Every organization’s journey to operational success looks a little different. While to date the conversations have hovered around the cloud and how businesses can use it to scale operations, the network edge has emerged as another hot point of discussion as companies embrace digital transformation strategies. But what is the edge and how can businesses use it in real-time to drive business improvement?
Recognizing there is a dearth of information that tackles both the business and technology aspects of the edge, longtime industry analyst Maribel Lopez of Lopez Research and cloud and security expert Jo Peterson of Clarify360 have teamed up to launch the Elevate the Edge podcast. The goal: Bring users real-world tales from the edge so they can experience firsthand the journey of edge adopters and organizations. Each podcast features tips and tricks to help companies avoid pitfalls and find edge success.
PR Vibes sat down with Lopez and Peterson to learn more about why they started the podcast, how they define the edge, and the role of vertical markets in personalizing edge implementations.
PR Vibes: People define the edge quite differently. What do you feel the best definition is?
Maribel Lopez: I kind of go broad with my definition of the edge: Anything that’s outside of a centralized data center. Depending on who you’re speaking to, the edge is very different for each specific use case.
For example, if you talk to somebody in manufacturing, the edge is things that are inside the manufacturing plant that they’re trying to control. It could be a robotic arm or a camera that is looking at the line to see if there are defects. In logistics, sometimes the edge is the truck that’s delivering your package, and sometimes it’s actually the package.
We have people in the healthcare field, for example, when they were looking at distributing COVID vaccines, they have to be kept at a certain temperature, so they have temperature IoT sensors in the box that the medicine is in. That’s actually a really different version of the edge. For some people, it’s the mobile phone. For others, it’s the data center that’s a mile from their office. Those are all different definitions of the edge.
Jo Peterson: Also, we’re starting to see the enablement of OT (operational technology) devices become more of a thing. I think that it depends upon the vertical to define what kind of edge we’re talking about.
PR Vibes: Why did you start the Elevating the Edge podcast now? What hole in the industry did you see that needed to be filled?
Lopez: Every time you talk about the edge, you have to spend the first 10 minutes defining it. It was the same way with the cloud. It used to be which cloud, public or private? Now people are talking about multi-cloud, and asking, what do you mean by multi-cloud? It’s confusing. But I love topics like that because there’s a lot of opportunity to help people cut through the confusion about the edge and define what it really means for them and their business.
Peterson: And we wanted to get the conversation going. There weren’t a ton of podcasts on edge computing that covered both the business side and the technical side of the equation.
Having worked with cloud computing since 2009, I was seeing similar market patterns emerge with edge computing – vertical specificity, use case specificity, architectural patterns, adoption patterns – and it intrigued me. My guess was that edge would gain traction faster than cloud had because there was more marketplace knowledge working with a consumable product. Organizations had learned valuable lessons with cloud. Many of the technologies and processes involved in delivering edge have been established, at least from an enterprise edge perspective.
Some of the other things I was curious to see unfold in the space was the idea of horizontal movement in verticals by providers (i.e., the idea of increasing adoption based on what a company’s competitors were doing). Additionally, I was curious to see the delivery modes. In fact, we’re starting to see more “edge as a service” providers emerge. This makes sense because one of the key components of edge is latency or the reduction of latency, so it’s more than compute and storage, it’s network and end user or device adjacency.
PR Vibes: Who are your listeners? Who is your audience?
Peterson: Maribel and I each bring a unique flavor to the podcast. Maribel does a great job providing the business outcomes associated with the tech. As an engineer, I’m fascinated by the tech and how it is applied to solve business problems. That blend brings us both technical and non-technical listeners.
PR Vibes: What is the biggest misunderstanding people have about the edge?
Lopez: I think what we’re seeing is the emergence of specific verticals where the edge is utilized more than others. You can’t just walk in and say here are the five things you need for a successful edge computing strategy. Edge is very different depending on what vertical you’re in and what you’re trying to do. That’s one of the things that makes it so difficult to talk about. It’s a lot like the challenges we saw in IoT in really defining it well because it’s different for different people and use cases. When you talk to somebody, you have to try to figure out what they’re trying to do because a lot of what the edge is about is how, where and when you analyze connected data from connected sources. Do you analyze it very close to where the data is created? Do you analyze it in real time? Do you aggregate a bunch of it, say maybe regionally, and analyze it, but not fully centrally and then send that data up later?
Peterson: I think what we’re seeing is the emergence of specific verticals where we’re seeing edge computing utilized more than others now. Will that change? Absolutely. But you know there’s oil and gas, there’s the public sector, and we’re starting to see use cases emerge in healthcare and retail. The retail use case is more about the consumer and the differentiation of a product.
PR Vibes: So, how is the edge going to help companies differentiate?
Maribel Lopez: One of the interesting things—and I think this actually fits a little bit into the distinction between IoT and the edge—is how people use the edge to differentiate their business. A lot of it is connecting into data sources and analyzing data in a more real-time nature. The second thing is edge computing. We’re basically analyzing and taking some action on data where it’s created. That also means that applications have to change to be able to take in new contextual information, as an example, and to actually then do something with it.
