Edge as a service grows as enterprises deploy more edge instances

As enterprises deploy edge computing devices across an increasing variety of IT environments, businesses point to a growing range of edge-enabled use cases, according to 451 Research’s Edge Infrastructure & Services, Edge Use Cases 2023 survey. Top cited use cases include customer experience and private networking functions. Major drivers of edge adoption include the need for security features and connectivity options, while budget concerns, technical limitations and security concerns are the top barriers to adoption.

Fielded in May and June of 2023 with a panel of approximately 325 respondents using or planning to use edge infrastructure and services, the survey focused on the key use cases and requirements for edge computing infrastructure.

The Take

Edge services have traditionally been installed on-premises, a trend reflected in the high number of survey respondents who indicate their organization’s edge infrastructure resides in a secured IT rack or a secured server room. Local colocation datacenters also play a significant role, serving as an edge deployment venue for about one-quarter of respondents. This indicates that organizations are open to using a local third party to serve multiple on-premises edge implementations via a service edge, rather than invest in the redundant on-premises power, cooling and networks that mission-critical IT workloads require. Edge-as-a-service providers can certainly address organizations’ concerns about high budget requirements and security related to edge deployments. We expect this area to grow as more edge workloads are brought online.

We also see an increase in distinct edge deployments within a single enterprise. More respondents are deploying hundreds of edge locations, underlining the need for remote configuration, orchestration and management tools.

Summary of findings

Many edge devices are deployed in traditional IT environments. When asked where edge computing infrastructure is deployed, organizations most frequently cite traditional IT infrastructure locations such as secured enclosures (45%) and secured server rooms (38%). Lower on the list, but similar in function, are local colocation environments (25%) and modular datacenters (23%). Locations specific to an organization type or use case are generally less frequently selected. These include distribution centers or warehouses (29%), office or retail environments (29%), factory floors (19%), and stock rooms (17%). Unsecured racks and unsecured server rooms are the least frequently selected responses.

Customer experience and private networking are top edge use cases, but survey responses suggest edge deployments in development will emphasize new use cases, including environmental efforts. When asked what business use cases their edge computing infrastructure supports, respondents most frequently point to customer experience optimization (40%), industrial process management and automation (36%), private wireless network enablement (34%), video surveillance and access controls (31%), workplace safety (31%), and supply chain management (30%). In the next two years, businesses with existing or planned edge infrastructure deployments intend to support several of the same use cases (customer experience at 31%; private wireless networking at 30%). Several use cases are more prominent among planned use cases than among current ones, including building automation for power utilization (29% planned versus 21% current) and environmental monitoring (26% planned versus 24% current).

Budgets, technical limitations and security concerns are top barriers to implementing edge infrastructure. Among organizations with edge infrastructure deployed, in proof of concept or in plan, limited budget (37%) is the most frequently cited barrier to further deployment, followed by limited technical capabilities (28%), lack of software security capabilities (27%) and physical security concerns (21%).

Security features and connectivity options are among the most important edge server capabilities, and both are frequently cited as needing improvement in current servers. Multiple facets of security appear near the top of the list of edge server requirements, including encryption (35%) and physical security (21%). Other key responses include hybrid connectivity (31%), CPU options (24%), and automated deployment and provisioning (22%). Each of these is also high on the list of functions identified as currently needing improvement among edge servers, led by hybrid connectivity (33%), encryption (31%), CPU options (27%) and automated deployment (26%).

Deployment plans suggest many organizations adopting edge infrastructure will start with more concentrated deployments, and that the largest deployments develop over time. Among businesses with deployed edge computing infrastructure, nearly half (48%) say they have edge infrastructure deployed at more than 50 locations, with 13% reporting they have edge devices at more than 500 sites. When that question is broadened to include future states, and posed to a larger sample that includes businesses with planned deployment, the proportions shift somewhat toward the smaller deployments, with 51-100 sites tied for the most common response (18%, compared with 12% for current deployments).

IoT Connectivity Challenges and Security Shortfalls

Do you have your finger on the pulse of tech trends? Join the 451 Alliance for exclusive research content on industry-wide IT advancements. Do I qualify?