Edge – What is it and Where is it, a Final Answer

What is Edge

Of course, it’s not a final answer, that was just click bait. I’m bold, and I sometimes think highly of myself, but I don’t purport to have the final answer to most anything, let alone something as contentious as Edge. The idea to do this blog was inspired by a conversation last week that occurred during the weekly Cloud2030 events that @Zehicle runs. Other typical suspects involved were @TCrawford, @Rhm2k, @LawrenceHecht, @JoanneFriedman, @SarbjeetJohal and @GroberRocky.

I’m asked almost daily about Edge

No matter the number of podcasts, blogs, keynotes, video calls or other, where I attempt to answer the question posed in the title of this blog, I’m still asked, “what is edge” or “where is edge”. Historically, I’ve had the bad habit of describing edge in slightly different terms every time.

What I’ve been saying lately as a one size fits all (still probably inadequate)

Edge is an economic driven location. The more I say economic driven model, the more it seems to make sense to my little mammal brain. You might be asking, great, you like it, but what does it mean?

Economic Driven Placement

Every IT solution ever designed and deployed, is done so under the context of ROI. How much can I spend on solving this problem/creating this opportunity and have the solution either save more or make more than it cost to buy, implement and manage? Why should Edge be any different? There is context of course, like customer engagement and differentiation that aren’t as easy as some other targets to measure.

Edge is where the economics provide ROI for the creation of a solution in a specific logical or physical location

You wouldn’t put a 5G tower and servers with GPUs at the edge to help someone run a typical website a little faster, why, because it wouldn’t pay for itself. On the other hand, if the economic deployment model for 5G, Data Center space, GPUs etc. were supported by gamers who would pay more for the service because of the reduced latency, you now have ROI and that’s where the appropriate “edge” is. To provide even more clarity, edge for this gamer example might be 20 milliseconds, even though 10 milliseconds might provide an even better experience. The difference is the economics only support the 20-millisecond solution.

The beauty of it

There are any number of providers, including Edgevana (sorry for the sales pitch), that are finding new ways to lower the barrier to entry for edge-based solutions. In layman’s terms, we’re working at busting assumptions across the board as to the complexity and price points for having edge-based solutions deployed.

There are 1000s of examples of companies and individuals creating solutions that exploit the opportunity associated with different proximity assumptions (I.e., where the technology is located versus where the use is happening).

The above seems simple, but I accept that it might be either too simple or just plain inadequate.

Customer Experience – Should be an obvious consideration for Edge solutions

Edge is a palette of opportunities for creating differentiated customer experience. Once you’ve created an experience that drives new customer enthusiasm, it’s really hard for those same customers to go somewhere else. Even a perception of improved performance or deeper more engaging content can be the difference between being just another vendor and being the company people love to buy from and develop longer relationships with.

The key message

Stop worrying about the definition of Edge and start thinking about how adopting modern technology solutions can create differentiation for your business by being nearer to the action. This could mean that you take an existing application that employees use and push the security process to the edge so that work from anywhere (WFA) is more satisfying and productive, or it could mean you determine that a combination of low latency and a deeper application engagement model with customers might drive increased revenue, directly or indirectly.

The technologies supporting distribution of applications are here, the services to enable them and manage them, are here. What’s missing is the education, innovation and imagination on how these new tools can be best combined to create opportunity for your business.

Reader takeaways

Enterprises:

  • Don’t assume that the technology isn’t ready
  • Don’t assume that you should go forward on your own
  • Consider partnering, maybe even with coopetition
  • Think of the Edge as a brand-new internet – How would you have approached internet technologies in 1998 if you knew then, what you know now? Innovate, Innovate, Innovate!!

Supplier/Vendors:

  • Don’t assume that the future of Edge has been solved by current large incumbents, it hasn’t
  • Don’t look at deployments that are extensions of existing strategies, break the mold, reduce barriers to entry, remove future roadblocks on price or supportability, before they happen.
  • Don’t think you can do this alone