A confluence of demand is approaching Edge Computing and over the next five to 10 years will completely saturate existing data center infrastructure capacity. The drivers for this “Edge” (aka locality based demand) have been building for years from traditional sources like entertainment, gaming, and CDN. However, this push is accelerating as the technology for interacting with what has traditionally been mostly one way traffic (I.e., Netflix movies watched in your home), to more of a two way demand usage model.

Enter blockchain and the Metaverse which are filling in the final spots and teeing up a potential choke point of Edge capacity and capability. 

Getting closer to the customer via the Edge

There is much more demand for IT applications and infrastructure to be put where the customer is using it, whether it’s Latvia, Liberia, or Louisiana. And these demands are materializing in a unique way.. Why? There is a confluence of trends pushing for further development of Edge computing, along with additional technology trends that require consideration. 

Example: I need my application to support localization of data by country, even though the platform is supported in only a handful of central data centers. I also need that data to provide value in additional ways via localized analytics and compute in order to facilitate eventual blockchain user data management and authentication with lightning fast approvals. Lastly, all of this needs to support our efforts to make the Metaverse version of this available in real time and in each locale with an experience that will set our brand apart. 

While I have never personally worked on a deployment that matched the example above, these are the expectations that customers will start to ask for. This trend is something the entire industry needs to be thinking about.The example above will have a major impact on how companies localize data and connect with their customer. Therefore, enabling the Edge and creating an ability to generate new capacity while at the same time maximizing utilization of the capacity you’re responsible for is critical. 

Breaking down the potential

Demand for CDN (content delivery networks) will continue to grow as data pushed out will support Edge networks, increased gaming and more.

We all want data sovereignty to go away, but it is here to stay. Every new application deployed represents an effort to gain greater engagement with customers. This is actually the constitutional requirement of digital transformation and Edge and helps to drive the increased focus on what’s collected and how or where it’s protected.

Edge computing and its millions of potential use cases are also not going anywhere. There are drivers for using Edge versus centralized infrastructure and systems for many new applications. These include network latency, backhaul network cost and or a lack of capacity, data sovereignty, and autonomous operation. 

Digital transformation as hinted at above has three top priorities and the first two are the same, enabling greater customer engagement and loyalty. Some, if not all of this enablement will come from Edge located infrastructure and applications, as they are positioned to maximize customer experience while driving enthusiasm for your service or product.

Blockchain isn’t a traditional application or support infrastructure, so you wouldn’t normally think of it as Edge, but you’d be wrong, I was. As applications become more dependent on blockchain approvals and authentication, the infrastructure itself needs to be more distributed. Blockchain companies also need distribution to guarantee speed of transactions, reduce the risk of censorship, and limit exposure to one large infrastructure supplier.

Finally, the Metaverse doesn’t need to be some dystopian location where everyone eats bonbons from their barcalounger and stays glued to their VR headset all day. We all go to stores, we interact with friends, and we attend events. The metaverse will allow, among other things, an opportunity for us to create much deeper interactions and shared experiences in virtual spaces. Creating a metaverse isn’t as simple as building a new website. Interactions people have with your environment will include private information, high bandwidth transfer of images, data, etc., and will also require a high level of localization to mitigate performance, cost, and data sovereignty issues, and more. 

The bottom line

When I wrote about “The Edge Marketplace” in 2019 I believe I got some of it right, like the notion of the marketplace itself. What I’m certain I didn’t get right is the true volume of demand. In my article from 2017 about Cloud adoption, I came pretty close, but I wasn’t considering Edge, Blockchain, or Metaverse in my assumptions for the percentage of compute that would exist outside a cloud provider's hyperscale facility. Simply put, the demand for globally distributed computing is here and it’s only growing louder by the day. If you’re not looking at how you can leverage distributed computing to improve supply chain, customer engagement and more, you’re already falling behind the competition.