Virtualization is continually expanding wide area network (WAN) architectures and changing the concept of the network edge. In short, it’s becoming difficult to define the edge and generalize when discussing it; every organization will have a unique edge concept.
The edge’s redefinition is caused, in part, by a broader range of facilities, with customer premises equipment (CPE) adding hundreds of locations in a network. In some cases, the number may even be in the thousands. Adding to the complexity of defining the edge is the advancing technology of 5G, which will likely introduce extensive, small cell deployments. This will add even more value to the locations.
In general, the majority of services and resources are still being housed in centralized data centers on-site and central offices and nodes. At this point, only a small percentage is being housed in CPE or mobile stations.
A gradual shift is occurring. Compute resources are being distributed on the network and are integrated into these smaller edge locations. Over the next five years, experts predict there will be a subtle change as this trend continues and compute resources are more fully distributed.
The slow change demonstrates that not only will there be a very gradual shift in how enterprises address the edge, but there are also challenges inherent in the deployment, management and security monitoring of computing resources located at the edge.
Among the challenges facing IT professionals in defining and then shifting compute to the edge are the pure physical considerations involved. Cooling, space and power are all factors that need to be addressed, as well as weight requirements for handling the equipment so that floors are sturdy enough. In addition, any location that encloses edge equipment will need to be weather- and vandal-proof.
Stacked on top of all of these physical considerations are the compliance and regulatory requirements that affect industries like healthcare and finance.
So, where is the network edge? That can’t be easily answered. While some experts define the edge as the reach of the CPE, others are more comfortable defining it as the furthest reach of “service awareness.”
While standards are helpful in talking about the network edge, they simply aren’t easily definable at this point. What is likely to happen, according to some experts, is that the predominant solution impacting the market will settle in as the new standard. Currently, the technology is simply moving too fast for set standards.
If you’d like to reduce the stress of making decisions about your network infrastructure, contact us at TailWind. We handle asset management of CPEs and bundle all of your locations into a single invoice for streamlined service.