Edge Computing: Preparing Channel Businesses for Their 5G Futures

The demand for real-time, low-latency processing will drive up the value of the edge computing market.

May 12, 2021

6 Min Read
Edge computing concept

By Rob Tomlin


Rob Tomlin

Last year the world received a dose of 2020 vision that crystalised our reliance on digital platforms for connection and drove home the absolute necessity of technology in our lives. For some it was a powerful revelation, but for channel businesses it was a case of changing gears as we accelerated toward digital futures.

This year, the ongoing evolution of these digital technologies carries a special emphasis on edge computing. Edge continues to serve as the thread that sews the seams of our high-tech lives together today – and reinforces the fabric of our 5G-charged futures.

Better, faster connections are more important than ever as we continue to make our homes smart hubs for all our worldly needs – whether that’s smart TVs, personal assistants or security. Understanding this trend and helping customers to fully grasp the opportunity will be key for channel partners – and when it comes to the internet of things and edge computing, the ecosystem is everything. From robot vacuums to smart lights built with seniors’ carers in mind and poo-analysing toilets that provide personalised health recommendations, this year’s CES event put the smart home in the spotlight along with the devices we’re talking about. To come to grips with this trend means coming to grips with the human needs at the heart of the smart home.

Looking ahead to a hybrid world, where homes are comfortable and central hubs and cities evolve to guard our health post-COVID-19, IoT innovations are critical. This push toward smart city initiatives centers on edge computing solutions. Whether that means enhancing building security, home automation or city asset management, the demand for real-time, low-latency processing is acute. Along with the exponential increase in data and network traffic, it is driving up the value of the edge computing market. According to MarketsandMarkets, this is set to grow by 34%, by 2025 – from $3.6 billion in 2020 to $15.7 billion in 2025.

Edge Computing Is Inevitable

When looking ahead to dizzying futures of hyperconnected intelligent devices lighting up smart cities, it’s easy to get carried away. Channel partners know that edge computing isn’t new. Looking back 10 years, the first fax servers were set up to bring the old stalwart of office tech into the digital era – this was an edge technology. The difference now is that there is a convergence of ripe technologies accelerating our progress toward 5G speeds of connectivity. This is where the excitement stems from. It is also where the channel opportunity begins – communicating the possibilities, presenting the diversity of solutions and tailoring to specific ecosystems. Customers need experts that can make their smart home or city projects real.

Helping customers understand the fundamentals of edge computing will be key. Edge computing is tied closely to another component of the hybrid cloud, providing enterprises the opportunity to capitalise on smaller, more portable containerised services with modular servers. This reduces the distance between the point of processing and the consumption point of functionality within the network. It serves the needs of time-critical data processing – enabling real-time, reliable services where even a second’s delay in response is costly, whether that’s spotting an intruder at home or alerting the emergency services to a family member’s fall.

Another selling point for edge computing is the lower latency, which allows heavier workloads to be processed at speed. For example, workloads requiring AI-enabled analytics and real-time action — such as within an autonomous car or a home security system — will benefit from localised processing. Meanwhile, the opportunity to port what would previously have been a data center’s worth of servers, cooling facilities and bricks-and-mortars to a mobilised micro data center – placed closer to users for time-critical processing – makes …

… operational and financial sense. These benefits are massive and need to be understood fully by customers to really innovate in a strategic and purposeful way.

Ultimately, edge computing opportunities will succeed where they’re most needed. Those partners with a strong, trusted and knowledgeable relationship with their customers will be best placed to uncover the opportunity at hand. As a fourth component to the hybrid cloud, edge computing is the final piece in the cloud computing jigsaw. The on-premises data center remains an optimal component for more sensitive, less time-critical data. Colocation facilities in fully managed buildings and cloud service providers still have their place in the cloud mix. But for customers to optimise their digital services and innovate in the smart homes and cities of today and tomorrow, taking full advantage of that portfolio of opportunities and tailoring them to specific needs will define the successes.

Edge Computing and Our 5G Future

Not only does edge computing enable more responsive, reliable and human-centered applications for technology, it sets the foundations for 5G connectivity. One of the “Big Four” accounting firms KPMG believes 5G and edge computing technologies will be key to the global economic recovery as we move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. As the network matures across Europe, it is those with edge computing capabilities that will be poised to get the most out of the high-speed opportunity. As edge computing and IoT technologies converge, 5G will make it possible to handle incredible amounts of machine-to-machine data. Now is the time to lay the groundwork.

Industries like manufacturing, health care and transport eagerly await the full throttle of 5G and its transformative impacts. By reinforcing the digital backbone of the enterprise with edge computing networks, early improvements in productivity and efficiency can be achieved.

With many channel customer’s looking to reinforce resilience post-pandemic and gain the competitive edge, cultivating this understanding will drive further adoption of edge computing. Moreover, these benefits can be immediate across not only the enterprise, but for the human beings they serve, whether that’s through VR-enabled escapism, turbocharged gaming, super-efficient smart homes or robotic surgery and driverless cars. Building the future means working together with an ecosystem of channel partners with incisive insights and edge expertise – when done right, we won’t need to wait for tomorrow.

Rob Tomlin is vice president of channel for Dell Technologies, where he leads the United Kingdom’s Channel Sales organisation. He has been in the IT channel for more than 20 years. You may follow him on LinkedIn or @DellTechUK on Twitter.  

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