Who should pay for the Edge?

They say that money cannot buy happiness, but it can buy edge, and edge does not come cheap, as Abigail Opiah finds out.

Last year, the conversations around edge heavily focused on what it was, but now that the vast majority of the industry is expected to understand what it is, the progressive next step would be to look at the deployment of edge and who is coughing up the cash for its growth.

An example of edge monetisation includes things like autonomous cars or medical equipment providers that have deployed thousands of edge locations within hospitals.

Medical information is transmitted to the cloud, where information across all hospital deployments is aggregated and analysed to improve diagnostics, equipment performance and uptime.

Jason Rylands

Jason Rylands, VP International Sales and Strategy – Data Centre, German Edge Cloud believes that edge is being driven by IoT and IoT is driving efficiency, but for him it is all about the monetisation of edge.

“When you are doing an edge deployment, you have to ask why you are doing edge. Some of the reasons include latency and compliance. A lot of the applications that run in the cloud causes you to wonder whether someone will pay for that extra speed or extra performance because most of these things will run in the cloud and will get a performance boost but who is paying for it? This is the big question that we have for the telecoms for example because some would argue that the telcos should build edge,” he explains.

“However, as a consumer who pays their phone contract, will they be willing to pay for example $89.99 a month instead of $39.99 a month because they had to put in a ton of new infrastructure at the same time they need to build a 5G network? Probably not. It’s a question of monetisation and who is building it.

“It is very expensive to build edge. When you look at building a data centre, it used to be around $10m per megawatt to build a colocation facility, that has reduced and you can now see colocation built for around $6-8m per megawatt to build. If you build smaller than that, it’s a question of scale. It costs a lot of money to do smaller installations, which is why you don’t see a lot of people building small data centres all over the place because it costs money and who is going to pay for it?”


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Edge vs Climate Change

Talks of money can almost cloud one’s mind from an even more pressing matter regarding the edge. Sustainability. Unless you have been living under a rock, you would have noticed that the discussions surrounding climate change has geared up a notch over the last few months and protests are just the beginning of what may be a major fight for the wellness of the planet.

But can edge be used to fight climate change and will the need for low latency come at the cost of the entire planet?

Rylands points out the fact that there has been a significant increase in the build-up of data centres in the Scandinavian countries.

“Hyperscale players are moving into Scandinavian countries, and it is a good thing because these countries have the climate and the hydropower, thus from a green credential point of view, it makes more sense to build these huge energy-consuming facilities in places where you have renewable energy. When you start looking at edge data centres, it can be difficult when you have smaller installations to use some of the technologies that they use in some of these hyperscales to get the benefits,” he says.

In hindsight, the industry is taking great strides towards fighting the climate change fight, considering the fact that there are plenty of different aspects to take on board when deploying edge.

Are we ready for a sustainable edge that combats climate change? “The easy answer is yes,” says Jim Davis, Founder and Principal Analyst, Edge Research Group.

Jim Davis

“We will be able to build applications that help mitigate and/or fight climate change. Smart Cities initiatives are an example of how edge compute could contribute – better management of traffic flows alone could help reduce carbon emissions, for example.

“At the same time, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the underlying compute services themselves aren’t consuming significant power. They are. AI/ML applications are compute-intensive by nature; that’s why we’re seeing a raft of new companies designing new processors that are optimised for AI workloads and, in theory, will consume less power than general-purpose CPUs.

“That, in turn, suggests that edge computing service providers will ultimately be offering services that are optimised for specific workloads. There are scenarios where creating more localised edge data centres
can be perceived as net-neutral or net-positive but we are not really sure yet.

“As a whole, the data centre industry has done a lot more than other industries to realise the impact they are having on the planet. Is there a possibility that if we build out tons and tons of edge data centres we run the risk of creating a worst mess for the environment?

“I hope not, but that is a good question to start talking about. We might be in a situation if we are mindful enough, to create a more efficient grid. There is a need for an eco-system approach in building out these services. The next edge for some enterprises is inside a service provider data centre.”

According to a study from the International Data Corporation (IDC), 45% of all data created by IoT devices will be stored, processed, analysed and acted upon close to or at the edge of a network by 2020.

IoT will need the full assistance of edge computing to work faultlessly and effectively.

And although the conversation has moved on from ‘what is edge?’ inevitably, the follow-up conversations are now based on edge deployment, making sure it is utilising renewable energy resources and its monetisation.

In a sea of unanswered questions, one clear thing is that edge computing will enable new classes of low-latency applications, such as autonomous driving, to re-architecting the edge of the wireless infrastructure to enable 5G network transformation – there is little doubt about the potential of edge computing and edge colocation.

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