Living on the edge: The changing face of the data centre and public cloud

Due in part to the increased prevalence of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, it seems that more computing capacity is moving to the edge than ever before – and a lot of this is happening in the data centres that increasingly cloud-savvy organisations now rely upon. There are many drivers behind this change, including governance, security, regulation and IP protection.

Reducing latency

Moving datacentres closer to the edge can solve various issues, not least of which is latency. Looking into the near future with the likes of artificial intelligence (AI), there will need to be powerful analytics solutions located at the point of consumption, because network latency can be costly and even fatal to businesses.

Imagine the problems that latency could cause if we get to a point where AI is being used to support medical surgery, or if robotics becomes a critical part of vehicle navigation. These scenarios require real-time action and response — something that is prevented through latency.

A time to co-exist

That’s not to say we should forget about cloud entirely. When talking among peers, it is clear that edge computing and networks will co-exist for some time to come, and that a balance will be achieved based on use cases and business scenarios.

Moving to the edge doesn’t signal the end for core data centres. It’s about an appropriate use of edge and public cloud based on specific business requirements, rather than one being better than the other. The answer here lies in hybrid solutions.

A significant evolution

Going forward, we will see an increasingly significant evolution of the hybrid cloud model. People have been talking about hybrid for a little while now, but the evolution of services and architectures that support this model have yet to catch up to requirements.

That’s all changing now. Microsoft will later this year release Azure Stack, a solution that is very much all about putting services and capabilities at the edge, while ensuring that the benefits of hyper-scale computing and services in the (public) cloud are available when required.

The idea of buying a private version of Azure — with all of its inherent services and capabilities — and putting this at the edge to deal with latency, governance, IoT, security and other edge requirements (and doing so in essentially the same ecosystem), will prove to be a game changer.

Horses for courses

Businesses won’t move everything previously kept at the core towards the edge — they will pick and choose depending on circumstances. It is very much a case of horses for courses. We have lived through a period where public cloud has been seen as the bright new shiny toy, capable of solving all the ills of corporate IT. As the public cloud matures and evolves, people are naturally starting to see use cases where the edge has distinct advantages over centralised cloud scenarios.

Look at the differences between the edge versus public cloud. At the cloud end you have less control and less customisability, but better scalability and access to hyper-scale services that you couldn’t justify building for yourself. At the edge end, you have more control, more customisability, lower latency and the ability to apply greater control and regulation.

It’s about finding an appropriate use of these two models based on need rather than one being better than the other – the answer here is about hybrid solutions and building true end-to-end hybrid ecosystems that allow you to get the best of both worlds.

Embrace the change

With the release of Azure Stack, more businesses will be encouraged to put their services and capabilities at the edge, while ensuring that the benefits of hyper-scale computing and services in the (public) cloud are available when required. If a business can buy what is essentially a black box appliance supported by the hardware vendor and Microsoft directly, then all it really has to do is keep the lights on, so to speak.

This makes edge scenarios cost effective and easy to manage, but again with the added benefits of intelligent elasticity back to the (public) cloud, with little if any additional costs or changes required – true hybrid cloud that takes the benefits of both the edge and the centre and combines them together.

The idea of bringing private cloud capability back to the edge is one of the biggest game changers we have seen for some time. The other big public cloud players will undoubtedly try to keep up to ensure they remain relevant to the edge by evolving their true hybrid strategies – we know AWS is talking to VMware right now about this very possibility, so the wheels are already in motion. However, right now, it is Microsoft that has the edge.