town and everything in between, there are options. You can deploy high quality, high efficiency, quick time to value, low maintenance DCs in days or weeks now almost anywhere in the world. What might be the most fascinating aspect of this improved set of DC opportunities is often the price point. You can buy Tier II/III DC capacity on a MW basis now for about the same as the hyperscalers were spending per MW to build 100 MW facilities just 5 years ago and it continues to improve.
There are already a wide range of edge players who have simple to use and easy to deploy cloud platforms ready for edge use cases. Whether you’re interested in BMaaS, private cloud at remote sites or public cloud like functionality across many locations the solutions available today are already amazing and are continuously improving.
When gold is in the hills, people figure out how to go get it. People (enterprises) are seeing the value in Edge (gold) and as a result they are figuring out ways to go and get it and real estate is a huge area of opportunity. To some degree this links back to the previous bullet on data centers, but it’s also more than that. Enterprising businesses have locked up opportunities from Cell towers in 100s of 1000s of global locations to parking garages in 10s of 1000s of locations. These options will provide low cost and improved time-to-value for anyone looking at the complex issue of small volume IT, near the customer and in many locations.
Maturing and continued adoption of Web3
Google announced just a few days ago that they were creating a large Web3 effort, it’s clear Web3 creates opportunities to solve troubling issues with security and data management at the edge as well as enabling the deployment of metaverse globally.
Key messages from the above bullets
Tools and services while in many cases disaggregated will be available to even small businesses who want to build their own.
In the past you might avoid building your own data center because; it takes 2 years, it’s a huge CapEx burden, it locks you into a location, it’s hard to manage….. These concerns and many more are being addressed through better financing, shared use/shared revenue models, the ability to repurpose, lower initial build costs, greatly improved automation and much faster time-to-value.
Everything we do today is complex, if it weren’t, there wouldn’t be security breaches or wasted resources in the public cloud. The difference is that we are accelerating towards tools and services that alleviate much of the underlying complexity, while allowing you to better utilize the best of breed or better yet, the best of what’s already available to you.
An underlying theme that runs across the above is that you can and will be able to create solutions based on the economic reality of what most edge solutions will look like - lots of locations, with only a few servers in each.
Long story short
I believe the above creates supporting context for my hypothesis that not only will Edge flourish to the tune of a $1 Trillion market by 2029, but that enterprises will have tremendous flexibility in what they deploy, where they deploy and what use case they can successfully deploy for. Picture a marketplace of solutions that can be aggregated into your own high value and agile solution set ready to quickly exploit new opportunities, edge or otherwise.
There’s no time like the present
Find help in building a vision on where (as they say in hockey) the puck is going to be in 2029, not where the puck is today. If you need help with crystalizing a formula or strategy for your business, then get it, but create a strategy you must. Around 8 years ago I started saying the following - those that find a way to differentiate with the customer by using edge will win the customer. Pre-determining the benefits to your customers/employees in User Experience/User Engagement improvements isn’t always something you can measure with a stick, but when you do it right, you can certainly see it in the bottom line.