What Can CIOs Do When The Cloud Isn’t Fast Enough?

Computing at the edge changes everything
Computing at the edge changes everything
Image Credit: zorro013

The world in which we live is currently changing. Over the past few years, as the importance of information technology has grown, the internet has become a bigger and more important part of both our personal and professional lives. Every IT department makes extensive use of the internet these days to run apps, handle storage, and communicate. The revolution that is currently going on is occurring because more and more devices are being connected to the internet for the first time. What will the impact of this be for CIOs?

This Changes Everything

The internet was designed a long time ago. When it was first imagined, it was seen as a way to interconnect people. However, that is all changing as more and more devices are being connected to the internet. The arrival of all of these devices is having a profound impact on how the person in the CIO position chooses to deploy their IT resources. More and more we are seeing computing resources being deployed all the way out at the edge of the network. This can include such diverse locations as vehicles, factory machines, and elevators.

This is where things are starting to get tricky for the person with the CIO job. There are a growing number of use cases and applications that are going to require not just fast access to data, but actual real time data. This type of software requires access to real time machine intelligence. The reason that this can cause problems for CIOs is that this type of application simply cannot wait for the cloud to provide it with the data that it needs. This need is creating a market for so-called “edge products” and services. This portion of the IT market is expected to grow by US$6.7B in the next four years from a starting point of $1.5B. Players in this market include Microsoft and General Electric.

This need for near real-time data is changing how CIOs choose to set up and arrange their IT departments. The data that is required is now going to be processed either on or at least near the device that needs the data. This will be close to where the data is being generated from. This differs from the way that things are being done today. Gone will be the transferring of data from the source into the corporate cloud. Traditionally, the data would then move from the cloud out to the device that needed to process the data. However, in today’s new world this would take too long. In fact, the devices that are processing the data in near real time may not even have to be connected to the corporate cloud in order to perform their tasks.

The Need For Speed

So just exactly how many of these edge devices are we talking about? The number is increasing very rapidly and is estimated to reach 20.4B in two years. That will be an increase from the 8.4B that are currently connected to the internet right now. The arrival of all of these edge devices is causing CIOs to have to rethink their IT strategy. Currently, only about 1% of firms have an edge-computing strategy. This will soon change. In three years it is anticipated that 40% of firms will have an edge computing strategy.

An example of an edge device that can’t use the cloud because its too slow is the self-driving car. This vehicle is required to make countless life and death decisions in real time all of the time. These types of calculations are going to have to be done on board the car instead of relying on servers located in the cloud. The travel time for sending data into the cloud and then getting computation results back would take too long. Additionally, if a car was to lose connectivity with the cloud while driving then a life threatening situation could develop.

Estimates say that in order for data to be generated, travel into the cloud to a server, and then be sent back out to an edge device takes between 150-200 milliseconds. CIOs have the ability to deal with this delay by placing servers closer to the devices that need the data. By doing this, the round trip time could be lowered to between 2-5 milliseconds. This kind of reduction in data travel time can be a significant gain for the performance of applications related to connected cars, health care, etc.

What All Of This Means For You

The way that IT departments make use of the internet is starting to change. We’ve been using the internet to connect to the cloud in order to run applications, store data, and communicate. However, a new breed of device has arrived that needs to have access to near real time data. The cloud simply is not going to be fast enough to support these types of devices. CIOs are going to have to create new solutions to these challenges.

The internet was originally designed to interconnect people. Now we are starting to see more and more devices connected to the internet. The devices are being connected at the edge of the network. These devices are requiring that they be fed data in near real time. This is causing a new market for edge devices to be created. Unlike today’s cloud based solutions, new edge based solutions will require that the edge devices be placed close to source of the data that they require. The number of devices being connected to the internet is getting ready to explode. A good example of such a device is a self-driving car. This type of car needs to perform its own processing because connecting to the cloud would be too slow. Data travel between an edge device and its information source would be 100x too slow if it had to pass through the cloud.

The IT infrastructure that the CIO is responsible for is in the process of changing. As more and more devices are connected to the internet, edge computing will start to play a larger and larger role in every IT department. This is requiring CIOs to redesign how computing resources are deployed in the IT department. More and more devices are being placed at the edge of the network. This improves communication time, but it is creating a new network architecture. CIOs need to make sure that they have a good solution when the cloud is not fast enough.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: As more devices get deployed to the edge of the network, what will be the best way to manage them?

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