Race to the Edge

Edge Computing Gets a Big Boost from Hewlett Packard Enterprise

For years, data has been increasingly centralised, first at the data-centre level and more recently in the cloud. But companies are beginning to take a more decentralised approach, with computing being pushed to the network edge. This type of computing architecture is expected to become a major technical revolution.

A couple of weeks ago, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) CEO, Antonio Neri, said his company will invest $4 billion over the next four years to accelerate innovation in network-edge technologies, also referred to as “the intelligent edge”. HPE, like other IT organisations, hopes to become a leader in this next-generation network topology.

In this case, necessity really is the mother of invention; edge computing addresses a need that stems from the growth of connected devices and the volumes of data they produce. In hospitals, for example, data is particularly sensitive and it’s a better approach to bring analytics capabilities to the location where the data is generated. Often there’s so much data that it’s not economic to send it all to the cloud and store it there, and in many cases there isn’t enough time to transfer it to the cloud for it to be analysed. The need to perform analytics in real time is becoming critical to companies as they build new business models centred on real-time computing or systems provided as a service.

One of the benefits of edge computing is that it can help optimise performance by preventing information from taking unnecessary “round trips”. In other words, data doesn’t have to travel back to the core of a network to be processed. Thus, data from connected products like sensors, cars and mobile devices can be handled closer to its origin. It also enables lower volumes of data to be transported as well as faster access to the data.

Although HPE didn’t provide details about new products or services, the company has talked about plans to beef up its research and development efforts as well as its advisory services focused on edge computing. It will invest in technologies that will accelerate the speed, accuracy and efficiency of computing at the network edge.

The announcement follows a series of similar commitments from other major technology companies.

In April 2018, Microsoft said it will spend $5 billion in technologies related to the Internet of things during the next four years. The investment will go toward research and development in areas including security, creating new development tools, services and programs.

Earlier in February, Intel launched its Xeon D-2100 chipset for enterprise and data centre customers who want to move computing to the network edge (see Intel’s Push to the Edge).

In 2017, Nvidia also stepped up its efforts in the edge-computing race by updating its Jetson Platform (see Nvidia Updates Its Jetson Platform).

In the same year, Dell released its second generation of industrial Edge Gateway products, which are direct rivals to some of HPE’s upcoming products, and formed an Internet of things division to tap into the potential of the market. Dell is also a founding member of the Edge X Foundry, part of the Linux Foundation, that is looking to standardise the architecture and some of the main software components used in edge computing.

We believe that this trend is more than hype, and that HPE is prudent to invest in and tout the benefits of edge computing. The technology addresses a large opportunity, allowing the delivery of real-time intelligence in real-world scenarios.