Edge computing is a family of technologies that distribute application data and services where they can best optimize outcomes in various locations. Today, most systems run software in a single place; however, the growing diversity of connected systems requires distributed applications to deploy software automatically to where it runs best. We call this concept workload affinity. Four edge computing environments support evolving workload affinity requirements. They are engagement, operations, enterprise, and provider. These edge environments extend beyond the cloud to run software, storage, analytics, and applications in data centers, edge networks, and smaller connected devices.

We analyzed key technology, business, and partner ecosystem changes that will drive future edge computing opportunities over three horizons: short term (one to two years), midterm (three to five years), and long term (six to 10 years). In the short term, edge solutions will be plagued by a fragmented technology landscape and the retirement of 3G. In the midterm, momentum will come from better edge management, orchestration, and edge-to-cloud capabilities. In the long term, public 5G rollouts, network advancements, smaller converged devices, and infrastructure will proliferate.

The future of edge computing will come with its share of challenges. Edge solutions will require many vendors, increasing complexity. Every new network connection, smart device, edge server, or micro data center becomes an attack surface for hackers. In addition, edge computing could create sustainability issues due to more hardware everywhere, which leads to more energy, more heat, and more electronic waste. For additional insight in evolving edge computing opportunities, read The Future Of Edge Computing report, or set up some time for a discussion with me.