The IoT ecosystem has expanded rapidly in recent years, and with it, an increase in data coming from endpoint devices.
But many organizations that spent the past decade moving data out of their own data centers and into the cloud are realizing that it doesn't make sense to send all the data generated by IoT devices to the cloud for processing.
One of the main concerns is the sheer volume of all the IoT data being created. IDC, the tech research and advisory firm, predicts that by 2025 there will be 55.7 billion connected devices worldwide, 75% of which will be connected to an IoT platform. IDC estimates data generated from connected IoT devices to be 73.1 ZB by 2025, growing from 18.3 ZB in 2019. Most of this data arises from security and video surveillance, but industrial IoT applications will also account for a significant portion of this data.
The cost of building the infrastructure and the fees associated with transporting all that data to the cloud would be astronomically high -- much higher than the financial benefits organizations anticipate gaining from many of their uses for gathering endpoint data in the first place.
Cost isn't the only issue with moving all that data to the cloud, though. There's also concern over transmission times. The speed of sending data to the cloud, where analytics engines would process the data and then return actionable insights back to those endpoints would in many use cases take too long. Organizations need near instantaneous results for many of their IoT deployments, where even a one-second delay could be too long.
Such concerns have led organizations to edge computing, a technology paradigm that puts compute resources physically close to the endpoint devices. Edge devices include purpose-built gateways and servers and even on-premises virtualized data centers and now "edge cloud" -- multiple, remote data centers located geographically close to the action and offered as a service.
The goal of edge computing is the same regardless of the actual device deployed in any given use case: to collect and analyze data from the endpoints and then use that information to drive follow-up actions by those endpoints -- all in near real time.
As edge computing and the IoT ecosystem more broadly continue to mature, expect to see the following five trends in 2022:
1. Spending explodes along with data generation
One research report, published in October 2021 by MarketsandMarkets, predicted that the edge computing market will grow from the already sizeable amount of $36.5 billion in 2021 to $87.3 billion by 2026, with a compound annual growth rate of 19% during those five years. The market encompasses a range of products, including hardware, software and networking infrastructure. Researchers cited "the growing adoption of IoT across industries, exponentially increasing data volumes and network traffic and rising demand for low-latency processing and real-time, automated decision-making solutions [as] factors driving the growth of the edge computing."
2. A growing list of vendors will provide edge computing products and services
Enterprise IT leaders looking to invest in their edge deployments will see a growing list of vendors offering products and services in this space. The market includes established hardware makers, including Dell EMC, HPE and IBM, along with internet tech giants such as AWS and Google selling distributed cloud edge. It also includes a number of new entries into the tech space and a plethora of startups offering software and services, such as distributed edge data management platforms.
3. The edge environment expands
The edge isn't one specific place. There's no set definition on how close to the endpoints edge computing needs to be to still be considered edge. The edge could be a ruggedized gateway placed in close physical proximity to remote sensors or it could be a local data center. Increasingly edge also could mean distributed cloud edge. Meanwhile, Forrester Research sees a growing presence of "data center marketplaces as a new edge hosting option," with organizations able to purchase compute space from smaller, local data centers in a cooperative marketplace aided by data center aggregators.
4. Telecommunications companies will play an increasing role
Telecommunications companies, which can trace their roots back to the 19th century, have an expanding role in the 21st century evolution of IoT ecosystems. They're increasingly using their infrastructure and, perhaps more importantly, their expansive reach that puts them physically close to nearly all potential customers. Telcos can offer both the edge computing infrastructure itself as well as supporting components, such as Secure Access Service Edge to support security in wide-area networks.
5. 5G boosts edge use cases
Edge computing is part of the larger IoT ecosystem, which still includes cloud. So as 5G coverage expands, and brings increasing speed and capacity to networks, analysts and researchers expect organizations to harness both the low latency of edge computing and the speed of 5G to develop next-generation workloads and new use cases that rely on, or benefit from, the two technologies working in concert.