The IT channel once again faces the prospect of profound transformation. Anyone who has been around long enough knows IT services are a cyclical business. This time, the transformation is being fueled by technology advances such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and software-defined networks (SDN).
The transformation is bound to scare some providers. After all, managed service providers (MSPs) are still grappling with how to monetize the cloud. If you can’t figure that out, you’re likely to have trouble with IoT and SDN. So if you’re hoping for longevity, it all starts with getting a handle on cloud opportunities.
And if you truly want to future-proof your business, pay special attention to an area of technology where IT service providers will be very much in demand—edge computing.
Edge computing—or fog computing, as Cisco calls it—provides a sort of way station between the corporate network and the cloud. Edge computing has emerged as a fundamental piece in the IoT puzzle. Without it, it’s hard to see how the IoT can deliver on its promise of connecting everything that can be connected to enable real-time decisions that shape business and operational outcomes.
To understand why edge computing is necessary, it helps to keep a realistic perspective on the cloud’s capabilities. Without the cloud, there is no IoT. But the cloud alone cannot make IoT as effective as it needs to be.
Any kind of lag in transmitting information for real-time decision-making can be problematic. In telemedicine, for example, it could lead to a life-and-death situation. Likewise, autonomous vehicles waiting for information at a busy intersection cannot tolerate any kind of data latency. So when we say the IoT has to deliver data in real time, we really mean real time.
But if your data is traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to a cloud data center before you can view it, latency is a very real possibility. Edge computing solves this problem by placing micro data centers just outside the network—the so-called “edge”.
These micro data centers place compute and analytics power as close to the action as possible, enabling real-time decision-making. The data that doesn’t have to be processed immediately is routed to a cloud data center for later use.
Who is going to manage all these micro data centers? You are.
As IoT implementations get under way, and organizations and individuals start to depend on them to go about their lives, someone has to run all those micro data centers. Edge data centers will require the kinds of remote monitoring and management expertise that MSPs have learned to master over the past dozen years or so.
Edge computing is the MSP’s ticket into the IoT world. It will open a whole new universe of business opportunities that help keep MSPs relevant and profitable for years to come. But before you can seize those opportunities, remember, you’ll have to embrace the cloud as a first step toward that profitable future.