Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) and advances in sensor technology, data is being collected further and further from the confines of a traditional data center. As such, that data increasingly needs to be processed at, or near, the location where it's collected. That's where edge computing comes in.
By bringing compute power closer to the data-collection devices, systems can take advantage of lower latency to provide near real-time insights for users. This can help speed up data analysis, authentication, and more. However, the edge can also be used to filter data sets so that only the right data is sent to the cloud or data center for additional processing.
SEE: Internet of Things policy (Tech Pro Research)
Edge computing leverages data, but it also requires tools like micro data centers, analytics platforms, smart routers, gateways, and more. Here are 10 edge computing vendors to watch.
The three cloud giants (Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud) are all important to the edge computing space, because they are building "edge gateways and edge analytics into their IoT offerings that help manage workload distribution across edge and cloud services," according to Forrester Research analyst Brian Hopkins.
Microsoft has 300 patents in the field, with many focused on content streaming. The company also recently launched its Azure IoT Edge service, comprising container modules, an edge runtime, and a cloud-based management interface.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) also offers a host of tools that make it easy to get started with edge computing. Lambda@Edge, for example, allows users to run serverless functions in response to events without provisioning any servers, while the AWS CloudFront content delivery infrastructure and AWS Greengrass IoT service help build out an impressive edge portfolio.
In October 2017, Dell created an IoT division to integrate products and services across the company, planning to invest $1 billion in research and development over the following three years. Key elements include Edge Gateways, VMware's Pulse IoT Center, PowerEdge C-Series servers, Isilon storage and Pivotal Cloud Foundry.
At its IoT Labs, Dell is also working on several IoT/edge initiatives, including Project Nautilus (real-time analytics and streaming storage); Project Fire (a hyperconverged platform with simplified management, local compute, storage and IoT apps); Project IRIS (an RSA project to extend security to the network edge); and Project Worldwide Herd (analytics on geographically dispersed data).
These tools will serve to bolster edge computing solutions for IoT and the mobile edge. "Mobile edge computing is an interesting offshoot from the telcos, who are trying to better monetize their high-bandwidth cellular networks," Hopkins said.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) recently made a $4 billion investment in its edge network portfolio. HPE offers "edge services, mini-data centers, and smart routers," Hopkins said, which makes it appealing as a vendor that can cover a broad range of tools needed to enable edge computing. In particular, HPE's Edgeline series of Converged Edge Systems is designed to deliver 'enterprise-class IT at the edge'. HPE's value proposition is that the convergence of operational technology (OT) -- data acquisition systems, control systems and industrial networks -- and IT systems at the edge will result in lower operating costs and better performance.
FogHorn is a small-footprint software vendor that focuses on bringing intelligence to the edge for IoT deployments. The company describes its Lightning platform as "enabling a new class of applications for advanced monitoring and diagnostics, machine performance optimization, proactive maintenance and operational intelligence use cases."
Ian Hughes, senior analyst for Internet of Things at 451 Research, described FogHorn as "edge-first," and noted that, having brought machine learning to the edge, it's an interesting company to watch.
IBM Research scientists are working on a peer-to-peer mesh networking technology that allows nearby mobile devices to communicate without wi-fi or cellular connectivity. This kind of mesh technology can leverage IBM's work in edge computing -- which is based on foundational technology like the Watson IoT Platform -- to provide custom alerts and other features.
Utilizing its Cascade routers, Rigado offers an Edge as a Service solution with secure connectivity and performance monitoring. It's an out-of-the-box solution that makes it easy to get started with edge computing. 451 Research's Hughes noted that the firm also uses "Ubuntu Snaps to manage customer applications at the edge."
Cisco is another networking giant that's taking edge computing very seriously, with a host of routers, access points, and more. The Cisco Industrial Compute Gateway IC3000, for example, offers built-in security and manageability, which can help accelerate the translation of data insights into decision making.
Focused heavily on IoT use cases, ClearBlade offers a core middleware platform for IoT at the edge that, the company claims, delivers 100 percent uptime. ClearBlade's platform can run in the cloud, on premises or at the edge, and allows businesses to "ingest, analyze, adapt and act on any data in real-time and at extreme scale". ClearBlade Edge runs autonomously on devices and gateways, independent of network connectivity, with comms-agnostic AutoSync technology to ensure the environment is always up to date.
Another unique aspect, Hughes said, is that ClearBlade's platform "allows orchestration of multiple layers and multiple edge computing instances."
Saguna provides Multi-access Edge Cloud (MEC) computing solutions aimed at communication service providers and application developers. The company's flagship product is Saguna Open-RAN, which enables customers to develop, deploy, manage and automate edge cloud platforms and edge applications. According to Saguna, Open-RAN delivers Ultra Reliable and Low Latency Communication (URLLC) and enables 5G features over existing 4G networks. The company also offers an MEC Starter Kit that makes it easier for organizations to adopt edge computing.