2019: The edge (pick one) heats up

Services and applications such as 5G, internet of things and gaming will drive more capabilities to the edge in 2019. (Pixabay)

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our 2019 Preview feature, which looks at the big topics facing the industry next year. Click here for the 2019 preview in the wireless industry, click here for the 2019 preview in the video industry, and click here for the 2019 preview in the wireline industry.

Forces are aligning to make the edge burn red-hot across the telecommunications industry next year.

Some of the factors that are pushing gear, services and applications to the network edge include initial deployments of 5G, IoT, increasing bandwidth demand, video services and cloud-based architectures for enterprises. 5G and cloud-based gaming in particular seem to be a match made in heaven at the edge.

Keep in mind that there are various types of "edges" out there that are being backed by different industry players, including telcos, cloud providers, managed service providers and cable operators.

What will be interesting to see next year is how the edge services and applications play out across the access edge of networks, edge compute and edge storage, all of which are blurring into each other.

While attending various conferences this year, I heard telco providers claim to have the advantage at the edge due to their central offices, cell sites, cell backhaul aggregation, fixed backhaul and street cabinets. Cable operators claim dominance at the edge due to their headends, hub sites and nodes, as well as projects such as fiber deep and, down the road, distributed access architectures.

Telcos' work at the edge got off to an earlier start with the development of Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter, but cable operators are looking at Headend Re-architected as a Datacenter—and then there's M-CORD in the works for mobile operators.

According to research by IHS Markit, video services will be the top driver for edge services. The other major driver for edge compute is bandwidth, principally video, where caching and content delivery networks save on the amounts of video traffic on access, metro and core networks, according to IHS Markit's Michael Howard, executive director research and analysis, carrier networks. IHS Markit defined edge compute as being within 20 milliseconds of the end user, device or machine.

Services at the edge will start to flourish as augmented reality, virtual reality, self-driving cars and gaming start to mature in 2019. Those services and applications need capabilities at the edge in order to gain widespread adoption by consumers. Service providers of all stripes are betting big on the edge.