2019 IT trend: Action at the edge will disrupt the cloud

We are currently in the phase of building out “the Matrix,” the pervasive, intelligent, societal infrastructure that goes beyond cloud to include edge technologies, machine intelligence, AR/VR, blockchain and more. This is the shift from cloud models that are “out there” to a world where technology is embedded in absolutely everything. With this comes the 163 zettabytes of data expected by 2025, a 10-fold increase from 2016.[1]

Apps at the edge

The large incumbent tech players are building out this infrastructure daily, enabling us, the end users, with new and marvellous ways to interact with each other, our customers and our partners. Smart devices are now more than just smart phones; they inhabit our homes, our workplaces, our bodies. And whilst all this is going on, we see new entrants into the Matrix — those who are building completely new models and ways for us to leverage the Matrix, particularly via new apps. Distributed Apps (DApps) is a potential disruption to the entire cloud model, shifting power away from a small number of central players to a large number of participants.

Blockchain may be the answer to the trust issues which regularly seem to hold the technology industry back; in a world which is becoming ever dependent on data, we’ve never been in more need of a trusted solution that enables us to verify the veracity of data.

Data at the edge

Of course, data is more decentralised as well. The source of data has evolved from known producers of data, where we would build specific infrastructure to manage the secure and timely delivery of the data, to today, where everything either has the ability, or is being retrofitted with the capability, to generate data about itself and its surroundings.

The availability of data to us today has never been greater, but with it comes a new set of challenges. The value of that data may be high at the point of creation, but much lower only seconds or minutes later. How do we extract insight, or respond to signals in the data, in a timely fashion? Further, as data accumulates at the edge, it has inertia; the data’s “gravity” makes it very difficult to transfer for analysis.

Intelligence at the edge

Therefore, we need to move our intelligence closer to the data, which brings us back to the Matrix. The fabric that builds intelligence from data is moving ever closer to the sources of data creation. Therefore, we are seeing shifts towards event-driven applications and serverless architectures that allow very small, very specific applications to run in lightweight environments. These applications can run in a cloud environment or just as easily at the edge, and today that edge could be as close as the device in your pocket, on your wrist, embedded in your arm, retrofitted to your desk or outside your house on a pylon.

The decentralisation of data is driving the decentralisation of the intelligence needed to make sense of the data in a timely manner. We’re only at the very beginning of this stage of evolution.

How prepared are you?

Also see the 2019 Digital Trends blog post.


[1] IDC White Paper sponsored by Seagate, “Data Age 2025 – The Evolution of Data to Life-Critical: Don’t Focus on Big Data; Focus on the Data That’s Big,” April 2017.

Glen Robinson is emerging technology director for DXC Technology’s Leading Edge Forum and a DXC Distinguished Engineer. Glen helps technology leaders develop a Matrix mindset, and the ability to understand the impact of technology for both opportunity and threat. @GlenPRobinson

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