Edge computing is interesting in the sense that it is not a discrete concept per se, but if it’s done well and businesses are using it well, it is actually changing processes and workflows. It’s changing your business so that you can take more action on the insights you’re receiving. Now, none of that is a new concept. I think what happens is we keep getting closer to having all the technologies lined up to deliver that and that’s one of the big differences. If you go back to where we were with machine-to-machine and the beginning days of IoT, it was all about creating things that had enough protocols that they could collect information from enough things. And you talked about having big data lakes (or oceans).
Eventually somebody said, well, wouldn’t it be great if we could have some of these things act in real time? For example, we were talking to the city of Las Vegas about traffic management. That happens very close to where the data is generated. It has ramifications for miles down the road, but somebody in Chicago doesn’t really care about the traffic in Las Vegas, right?. But if you are in Las Vegas and there’s a problem, you want to be able to manage all the streetlights, find ways to reroute people, all that other stuff.
So that’s combining the concepts of IT and what would have been IoT in cloud computing and data analytics and doing some actioning and decisioning at the right time. That could be in real time. It could be near real time. It’s all about being able to collect, analyze and act on data.
Peterson: We are going to get more real time and I mean that in a couple of ways. If you think about what gamers did with the edge, they use content delivery networks (CDNs) to push the game to an end user with very low latency so the user doesn’t drop off. Beyond everything that you just said, Maribel, I think the differentiation is going to come in with personalization. So, you’re able to deliver the user an experience. Going back to the retail example, when Maribel, goes to her favorite store and has her app open, she’s able to receive real-time offers because she’s part of a loyalty program and they know what she likes. They may send a coupon for something being 30 percent off. I think that’s where some of the differentiation comes in.
I think that the user experience in terms of self-serve is going to become much, much better. I just saw this really cool commercial from a large home improvement store where you access their app as you enter the store. These are some uses around personalization that in edge that are going to help differentiate retailer A from retailer B. You’re seeing the edge utilized there.
Maribel and I interviewed someone where these devices are getting so smart that they can tell a pound of potatoes from a pound of beef. They can literally see what the customer is checking out. I think the companies that are using this technology are starting to use it well. The end game is differentiation and monetization through personalization and real-time action and decisioning.
Lopez: And in manufacturing, for example, it would be things like turning the robotic arm on or off, slowing down the manufacturing line, and so on. So, a lot of things that we would have talked about in IoT that really weren’t quite there yet.
Peterson: For the monetization piece, some of these companies have gotten genius at things. Look at Tesla and the predictive maintenance stuff. By them sending you a message that it’s time to change your air filter precisely when you need it, that’s going to improve time to revenue.
Lopez: In the past, the dealer would have said OK, we think you’ve driven 10,000 miles; therefore you should do Y now, but they’re just guessing based on general behaviors. You could have been on vacation and driven half that amount. With edge technologies, the car dealership has better information that lets them make the right decision for the right group, whatever that is.
Peterson: It’s about delivering the service better. I saw a use case in the healthcare industry where they were actually using edge to track their nursing resources that were remotely taking care of patients. If they can get a nurse to someone quicker, for example, in a home health care situation, it affects the customer service aspect of their business because customers are more delighted. It also affects the revenue aspect of their business because they’re able to get someone there sooner and thus produce a bill. There are all kinds of things are affected by that service being able to be delivered faster.
PR Vibes: Comparing the edge to a baseball game, where do we stand in terms of the evolution of the edge?
Lopez: I give it second inning at best.
Peterson: In the next year, I see more feature functionality happening – more communication between edge computing and cloud. Better use cases are developing from a technical standpoint in terms of architecting the way to integrate. I’ve been doing cloud since 2009 and for the longest time, security was an afterthought. I’m seeing this happen again in edge environments, too. The people that are rolling out edge computing have rolled out cloud environments and understand the guardrails, but there’s a learning curve on all sides of this equation. So, I’m right with Maribel. We’re barely in the second inning.
PR Vibes: What is your goal for the podcast?
Peterson: For me, it’s more about thought leadership. I’m a working engineer that is more of an accidental Influencer. I don’t have Maribel’s amazing analyst credentials. There are lots of interesting use cases, products and stories to be told. We wanted to move beyond the hype of edge computing and share those stories so people could learn from them.
PR Vibes: How do you choose the podcast guests and their topics?
Peterson: We’re seeing stories emerge that are unique to the different types of edge available. While there are commonalities with each edge, like security and storage of data, there are unique use cases emerging from each one. We’ve recorded about 30 podcasts so far, some of which haven’t been released yet, on a wide range of topics like the evolution of the edge, vertical-specific stories about the edge, monetization of the edge, and competitive advantage of the edge. We want to present the technical as well as the business side.
PR Vibes: What else should people know about the podcast?
Peterson: If folks are curious to see hear about how a technology moves from a hype cycle concept to a reality, we want them to tune in. We’re all learning about this in real time and together!
The Elevate the Edge podcast is currently available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google, Amazon, Overcast, Castro, Castbox and Podfriend. Subscribe to the podcast here.
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