Survey: Video is in the driver's seat for widespread edge deployments

IHS Markit's recent edge survey says telcos are well positioned to deliver edge compute services to business and consumer customers. (IHS Markit)

Video services will be the top driver for edge services while telcos are well positioned to deliver the goods at the edge, according to research by IHS Markit.

The Linux Foundation commissioned the research firm to identify the top apps and revenue opportunities for edge compute services. During a keynote address at this week's Layer123 SDN NFV World Congress at The Hague, IHS Markit's Michael Howard, executive director research and analysis, carrier networks, presented some of the results from IHS Markit's survey of edge application thought leaders. Howard shared his presentation with FierceTelecom.

“The edge 'is in' these days in conversations, conferences and considerations—and there are many definitions," Howard wrote in an email this morning to FierceTelecom. "Our conclusion is that there are many edges, but as an industry, I believe we can coalesce around a time-related distance to the end user, device or machine, which indicates a short latency, on which many edge applications rely.

"The other major driver for edge compute is big bandwidth, principally video, where caching and content delivery networks save enormous amounts of video traffic on access, metro, and core networks."

IHS Markit defined edge compute as being within 20 milliseconds of the end user, device or machine. When compared to internet exchanges, telcos have an advantage at the edge because they are much closer to the users via their central offices, cell sites, cell backhaul aggregation, fixed backhaul and street cabinets.

Integrated communications providers and over-the-top providers have partial coverage for edge compute with distributed data centers that are within the 20 milliseconds to 50 milliseconds range, while telcos can hit 5 milliseconds to 20 milliseconds.

Among the top services that are driving edge compute, video content delivery, which included 360 video and venues, was first at 92% followed by a three-way tie among autonomous vehicles, augmented reality/virtual reality and industrial internet of things/automated factory all at 83%. Gaming was next at 75%, with distributed virtualized mobile core and fixed access in another tie with private LTE at 58%.

Surveillance and supply chain management each garnered 33%, while smart cities was last at 25%.

When it comes to which edge services will garner the most revenue, distributed virtualized mobile core and fixed access, private LTE, gaming, video content delivery and industrial IoT all tied at the top of the survey results.

Supply chain management, autonomous vehicles and AR/VR tied in the next grouping while surveillance and smart cities tied for last.

Consumer-driven revenue at the edge includes gaming and video content delivery networks while enterprise-driven revenues will include private LTE, industrial IoT and supply chain. Overall, many of the edge deployments will initially be justified by cost savings first followed by revenue-bearing applications.

Edge compute apps will start out in limited or contained rollouts with full deployment taking years and investments across several areas, according to the survey.

Although edge compute brings services closer to end users and alleviates bandwidth constraints, it's complex. Even a single edge compute location is complex with elements of network functions virtualization, mobile edge computing and fixed mobile convergence technologies that can spread across hundreds of thousands locations.

There are also authorization, billing and reconciliation issues that need to be addressed across various domains, which could be resolved using blockchain to create virtual ledgers.

Further, there's a long investment road ahead to fully deploy edge compute. Areas that comprise the top tier of investments for edge compute include multi-access edge compute, integration, edge connectivity (two-way data flows SD-WAN services, low latency and bandwidth), 5G spectrum and engineering.

RELATED: Industry needs to build use cases and ecosystem for edge compute

While augmented reality, virtual reality, self-driving cars and cloud gaming come to mind as the services and applications that will be most enabled by edge compute, a panel at last month's AT&T Spark conference said the use cases and ecosystem need to be further defined.

Earlier this year, AT&T Foundry launched an edge computing test zone in Palo Alto, California, to kick the tires on AR, VR and cloud-driven gaming.  As part of the second phase, AT&T Foundry is expanding its edge test zone footprint to cover all of the San Francisco Bay Area, allowing for increased application mobility and broader collaboration potential.