Using the Wisdom of the Crowd to Project the Future of Edge Computing

Martin T. Olsen • November 19, 2019

Predicting the future of technology is both necessary and risky.

It’s necessary because change can occur rapidly, and, if you aren’t prepared, it doesn’t take long to lose your competitive edge (no pun intended). But it’s risky because technology change is maddeningly unpredictable.

The Wisdom of the Crowd

That’s why it can be helpful to crowdsource technology predictions, as Vertiv has done with the 2019 “Data Center 2025: Closer to the Edge” report, which represents the input of more than 800 global data center professionals.

The report, which builds on a similar effort conducted in 2014, encompasses a range of data center issues from renewable energy to future management practices. One of its highlights is the new data it presents on expected edge computing growth in the next five years.

The edge questions posed in the Data Center 2025 survey were framed differently than the questions on other subjects. In all other areas survey participants were asked to make predictions of the industry as a whole; the edge questions asked participants to make predictions specific to their networks.

That makes the responses to these questions especially valuable.

Going into the survey, we weren’t sure exactly what to expect regarding projections associated with the edge. The edge, as it is evolving today, is such a recent development that it wasn’t included in the 2014 Data Center 2025 survey.

Would the “crowd” validate all of the attention the edge is getting in the press or would they expose it as so much hype?

The Survey Says…

The survey results not only confirmed that the edge is growing significantly but could also serve to create a sense of urgency among organizations that expect to benefit from edge computing.

One in five participants said they expected a 400% or more increase in the number of edge sites they will be supporting in the next five years and more than half (53%) said they expected the number of edge sites they help to grow by at least 100%.

That gives us some insight into the pace of growth, but not the scale. Fortunately, the report delivers on that front as well.  

The 494 qualified respondents to the question, “How many computing sites is your company supporting today, and how many do you expect by 2025?” reported a total number of edge sites today of 128,233, an average of 260 sites per participant.

By 2025, those same participants expect to be supporting a total of 418,803 sites for an average of 848 per participant.

Those “averages” may be skewed by participants who had the most substantial edge networks and expect to add several thousand sites in the next five years, but when you think about how those numbers, which represent less than 500 organizations, extrapolate across the entire industry there is no denying the magnitude of the challenge the industry faces in the next five years.

Do we have the resources, technology and best practices to meet this growing demand?

New Use Cases, New Solutions

The answer to that question depends mainly on the availability of standardized configuration options that enable rapid deployment without compromising flexibility, and remote monitoring and management tools that minimize the need for on-site technical support.

Vertiv is delivering on both fronts. To simplify and accelerate the deployment of edge infrastructure, we’ve classified the most impactful current and emerging edge use cases into four categories that enable standard configurations that can quickly and easily be tailored to the requirements of specific applications.

Also, these solutions will deliver industry-leading intelligence and connectivity, supported by the capabilities of our global service organization, to reduce the strain on internal resources of managing increasingly distributed networks.

The projections for edge growth in the Data Center 2025: Closer to the Edge report may create some anxiety for those responsible for those growing networks. Meeting the demand for distributed computing will represent a massive amount of change in a relatively short amount of time.

But there’s also plenty to be excited about. New solutions will eliminate much of the hassle associated with edge deployment and management. And, think about the new uses cases this growing edge will enable: transportation will become smarter, healthcare more accessible, entertainment more immersive and much more.

At Vertiv we’re preparing for this future today. Are you?

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