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Edge Computing: Four Compelling Use Cases

Chief executive officers want business technology leadership as a top goal for their C-suite this year. To compete in a Global Networked Economy, organizations are prioritizing investments in digital tools to augment physical spaces and assets. Plus, enable secure data gathering and analysis.

These IT investments empower organizations to provision enterprise workloads at edge locations in support of innovative use cases. Edge computing includes IT infrastructure and software apps deployed outside of central data centers, to support data gathering and analysis closer to the source.

Edge Computing Market Development

IDC has identified four workloads from its taxonomy that have a significant influence among edge use cases: business intelligence or data analytics; content delivery; text and image analytics; plus networking and security.

Multiple workloads are combined to support specific edge use cases. For each workload category, IDC ranks the contained workloads by the primary, secondary, and tertiary impact on select edge use cases.

Because workloads can reside across a continuum of core, edge, and endpoint locations, edge computing requires a significant amount of coordination among technology vendors and service providers. 

Similarly, workloads run across a range of compute architectures, requiring a high degree of interoperability and scalability. Therefore, a symbiotic edge and core to workload relationship are needed to enable workloads based at the core that supports the edge; workloads based at the edge that can support the edge; and workloads at the edge that can support the core.

According to the IDC assessment, while all three scenarios are important, their analysis focuses on enterprise workloads that are primarily located at, and managed from, the edge. The most significant edge workload opportunity is streamlining business intelligence (BI) and data analytics.

Because data management and analysis-related workloads have a major or secondary role in nearly all significant edge use case development, IDC expects it will be one of the primary areas of IT investment at the edge.

Similarly, development tools and application workloads will see growing investment because of their influence on more forward edge use cases, especially in systems related to advanced AI and robotics.

In contrast, IDC doesn’t see business application workloads as critical to the development of any major enterprise edge use cases, especially for newer developing areas of edge networks.

"Using digital technologies to improve the safety of people and communities and to increase the resilience of operations are being adopted the most rapidly. Industries such as manufacturing are already recognizing the impact that edge resources are having on operational efficiency and improved product quality," said Jennifer Cooke, research director at IDC.

As these platforms become more readily customized and adapted for broader use, the need for more IT infrastructure at the edge will escalate. IDC analysts believe that the rapid deployment of edge computing is significantly shaping enterprise software workload evolution.

Outlook for Edge Computing Applications Growth

Looking ahead, as edge technology continues to expand in usage in a variety of workplace environments, IDC sees a growing interest in expected concurrent workload growth in areas such as business intelligence and analytics, AI/ML-related workloads, and content workloads.

While organizations should expect these workloads to be the main areas of edge-related growth, workloads across the spectrum will have critical influence even in minor roles within edge use cases.

That said, I believe another area of IT workflow that's moving to the edge is End User Computing. As more organizations evolve beyond a legacy corporate office-centric computing model, the need to securely support remote working employees in a distributed workforce environment is paramount.

While location-independent flexible working models were traditionally more relevant to supporting front-line field employees, it's now also aligned with the needs of knowledge workers that are home-office-based employees. These use cases will continue to evolve over time, based upon the pervasive trends.

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