By Ivan Kot, Itransition
As the world stepped toward connectivity and the amount of device-generated data increased, it became more difficult for telcos to keep operational efficiency high and remain competitive. To meet this challenge, providers had to rethink their approaches to computing and data processing, and that's when the edge emerged.
With its capability to improve network performance and decrease latency, edge computing drew the providers' attention and has become one of the game changers for telecommunications. Today, a growing number of enterprises invest in edge computing, so it is gaining momentum rapidly: by 2024, the edge technology market is expected to reach 250 billion U.S. dollars.
So how exactly does edge computing affect the telecom industry, what are its advantages for service providers, and is there a possibility that this technology will replace the good old cloud? We'll come up with the answers, but first, we should look a bit deeper into the terminology.
Where’s The Edge Between Cloud And Edge?
As it often happens with emerging concepts, different interpretations and lack of consensus cause inevitable terminological confusion. For example, when speaking about telecommunication software, the terms "cloud" and "edge" are sometimes used interchangeably, although this isn’t always correct.
The fact of the matter is that despite some common points (both concepts involve the connection of servers and the user via the internet), edge and cloud differ significantly. In the cloud, computing resources are concentrated in one place, while in edge computing they are located closer to the end device or user, at the "edge" of the network.
It is because of this conceptual difference that enterprises are increasingly considering edge adoption. While transferring data from central cloud storage to devices may be too slow or intermittent, with edge computing data sources and devices become closer to each other, making communication swifter and more reliable.
How Does The Edge Help Telcos?
Since the focus of any telecom company is data transmission and processing, the reputation of a business depends on how quickly and reliably it copes with these tasks. In case of even the slightest delays and disruptions, companies risk losing paying customers and even endangering human lives in the worst case.
Edge computing allows telcos to mitigate these risks and, at the same time, get a range of new business opportunities. In general, any provider that strives for improved performance, scalability, and cost-effectiveness can benefit from edge-driven network optimization.
For instance, typically IoT devices collect data at the edge of the network and transfer it to a central server located in the provider's data center; after that, the data is being processed and then sent back to the device. Suppose the central storage is located thousands of miles from the device (like when a provider operates in multiple regions). In that case, the entire data transfer process may be jeopardized by delays and bandwidth issues.
On the contrary, edge computing allows edge-powered devices such as machine endpoints and sensor arrays to gather and transmit data directly to the end user. This way, telecommunication providers ensure low latency across their entire networks and remain able to expand infrastructures as needed quickly.
However, the edge is not just about IoT; telcos can integrate and optimize workloads related to such technologies like AI/ML, containers, and virtual machines. For example, providers can implement AI-optimized edge processors to enable more widespread adoption of edge systems.
At the same time, combining the powers of 5G and edge computing, enterprises can achieve much greater bandwidth and set up communication for innovative applications such as remote patient monitoring or autonomous vehicles.
Will The Edge Replace The Cloud?
Of course, we cannot tell with certainty what the technological landscape will look like in a few years, and still, the complete replacement of the cloud with the edge seems unlikely. Given that both technologies have their specifics, either can find its place in the telecom industry. They also can be used simultaneously, complementing each other.
While the cloud provides users with easy and cost-effective access to computing, connectivity, and storage solutions, the edge improves the performance and speed of applications and devices. Thus, the edge may be great for reducing workloads when collecting and analyzing real-time data. At the same time, the cloud can provide a centralized place for large-scale analysis of this information.
Today, the telecom industry is at its breaking point, and enterprises look for new computing approaches to modernize networks and provide competitive connectivity. Telcos move their workloads from centralized datacenters toward the edges of their networks (closer to users and devices), and the shift may be more drastic than it seems at first glance. However, it's still early to dismiss the cloud, and often the combination of both the edge and the cloud may prove more effective at the current stage of telecom digital transformation.
About The Author
Ivan Kot is Customer Acquisition Director at Itransition, focusing on business development in verticals such as eCommerce, Business Automation, and cutting-edge tools such as blockchain for enterprises. He began his career as a developer, taking different positions in both web and mobile development projects, and eventually shifted focus to project management and team coordination.