Edge Computing Is Changing the Way IT Pros Think About Infrastructure


The way we conceive of and discuss IT infrastructure has undergone rapid transformation in the past 10 years, first evolving from the static, on-premises–based model; then, in many but not all cases, rapidly shifting toward either a hybrid on-premises–cloud paradigm or a fully cloud-based configuration. Now, with the rising prominence of edge computing, IT professionals must once again fundamentally re-envision the infrastructure they create and maintain. Here’s how edge computing is changing the way IT pros thinks about infrastructure.

Computing Workloads Migrate from on Premises to the Cloud

It used to be so simple and clear: An organization’s computing hub lay in its data center, and that’s where all computing workloads were processed. Then, many businesses began to migrate their workloads to the cloud, which enabled greater flexibility and scalability while minimizing administrative overhead. However, the cloud does have a particular limitation, one that has become incredibly clear in recent years, causing some companies to reconsider how they design and manage their infrastructure.

As anyone who has ever struggled with quality of service issues knows—for example, when managing network connectivity across geographically distributed office locations—latency can be a showstopper. Many business applications, particularly bandwidth-intensive services like video communications, grind to a halt upon encountering significant latency, particularly if they must travel over a WAN. When this happens, the user experience suddenly and severely degrades.

Latency can also crop up when data housed in the cloud have to travel long distances for use in connected gadgets and services, rendering them difficult if not impossible to use. In cases like these, edge computing can make the difference, enabling IT to deliver critical functionality without compromising on performance.

The Rise of Edge Computing

To resolve this challenge, IT pros and businesses are rethinking their approach to IT infrastructure yet again. Now, they are placing specific computing workloads in greater proximity to the edge. This design reduces the distance data must travel for processing, greatly boosting the performance and reliability of apps and services that rely on timely data processing. We’ve already seen this take place with autonomous vehicles (AVs), which must make rapid calculations while in motion—even while traveling through areas of limited or low connectivity. For safety reasons as well as performance concerns, AVs must be able to make computations in real time, which is why automotive manufacturers are beginning to place data stores closer to edge locations.

As businesses increasingly realize that they may need edge computing in certain scenarios, they are abandoning the data center model that dominated IT infrastructure design for so many years. According to Gartner, 80 percent of enterprises expect to shut down their traditional data centers by 2025Opens a new window . As the analyst firm takes pains to point out, workload placement will now be driven by business need rather than physical location. Thus, the way IT pros conceive of the infrastructure they design and manage is changing once more.

The New Model: Business Requirements Drive Workload Placement

IT pros will no longer conceptualize infrastructure according to cookie cutter models such as on-premises or cloud-based paradigms. Rather, specific business requirements must drive workload placement. In an age in which the digital experience (and, specifically, the customer experience) heavily influences the design of technology systems, perhaps this paradigm shift isn’t surprising, but it does represent another way in which IT will have to remain agile and flexible, with IT pros tailoring infrastructure to match the needs of the business rather than attempting to shoehorn business systems into a traditional infrastructure model.

As edge computing changes the way technologists think about infrastructure, IT pros will likely have to contend with even more complexity while bringing new competencies and skills into their portfolio. To stay competitive and keep pace with breakneck digital transformation, however, it’s likely the only viable and sustainable path for enabling business growth.