Digital Infrastructure Roadmap to Unlock Growth – Part 3: Digital Edge

Interacting at the edge empowers companies to optimize workload placement, elevate performance and embrace emerging technology

Steve Madden
Digital Infrastructure Roadmap to Unlock Growth – Part 3: Digital Edge

Edge computing has become a profoundly important paradigm in IT in recent years. Trends like the shift to more remote work and 5G have accelerated the move to edge computing strategies. As part of their digital transformation, companies want to distribute digital services closer to their users. They’re moving away from centralized architectures and pushing infrastructure out to the edge, where the demands are greatest. The digital edge offers the promise of better user experience for customers and employees, better data insights through real-time analytics and more opportunities to accelerate innovation.

New research confirms that the move to edge computing is accelerating. The Global Interconnection Index (GXI) 2023, published by Equinix, indicates that organizations are interconnecting edge infrastructure 20% faster than the core. And no less than 30% of digital infrastructure has now shifted to the edge. Digital leaders recognize that developing a flexible edge strategy is critical at this juncture—and that strategy needs to consider workload placement decisions, user experience, edge security and smart edge capabilities.

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Modern digital infrastructure can be broken down into three components: digital core, digital ecosystems and digital edge. Bringing core, ecosystem and edge strategies together is critical in a rapidly evolving marketplace, and strategically optimizing all three of these components gives digital leaders a competitive advantage. In this three-part blog series, we’re exploring each of these digital infrastructure components to understand how they’re helping leaders accelerate growth.

  • Part 1 discussed the importance of establishing an interconnected digital core—from network modernization to cloud-adjacency to deploying dedicated cloud capabilities. Forming an interconnected digital core is the first step in the digital transformation journey.
  • Part 2 described the value of integrating diverse digital ecosystems that help companies innovate and multiply the value of their IT investments. A robust network of partners not only provides more opportunities for collaboration; it enables companies to leverage SaaS offerings and data marketplaces to build new value chains.
  • In this third and final piece in the series, we’ll focus on the digital edge—taking a look at the opportunities it delivers for optimizing user experience, placing intelligent analytics next to distributed data and solving for performance, latency and security risk mitigation.

As my Equinix colleague Arun Dev put it in Part 1, “Businesses that have optimized all three components of digital infrastructure—the digital core, ecosystems and edge—will be best positioned to drive digital growth going forward.” This pattern of interconnecting the digital core, integrating with digital ecosystems and interacting at the digital edge is one digital leaders are adopting to unlock new opportunities and fast-track business growth.

How organizations can capitalize on the growth opportunity at the digital edge

The meaning and location of the digital edge varies for different companies—and for this reason the definition of edge computing has been a bit amorphous. But fundamentally, the digital edge is about bringing digital infrastructure to the locations where companies have the greatest engagement—where data is created and where decisions are made. There are important reasons why edge computing is seen as a growth opportunity: It can reduce network latency, improve operational efficiency, drive greater data insights and improve customer engagement. Cutting-edge technologies, from AI to IoT to the metaverse, often rely on a robust edge strategy.

According to the GXI report, digital proximity is a macro trend defining digital strategies today, and interconnection to the right clouds and networks is a foundational aspect of building a digital presence optimized for proximity. In my previous blog post about the GXI, I described how a strategy Equinix calls Interconnection Oriented Architecture (IOA®) has been key to digital leaders’ success in unlocking edge-to-cloud opportunities. As businesses replace centralized IT with distributed architectures, direct, secure interconnection to the right customers, partners and service providers is a game changer. And interconnection is growing rapidly. According to the 2023 GXI report, global interconnection bandwidth is forecast to grow at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40%.

Digital leaders share their insights on edge computing

At the recent Equinix Digital Leaders Summit, business leaders from around the world shared insights on digital-first strategies for sustainable growth. The summit included a panel discussion about interacting at the digital edge that featured Equinix CIO Milind Wagle and two guests: Maribel Lopez, Founder and Principal Analyst at Lopez Research, and Scott Sherman, Senior Director of Global Alliances Programs at Dell Technologies.

