MetroConnect 2022, the annual conference focused on digital infrastructure held this year in Miami, featured a dynamic panel conversion on How Far to the Edge Will We Go? EDJX Co-founder and CEO John Cowan joined Andres Vasquez, CSP’s Global Segment Director Schneider Electric; Guillaume Crenn, Product LIne and Marketing Director, Ekinops; Daniel Fuentes, Senior Vice President of Sales – East, DataBank; Doug Recker, Founder and CEO of EdgePresence, and Eli Scher, Chairman, Open-IX Association (an organization focused on developing edge standards) as Moderator. The conversation covered smart cities, edge, and 5G applications, with edge being a key piece of the puzzle needed for meeting the needs of 5G infrastructure and the growing IoT sector. Panelists considered that while the edge is continuing to make a splash, many of the use cases, valuations, business strategies, and opportunities are still elusive, and in the course of the one-hour panel discussion, set to define the edge and what business strategies and opportunities exist near and long-term.
Daniel Fuentes referred to edge within the context of Databank as a colocation provider; according to Guillaume Crenn, today’s main challenge is that what we call edge is everything between the cloud and the connected object on the other side. Doug Recker partly defined the edge as building and deploying infrastructure where it is needed and gave illustrations of the building of modular data centers and providing connectivity that is partly the focus of Edgepresence.
Andres Vasquez kicked off by defining the edge within Schneider Electric’s positioning as a leading sustainable company globally. He emphasized that Schneider’s primary business is the belief that access to energy and data is a human right and that we can address everything we can to enable all the platforms needed to support this access. Edge is part of a bigger picture. Schneider Electric is expanding into edge data centers, and there is industry discussion about who’s investing for private edge data centers, in terms of what is the need, etc. Multitenancy – the mode of software operation where multiple independent instances of one or multiple applications operate in a shared environment – is critical to the successful economic model. Multitenancy is critical to further the economics of edge data centers
John Cowan defined edge in the context of the significant challenges EDJX is solving as the industry evolves toward the next generation of the Internet. Today, we live primarily in what we define as the third generation, which gave us mobile computing, cloud computing, social media, all the things we use day-to-day. But we’re at the dawn of the next generation of the Internet, the Fourth Internet, where we will endeavor as an industry and as people to connect 1T smart sensors and devices. That is the essence of what IoT will be – the idea that machines will ultimately be the big consumers of telecommunications and compute resources. And the reality is that cloud architectures are not built for that – a world where we need computers located close to all of the sensors producing the data, which is really what the edge is. The edge is computers located close to the origin of data. EDJX set out to solve the first problem: how to help developers build, test and deploy code and data at planet scale, wherever edge data ultimately exists. And that led EDJX to create the first solution for EDJX: EdjOS, an operating system for the Fourth Internet. EdjOS is designed to deliver all of the benefits of cloud computing hyperlocal, but connected over a peer-to-peer (P2P) mesh, to other nodes. We think about building the largest edge computing network of computers ever conceived. That is what we’re up to as a first-order problem. And then there’s a second-order problem: how do we scale this? Let’s think about all of the computers required to process the amount of data over the next decade and the Internet of Things. There’s not a single balance sheet on the planet that could facilitate that – we are talking 10s of trillions of dollars of spending required for the monoliths that exist in the third generation Internet to try and own the edge. And we think that presents an opportunity for the supply chain to collaborate and cooperate. EDJX is stitching together all the heterogeneous providers, whether telco operators, infrastructure manufacturers, or edge data center manufacturers like Schneider Electric. EDJX is working with putting that together as a heterogeneous supply chain with one view to delivering infrastructure, ideally within 1000 feet of every connected device on the Internet of Things.
And where are we in this evolution? What does the end game look like? Millions of connected devices and tons of information to be dealt with and the applications that are meant to function.
As we move into the Fourth Internet and Industry 4.0, this Fourth Industrial Revolution is predicated on an Internet of Things redefining event-driven software, putting machines and devices capable of infinite scalability and efficiency in place of human intervention. Computing in the era of IoT is moving out of the realm of the abstract – spreadsheets, mobile apps, websites, and software-as-a-service platforms – and into the real world to power augmented reality, empower decision-making via AI and machine learning, operate cars, and increase public safety. Compute is being developed to increase performance and at the same time reduce the e-waste of industrial machinery. Industry 4.0 is the autonomous age, and the autonomous age is edge. The key is to solve the challenges and complexities of low latency and create high-performance edge apps at planet scale by delivering multi-tenant cloud services at the far edge of any network, where and when the developer ecosystem needs them. This new capability will power the next wave of applications such as predictive analytics, autonomous machines, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. Critical digital infrastructure needed to enable autonomy, autonomous vehicles, the future of smart cities, and connected things holds short and long-term implications for adopting autonomous driving pilot projects. These topics discussed in Miami will continue to be top of mind for the foreseeable future as we design solutions to overcome the challenges to successfully operate in Internet 4.0, including latency, sustainability, security, and reliability.