ACCORDING TO GARTNER, some 10% of business data is created and processed outside a traditional data center or cloud at present, a figure that will rise to 75% by 2025. That means the “edge” is increasingly where the action is in IT. Edge computing is all about bringing compute and data closer to the user, with the goal of delivering real-time intelligence to help businesses increase efficiencies and competitive advantage.
Channel pros who want to get in on this action, however, will have to acquire new skills, develop vertical expertise or look to partner, and learn to explain the business benefits to their SMB customers.
If that sounds like a high mountain to climb, the reward is worth it, according to Sam Barhoumeh, founder and CEO of Ready Networks, an 80-person global cloud MSP headquartered in North Palm Beach, Fla. “There's a lot of benefits that the customer can get with [edge computing],” he says. “From an MSP standpoint, it stands to be a great revenue-generating vehicle for them as well.”
In 2020, the edge computing market was valued at $2.28 billion, according to MarketsandMarkets, and is expected to reach nearly $11 billion by 2026, with a CAGR of 29.4%. Driving this growth is the adoption of the Internet of Things, sensors and data analysis tools, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and other technological innovations that are delivering performance and productivity gains for enterprises across industries, MarketsandMarkets reports.
Barhoumeh puts it simply: “The primary purpose of edge computing is to actually simplify the customer service experience and allow things to happen faster, in a shorter period of time.”
Edge computing “helps reduce a lot of latency between the time that your data needs to get from point A to point B,” explains Chuck Ma, director of cloud strategy at Buchanan Technologies, a 750-person MSP in Grapevine, Texas. “It also can be a little bit more reliable, because now you're not having to go through so many hops.”
Ideal use cases for edge computing involve data that is urgent or business critical, explains Stephanie Atkinson, CEO and founder of market research firm Compass Intelligence. These include equipment maintenance and predictive failure, public safety communications, cold chain assets, healthcare, call centers, and more. She adds that not every application requires edge computing, and not all data being collected requires immediate attention. Rather, the focus should be on “things that are very vital or critical to my business, to my operations, to providing good customer service,” she says, adding that “we have to become smarter around the data that we do think is important for our business.”
Is Edge for SMBs?
With many technological innovations, larger enterprises are the early adopters, but recent research from Techaisle finds that about 74% of SMBs are investing in edge, and “99% of them have prioritized cloud, and edge is an extension of that cloud,” says Anurag Agrawal, the analyst firm’s founder and chief global analyst.
Techaisle calls edge “the glue that optimizes and empowers distributed work environments.” Agrawal says that SMBs who deploy edge technologies to improve customer experience or achieve better cost efficiency are finding some unexpected benefits too. According to his research, these include improved controls through better operations monitoring, increased business agility by improving processes, developing new products and services, lower costs through increased productivity and automation, and higher revenue from existing products and services (see chart). “So that makes it extremely, extremely beneficial for the innovative and forward-looking SMBs,” Agrawal says.