Real edge computing will enable new business models

Edge computing today may be most simplistically defined as putting an extra layer of computing in the network between your smartphone and a centralized data center in the cloud for some optimizing purpose.

From this original, slightly narrow vision, there is still some ways to go before realizing full stack relocations (e.g., relocation of an entire web server) that will allow true service enablement just one hop away from the end user device. Obvious benefits of realizing this vision include reduced latency and backhaul capacity reduction, but I believe there will be more profound benefits to operators and service providers in terms of new business model enablement, too.

Software-ization will be the key enabler

Ubiquitous software-ization of the overall networking stack is the key to real edge computing. Software-ization will enable the envisioned “full stack relocation” through virtualization technologies such as NFV and platforms such as OpenStack. More so, the inevitable software-ization of the underlying transport networks will bring about dramatic change in the networking fabric that can be leveraged for flexible and early termination of services near the end user.

Specifically, the control and user plane separation enabled by software-defined networking (SDN) technologies provides the basis for novel services being implemented as simple software extensions on top of commodity SDN hardware. This world will decouple network service providers from vendors of equipment, very much like decoupling application providers today from those selling a smartphone or laptop.

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