The edge of the cloud

How MSPs can seize the edge opportunity? Simon Michie, CTO at Pulsant, outlines the opportunities available to MSPs.

The arrival of edge computing presents IT managed service providers (MSPs) with a major opportunity to become headline players in one of the greatest transformations of business. The relocation of computing power closer to end-users at the edge of the cloud will enable MSPs to become stronger, more profitable, and innovative organisations, significantly expanding services and creating new sources of revenue.

The potential for MSPs within the emerging edge environment is significant, provided they upskill and forge vital new partnerships. Statista estimates the worldwide edge market will grow to $250.6bn by 2024 as new SaaS applications process and analyse high volumes of data at speed, with geographical location no longer a constraint. The roll-out of 5G is the true enabler, connecting end-users and devices to the public cloud through high-speed, high-bandwidth connectivity, regardless of where they are in the UK.

Businesses in gaming, content delivery, agriculture, and healthcare, for example, will take full advantage of low latency to evolve services and build new solutions capable of handling masses of data. In gaming, multi-player contests will be possible in any part of the UK, while in healthcare, edge computing will enable sophisticated remote diagnostics and monitoring.

SaaS providers will be able to deliver their solutions much more simply, straight through the network, using network slicing and private 5G where necessary. Edge computing will transform the customer experience for everyone from consumers using augmented reality applications to major clients investing in infrastructure and hardware.

Right across business and industry, organisations will conduct ever more computing outside their infrastructure or shopfloor. The Internet of things (IoT) connecting huge numbers of sensors will enable a vast array of new AI and machine learning-driven capabilities. In manufacturing, mining, oil and gas and logistics, this opens the door to advanced levels of analytics-based automation in the toughest environments. And in many areas of industrial production, it will meet the demand for precision customisation.

Understanding the opportunity

The opportunity for MSPs as this revolution gathers pace is vast. To be effective, edge computing requires an ecosystem of niche experts, edge providers, partners and MSPs to supply specialist services and create the critical mass that accelerates growth.

Awareness of edge computing is increasing but many organisations struggle to understand how they can best prepare for it and are very short on in-house time or expertise to accelerate their implementation. Research shows AI, control logic and data exchange between multiple edge nodes are workload priorities for businesses exploring the edge, but they require MSP partnerships to achieve their goals. This is why MSPs in the IoT sector, for example, should now seize the opportunity with both hands.

The right partners

High levels of performance and security are essential, so MSPs need to team up with multiple best-of-breed partners as soon as possible to fulfil their requirements, avoiding reliance on a single vendor. Provision of multiple cloud-use options for end-customers is a necessity.

Many MSPs have already embraced mobile and hybrid working models because of the pandemic, but they need points of presence in regional edge data centres that are closer to their users through 5G or fibre-to-the-premises, to ensure they have fast, low latency connections in any location. A nationwide edge computing platform with a high-speed fibre network and resilient connections to the full range of public cloud vendors is fundamental to delivering critical connections to digital ecosystems for MSPs and their customers. This includes distributed hybrid models and the ability to deploy SD-WAN technology to optimise edge resources.

A genuinely ubiquitous edge

To thrive in this environment of innovation and opportunity, MSPs need to diversify and ensure they deliver end-to-end cloud solutions. This makes connecting to an established and scalable national network of edge data centres essential.

Since success depends on getting data as close to customers as possible, choosing the right infrastructure partner with good geographical spread of sites across the UK is critical. As network traffic increases across a wider spread of geographical locations, data travelling back to one centralised data centre will become congested. An edge networking approach that spreads the load across several regional edge data centres will mean data can be processed closer to each end-user, reducing congestion, and improving latency.

Once they have the right partnerships in place, MSPs have a unique opportunity to become expert, pivotal organisations, bringing specialist skills, solutions, and partnerships to solve challenges in a huge range of fields. The opportunity is immense.

As we come out of the pandemic, businesses will be searching for new ways to meet increasing demands for faster and more efficient data processing. With the opportunity for increased revenues and margins, MSPs need to take control and start building their edge and multi-cloud solutions and partnerships sooner rather than later. If not, they will find themselves losing out to those that do, including the public cloud providers.

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