The session covered how and why firms are delivering services at the edge, the requirements driving edge deployments, and potential business outcomes from investing in digital delivery at the edge. One of the biggest takeaways from the session is that every organization needs an edge strategy. Below I’ll share some of the insights from the panel discussion, as well as the ways Equinix is empowering our customers and partners to leverage edge strategies for their advantage.

Optimizing workload placement

Workload placement decisions—from on-premises data centers to colocation facilities to the digital edge—are a major part of a comprehensive digital strategy. Workloads with heavy transaction processing requirements may necessitate dedicated infrastructure. Others may require faster processing with low latency to optimize for end user experience and therefore be a better fit for edge delivery. The point is, you need to align the characteristics of a workload with its placement and keep the needs of users front and center.

As Maribel Lopez pointed out in the Equinix Digital Leaders Summit panel discussion, small businesses and large enterprises alike can take advantage of edge computing. Use cases include robotics in manufacturing plants, inventory for logistics companies, real-time promotions in retail and smart city applications like traffic management optimization. That said, there isn’t a single correct destination for all of an organization’s workloads.

The Leaders’ Guide to Digital Infrastructure makes the case that after companies build their digital presence, they need to master digital delivery by bringing infrastructure to the locations where they have greatest engagement. Interacting at the edge just makes sense—it’s a way of putting infrastructure and services in the geographies where your partners, customers and users already are.

The digital edge is about bringing digital infrastructure to the locations where companies have the greatest engagement—where data is created and where decisions are made.”

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Tapping into intelligence at the edge

One of the driving forces for edge computing is real-time or near-real-time decision making enabled by data and analytics capabilities. Every company wants to discover innovative ways for AI and machine learning (ML) to address new use cases and help them derive insights from the huge volumes of data they now possess.

Building a smart edge is about taking advantage of the best AI-driven analytics without having to transport data back to the core for analysis. Solving for latency is a high priority in a world that has no tolerance for delays—as Milind Wagle pointed out in the session. According to the Leaders Guide to Digital Infrastructure, leaders that build a smart edge can see 20–30x increased data processing at the edge, with more automation and API-driven collaboration.

Building a secure edge

Because a distributed footprint expands a company’s potential attack surface, it’s critical that organizations deploy security guardrails at the edge. While the hybrid workforce and distributed environments have accelerated edge computing, having a high number of distributed endpoints also multiples vulnerability. An edge strategy needs to incorporate virtual network functions that enable a zero-trust architecture, such as virtual firewalls, VPNs and SD-WAN—all of which are available via Network Edge.

In addition, building a secure edge means accessing an ecosystem of strategic security partners, service providers and enterprises. As the Leaders Guide explains, frontrunners are using Platform Equinix® to transform last-mile networking for secure edge deployment in hours instead of months. Building a secure edge is about extending your security perimeter to include all the places where digital services are needed.

Preparing for emerging technology edge opportunities

The edge also delivers on the promise of up-and-coming technologies to drive innovation. Edge strategy encompasses emerging connectivity trends such as AI and ML, IoT, 5G and VR applications like the metaverse. To stay on the cutting edge of innovation, companies are eager to deploy emerging technologies that leverage data gathered at the edge.

Interconnection, says Scott Sherman of Dell, empowers companies to aggregate and use their data for insights and competitive differentiation. Equinix Fabric™ software-defined interconnection opens up the opportunity for companies to really embrace the edge, putting their workloads in the smartest places while solving for latency, bandwidth and security. Through an interconnected digital core, digital ecosystem and digital edge, organizations can embrace new technologies to accelerate innovation.

Interacting at the digital edge—The time is now

Through the digital edge, companies are tapping into platform and partner capabilities that help them deliver compelling digital experiences and gain real-time intelligence in proximity to their places of business. Alongside an interconnected digital core and digital ecosystem, digital edge positions leaders to accelerate growth and competitive advantage.

For more on how digital infrastructure and digital-first strategies can set leaders apart, read the Equinix Leaders’ Guide to Digital Infrastructure.

Also, check out the Global Interconnection Index for insights, data and trends around interconnection—including the accelerating move to edge computing.

In case you missed them, check out the rest of this three-part series:

To stay on the cutting edge of innovation, companies are eager to deploy emerging technologies that leverage data gathered at the edge.”
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