Is cloud native edge computing at hyperscale just techno-babble?

I was astutely called out on a couple of “terms” with our initial press release. Its understandable because most companies starting out tend to beat their chests on how great they are and don’t spend much time connecting the dots between all that greatness and actual business outcomes. So it’s tiring for those trying to understand where the technology fits and break it down for their audiences to decipher everything and meet the needs of a real-time 24 hour publishing schedule. There’s only so much space in a press release so let me take a few blog posts and start getting real…

The OG – I saw the whole season…was in college…and bored…

Lets start with “Cloud Native Edge Computing”. Edge computing is what makes real-time reaction to IoT data possible. Thats because it eliminates latency, bandwidth, and autonomy limitations of cloud that can hamper or destroy real-time apps . However, edge computing as it stands today has never contemplated a connected, “hyperscale” world. Unlike cloud computing, edge computing is still very rooted in the embedded computing/processing world which wasn’t intended to achieve app lifecycle management at “hyperscale” as the cloud is architected. The embedded world is less accustomed to networked systems, security, and app management that solve the problems of deploying, managing, and securing apps at hyperscale.

Of course, apps do exist today in the embedded computing world that are autonomous, real-time, and interact with the physical world. For example, programmable logic controllers (or PLCs) on an assembly line controlling robots or in a solar farm controlling power systems. However, these embedded systems have operating limitations that, when viewed from the scale, security, and network requirements of an IoT world, make it hard to create a consistent approach to deploying, securing, updating, and future-proofing them, especially over-the-air at remote locations, without an unrealistic increase in operational costs.

The era of Cloud Computing introduced app developers to the concept of “cloud native” apps – a model where developers are more concerned with how apps are created, deployed, and maintained at hyper-scale and not concerned with “where” they are physically deployed. App developers can focus on continuous, agile delivery of software with a base assumption that infrastructure should be taken for granted. “Cloud native” at the edge extends this base assumption to enable agile development regardless of the network topology, geography, or hardware diversity found at the edge.

Examining software app lifecycle in the edge today versus a “Cloud Native” approach side-by-side highlights the fundamental differences that an edge app platform must achieve to provide continuous delivery at distributed location and at hyperscale.

Comparison of Legacy Embedded and Cloud Native edge software development

This cloud native approach has allowed the largest cloud companies achieve operations at hyperscale and is an absolute requirement for IoT to live up to its much hyped $1.3 Trillion-dollar forecasts. To provide a view of what “hyperscale” will look like in edge computing we need to look no further than the recent “Meltdown” bug discovered by Intel. To protect customers from effects of the “Meltdown” bug, Amazon Web Services could have had to quickly patch on the order of 2-3 Millions servers to insure operations and security for all their customers (this is an estimate, its obviously a proprietary number they don’t share). These fixes were not deployed in weeks or months but hours and days.

Why is this approach needed for the edge? Ford Motor Company shipped ~6.7M cars in 2016. Assuming that number stays constant, the modern car can have several servers (with multiple software containers or virtual machines), there is an inevitable future edge computing scenario where a single car company could have to deal with 10-times the number of upgrades required by a cloud company the size of Amazon to protect their customers! How does a car company scale its operations to deal with compute and app problems? Are they going to increase the IT team to match Amazon Web Services? These are realities of dealing with hyperscale at the edge!

Jargon-y? Sure. Making a real impact on business outcomes. Absolutely. I like what this has kicked up. Feel free to ask more questions in the comments or on the Facebook community page. I’ll continue the discussion with more topics here on the blog as well.