By Alexey Sapozhnikov, prooV
It’s been more than a decade since cloud computing transformed the way that data is stored and shared. Over that time, the cloud has enhanced business agility, enabled innovation, increased collaboration, and created less reliance on capital resources.
While the initial ramp-up to the cloud may have been a slow climb, it has most definitely been steady. Most enterprises today leverage the cloud. Many enterprises also rely on a multi-cloud environment to support varying workload demands.
According to Cisco, however, thanks to the exponential rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), today’s cloud models are transforming. Simply put, the cloud is currently not designed for the volume, variety, and velocity of data that the IoT generates. Billions of previously unconnected devices are generating more than two exabytes of data each day. Gartner predicts an estimated 20.4 billion “things” will be connected to the Internet by 2020. Moving all data from these things to the cloud would require vast amounts of bandwidth—leading to much discussion about “edge computing”—which aims to optimize cloud computing systems by performing data processing at the edge of the network instead.
Additionally, the rapid interest in blockchain is leading to an exponential demand for computing power to process massive volumes of data. While the extent that businesses will adopt blockchain is still in its infancy, what’s clear is that it is upending traditional approaches towards cloud storage and security.
As the cloud enters its young adulthood, it is simply too slow for the rapid processing required for all this data. If you’re an enterprise relying solely on the cloud, tomorrow you won’t have the bandwidth or resources available to keep up. You need to explore ways to speed up your processing speed, conserve bandwidth, operate securely, and ensure reliability.
Alexa, what is edge computing?
As we know, everything is getting “smart.” Your car, refrigerator, thermostat, and so on. Gartner forecasted that 8.4 billion connected things would be in use worldwide in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016 – and that number is rapidly increasing. There is simply so much data straining the cloud and it’s causing latency.
To alleviate the strain on the cloud, edge computing (and fog computing) are rapidly becoming the next big thing. Edge computing allows you to do some of the computational work required by a system close to the endpoints instead of in a cloud or a data center. To do this, you can leverage resources such as laptops, smartphones, tablets and sensors. The benefits include faster response time as data is processed near the point of origin, increased privacy by anonymizing at the edge as needed, lower network bandwidth requirements, better availability, and reduced cost.
For example, Amazon has launched AWS Greengrass, which extends AWS cloud capabilities to local devices. With AWS Greengrass, connected devices can run AWS Lambda functions, keep device data in sync, and communicate with other devices securely – even when not connected to the Internet. Greengrass ensures IoT devices can respond quickly to local events, operate with intermittent connections, stay updated with over-the-air updates, and minimize the cost of transmitting IoT data to the cloud.
Cisco was ahead of the curve. In 2014, a Cisco Fellow created the term “fog computing” to describe the extension of cloud computing to the edge of an enterprise’s network. Bringing enablement to IoT, 5G, and embedded AI, the bleeding-edge nature of fog computing allows apps and devices to connect at a rapid pace. The technology allows massive amounts of data to be processed quicker as well. The idea is that IoT will equip Cisco edge devices such as routers and IP cameras with applications that let them manage and process data themselves, instead of having to push that data back over the network and into a data center or cloud.
Vapor IO is an interesting edge computing start-up. The company announced Project Volutus, a platform that aims to turn tens of thousands of cell towers into edge locations capable of delivering low latency cloud services to contemporary applications.
To that end, the rush to enable edge computing is also creating the new telecom wars. Telecom behemoths are seeing their build-out of new 5G networks as a chance to cut down on lag time. In July 2017, AT&T said that it was adding intelligence to its towers, central offices, and small cells that are at the “edge” of the cloud by outfitting them with high-end graphics processing chips and other general-purpose computers. This would help AT&T reduce the distance that data has to travel for processing, thereby reducing latency and boosting network performance.
Rethinking cloud storage and security with blockchain
Blockchain, the relative ‘new kid’ on the technological block, has been on the cusp of a breakout for a while now, with many going as far as saying it has the power to change the world.
While it’s true that there hasn’t been a breakout movement that solidifies blockchain as the revolutionary technology everyone claims it is, many companies experimenting with the new technology are still running proof-of-concept pilots. What this tells us is that the absence of scalability and disruption in the market isn’t due to lack of desire to adopt, but simply that the technology is still being fine-tuned.
By integrating blockchain technology into cloud storage, companies will be able to know who has accessed their information, where it went, when and how. Essentially, blockchain will make verification and monitoring of shared information entirely traceable and easily verifiable—a huge benefit for companies looking to improve monitoring and data control while sharing information internally or externally.
Startups such as Storj have already secured more than $35 million to privatize and optimize the security of blockchain-based cloud storage. Blockchain makes their model unique because it creates a marketplace for digital storage where people can rent out unused storage capacity, thereby reducing the dependency on large server farms.
Enterprises fear the shift blockchain is causing in the profitable cloud storage space, and as a result are seeking blockchain innovations of their own. Microsoft is already one step ahead of the game thanks to their facilitation of the integration of blockchain cloud technology on their Azure cloud platform.
By changing the way cloud storage is perceived and moving to a more crowd-sourced storage sharing model, blockchain technology has the potential to transform the way companies of all sizes store, share and secure their information digitally.
Data is clearly driving the next wave of innovation. Over the next few years, Edge computing and Blockchain will help enterprises deal with the staggering amount of data being created, shared, and stored – alleviating workload demands, latency, storage and security issues. Enterprises are going to need to find solutions to these data dilemmas – and will look to utilize proof of concepts to help balance their use of cloud solutions vs. alternatives. Startups can also play in a key role in helping enterprises quickly deploy solutions to manage and protect data, as well as ensure availability and the customer experience.
Alexey Sapozhnikov is the cofounder and CTO of prooV, the world’s first proof-of-concept (PoC) as-a-service platform that helps enterprises find, test-drive and implement new technologies. He is an avid entrepreneur with 20+ years of R&D experience. Prior to prooV, Alexey co-founded three startups in the domains of big data crash prevention, user engagement algorithms and performance monitoring. He was the former R&D Director of SAP Labs and holds multiple patents.