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What is the edge? Who defines it?

by Ted Chamberlin  |  September 7, 2017  |  Submit a Comment


No, not this Edge………………………


Once again, the battle for owning the architecture/marketecture and definition an supply chain of a buzzword is on. Like donkey kong.  As an analyst that covers cloud, colocation, CDN and a bit of IoT, SDN and Wan- I have a VIP seat for the battle.  The contestant are colocation, CDN, cloud, WAN, IoT enablers and mobile operators and they all think they are the missing link to building the edge.

  • Colocation providers–  Most have displaced the public peering points in the US to become THE interconnection destinations. That sounds a bit like the network core and most locations are in large, urban locations. Not exactly the physical edge; but more akin to the logical edge. We will also continue to see providers begin to build and deploy purpose built micro datacenter closer to IoT networks and aggregation points.
  • CDN providers- These providers can legitimately claim to define the edge as that is their DNA.  CDN architecture dictates edge nodes be deployed in a highly distributed manner. CDNs also take load of the origin and enable APIs and business logic to sit as closer to data as possible. Watch for CDN providers to exploit their inherent architecture to enter IoT use cases like OTA updates and AI and analytics edge processing.
  • CSPs- Both mobile and fixed operators have seen edge as a way to remain relevant in a cloudy world.  Most CSPs have chased early m2m  applications like ehealth, connected car and connected home. They have learned the hard lessons of investments in technologies that have ill-defined ROI. Their next ventures will lead them to exploit innovation developed in their labs and to more “Smart” initiatives.

So here is the cop out answer; each service/node/destination can and will be an edge location.  That is because edge is not just a discrete IP address or instance on a VM or  square tile in a datacenter. Its arguably  purpose built platform that that is nimble, agile and can ingest data and provide a framework to make a decision on those packets.  To quote my colleague Bob Gill’s take on edge-

The Edge Manifesto

  • Topology and Technology
    • Location
      • Geography, topology
    • Location
      • Gravity, interconnection
    • Location
      • Access, last mile
    • Master plan
      • Elevated awareness in the organization
      • Reference architectures
      • Implementation services

Not a bad starting point to define an extremely hard to find concept. Stay tuned as we have formed a research committee focused on digger deeper into Edge and how it will drive further technology advancements.


Ted Chamberlin
Research VP
18 years at Gartner
23 years IT Industry

Ted Chamberlin is a research Vice President at Gartner, where he is part of the Cloud and Communications group in TSP. His research focuses on the emerging cloud and hosting communications services like IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, colocation, application hosting, streaming and video content platforms, streaming and IoT and software-defined networking. Mr. Chamberlin has experience working with all size organizations from larger multinationals to early stage startups. Read Full Bio

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