On the Edge: Mobile Clouds Need High-performance Storage


Many industries must capture and analyze data in remote environments. The cloud must have the ability to venture out of the data center and operate where data lives: At the Edge.

For cloud computing to reach the next stage of the technology’s evolution, it needs to move out of traditional centralized data centers and become accessible in the world’s remote and rugged places. Namely, the edge.

Dozens of industries dependent on rapid data analysis and split-second decision-making still lack access to high-performance cloud computing when venturing into internet-isolated and often harsh environments. And even if they had internet access, the roundtrip distance and latency would be prohibitive to real-time decision making. A few of these industries include mining, energy exploration, autonomous vehicles, warehousing, seaports, broadcast TV, film production, seismic and weather tracking, scientific research, military applications, and more. These industries need solutions that bring compute closer to where data is generated for faster processing, lower latency, and real-time decision making, even when disconnected.

For that reason, more and more organizations clamor for a mobile cloud experience. They need tools that provide the means to operate where connectivity may be unreliable, patchy, or non-existent while accelerating the collection, storage, and analysis of data. The tools must also possess the durability to withstand extreme temperatures, high humidity, and all manner of shocks and jolts.

Transporting a cloud-like experience to remote lands or deep beneath the earth’s surface means successfully wedding cloud and edge computing. It also means equipping edge computing products with the necessary ruggedization and ingress protection in addition to providing the highest capacity and lowest latency. In this way, cloud and edge capabilities can successfully support large volumes of today’s data management and analysis applications. 

See also: Edge Computing Enters the Thin vs. Thick Debate

High-performance edge storage frees the cloud 

To fully understand the importance of storage to mobile cloud computing, it’s necessary to understand how the cloud and edge work together. 

Cloud computing has revolutionized modern business practices, but it isn’t without limitations. For example, the further away users are when they request information from a centralized cloud data center, the longer they must wait for that information. That’s simple physics and a problem that plagues all data centers.   

But edge products speed up that process. Edge computing is a distributed computing system that equips users with routers, servers, and other resources that operate closer to where data is gathered. Instead of performing storage and computing tasks at a core facility, edge-computing equipment hands users the ability to operate at the network edge. This means faster response times (lower latency), as well as the speedier transferring of large data sets to the processing unit.

Perhaps most importantly in today’s business environment, edge computing enables analysts and engineers to implement powerful machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) analysis and real-time applications. 

By applying AI and ML at the edge, analysts laboring in remote locations can generate insights and then act on them with minimum delay. This represents a significant advancement from the plodding methods once relied upon. 

NVMe is now the go-to storage interface

When it comes to high performance, NVMe has become the go-to storage interface. 

The protocol takes full advantage of low latency, parallel data paths to underlying media and enables NVMe to provide higher performance and lower latency than SATA or SAS protocols. NVMe not only speeds up applications that require high performance, but it also paves the way for the creation of new capabilities for real-time workloads.

The unique features built into NVMe can remove bottlenecks that encumber application performance while providing the ability to scale and meet the demands of new applications. 

Edge servers that combine high-performance processors with NVMe storage are a breakthrough that delivers the power of centralized cloud servers to the locations where the processing is needed — even in a rainforest or desert.

Cloud expansion hinges on mobility

Without a doubt, cloud computing will continue to see impressive growth. The business world and public have developed an insatiable appetite for data and the insights derived from them. They want answers to pressing questions now, not later.  

Researchers at Gartner expect global cloud revenue to total $474 billion this year, a 13% increase from the $408 billion generated in 2021. Gartner also predicts that by 2025, 85% of organizations will have adopted a cloud-first principle.   

The evolution of centralized cloud to the edge will further enable cloud growth. In the future, possessing mobile-cloud capabilities will become an important competitive advantage, and then that capability will simply become part of the table stakes, a fundamental and necessary part of doing business.

Companies wishing to get into mobile cloud should patiently and carefully consider its pain points and the problems it is trying to solve. The edge is very bifurcated, meaning as much as we would like to find a one-size fits all solution, it simply doesn’t exist.

Start small. If you seek to make real-time decisions, which give you a competitive advantage, provide a larger return on investment, or improve efficiency, stay focused and start small.

No matter what, acquire the tools and gear that won’t quit in the field and provide the kind of storage, memory, and high performance that gives you the best chance of success.

Mark Pastor

About Mark Pastor

Mark Pastor is director of product management at Western Digital, where he is actively involved in platforms for Edge and Cold Storage. Before Western Digital, Mark was at Quantum Corporation for ten years, where he defined and launched several products related to data management, AI, archive, object storage, tape libraries, and autonomous vehicle storage. Prior to that, Mark was at Seagate for twelve years, where he was part of the founding team for the LTO technology and consortium, and he was responsible for defining and launching the world’s first self-encrypting hard drives as well as storage devices for mobile products.

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