By: Yiannis Giokas
For the last decade or even longer, the key driver for change in the information and communication industry and the overall technology domain has been the adoption of cloud. The cloud has enabled us to introduce elasticity to our environments, shortened time to deploy a new service, and increased the resilience of our infrastructure. At the same time, it has streamlined our cost structures by converting a large amount of expenditure into operating expense. A number of champions have emerged (like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM and few more) that have clearly dominated the market by becoming hyper-cloud providers with globally distributed mega data centers.
But the increased adoption of IoT, the need for faster decision making and some outages on major cloud providers have started shifting the market again. This tendency to transform the cloud paradigm was further leveraged by the inherent risk that such a dependency on so few players starts creating for businesses that have 100% of their infrastructure linked on such platforms, like Snap, Netflix etc. Meanwhile, the environment available to adversaries to penetrate is becoming clearly defined. This raises the stakes for these cloud owners’ security teams, since they know that they are the No. 1 target for anyone who wants to hack their site.
It seems that all these are becoming more and more of an issue for enterprises and even individual consumers. This is why we see edge computing, also known as fog computing, building up momentum. People are trying to create a more diversified, resilient environment.
This transition is further fueled by a number of trends like autonomous cars, 5G networks and the sensors-driven economy. Self-driving cars will create a new era for M2M (machine to machine) communication. V2V (vehicle to vehicle) communication will become a critical aspect of our future life and will require interaction below 10 milliseconds. The introduction of 5G will add so much load to the network that mobile operators and application developers will have to put in extra effort to offload both the backhaul and the core of these networks. They will have to move as many elements as possible, as close to the users as they can. Sensors are gradually taking over our homes, our health and many of our day-to-day activities in order to simplify our lives. Everything from connected fridges to smartwatches to diabetes measurement devices need computing power to operate and generate a huge amount of logs.
All these applications will also require some type of security in order to avoid being hijacked or hacked. In most connected devices, there are no computing resources to handle security. The cloud should ensure proximity in order to achieve the minimum latency. If you wait for a self-driving car to communicate a security solution to verify that there is no hijack or malware in each communication exchange, there will be a long delay. That delay can completely destroy user experience and the application itself. In order for autonomous cars to work, the security check and validation need to occur in real time.
This might lead to a tectonic change in the cloud services related industry, since the major cloud providers do not own the spectrum needed in order to reach the end user. They do not own the network on which their customer’s (enterprises or consumers) operate, nor the network that will be utilized by the future IoT devices. They do not have access to locations close to them. It’s telecom operators who own the network and all the physical locations nearby. They will have to capitalize on that and transform to edge cloud providers to get close to users. For the last decade, the telecom industry watched its margins skyrocket. A number of OTT (over the top) players utilized its investments on physical infrastructure, without having a way to respond or monetize.
Telecom operators, both fixed and mobile, should become edge cloud providers and launch such services in a form of a PaaS (platform as a service), bundled not only with their traditional connectivity products, but also with new innovative services like cybersecurity on the fly. This would help them enable application developers to take full advantage of the benefits of edge computing. Latency is going to be the new king. Telecom operators should offer a platform to build onto all application providers. This platform should have the least amount of moving parts possible so as to impact their service minimally.