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Why organizations are betting on edge computing


A vast majority of organizations say edge computing can improve their operational responsiveness, with the number-one benefit being reduced costs.

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While edge computing has been on the IT and operations radar for some time, it has now moved into the corporate mainstream. Rollout of 5G will only increase demand and need. In the different normal of a COVID-19 world, edge computing’s significance and potential are more important than ever for virtually every industry.

A combination of edge computing and industrial IoT devices enables smarter supply chains, better equipping them to handle disruption of all kinds. Edge can enhance and expand the performance of drones used for a myriad of uses from disinfection and diagnosis to crowd management and deliveries. And edge with 5G can help address bandwidth, speed, and security issues for networks experiencing sudden – and ongoing – traffic surges. In fact, adoption of 5G opens the door to a situation where edge computing is not just an option, but a necessity. Edge computing already has a host of applications and the potential to transform processes and entire industries.

So what exactly is edge computing? Edge is a distributed computing model that brings computation, data storage, and power closer to the point of action or occurrence of an event. Processing data where it is created – at the edge – allows for more immediate application of analytics and AI capabilities.

The player that best harnesses connected IoT and 5G is going to win big on so many levels. It will be able to modernize its network and transform decision responsiveness.

Why is this important? Edge computing helps address issues stemming from today’s ever-increasing amounts of data. Customers’ expectations for compelling, immersive real-time interactions continue to grow, and boundaries between the physical and the digital are eroding. The resulting explosive growth in the number – and computing power – of Internet of Things (IoT) devices is generating unprecedented amounts of data.

Data volumes will increase even faster as 5G networks enable lightening speeds and even more connected devices. IDC predicts that by 2025, every connected person in the world will have at least one digital data interaction every 18 seconds – likely from one of the billions of IoT devices, which are expected to generate over 90 ZB of data in 2025. Sending all that device-generated data to a centralized data center or to the cloud will most certainly result in bandwidth, energy, and latency issues.

Living on the edge

Edge computing is a more efficient alternative. Because much of the data does not traverse over a network to a cloud or data center to be processed, latency – the delay between transfer of data following a transfer instruction – is significantly reduced. Edge computing enables faster, less restrictive data analysis, creating the opportunity for deeper insights, faster response times, and improved customer experiences. Powered by edge and AI, devices and machines can interpret, learn, and make decisions instantaneously.

91% of organizations plan to implement edge computing within 5 years.

While some edge computing is being applied today, it is poised for explosive growth in the future. With the continued growth of the IoT, Gartner predicts that 75 percent of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed outside the traditional data center or cloud by 2025. The global edge computing market, valued at USD 3.5 billion in 2019, could reach USD 43.4 billion by 2027.

To learn about organizations’ current and future edge computing strategies, the IBM Institute for Business Value joined forces with Oxford Economics to survey 1,500 executives across 22 industries and 21 countries. Executives reveal their plans for the technology and how it can drive responsiveness, energy efficiency, and business model innovation. In addition, we explore ROI expectations, as well as identify a small group of leaders who are diving into edge with bigger investments – and expectations. Read the report to learn more.


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Meet the authors

Skip Snyder

Connect with author:


, Vice President, Partner, and Growth Leader, IBM Consulting


Rob High, IBM Fellow and Vice President and CTO, IBM Edge Computing, Cloud and Cognitive Software

Karen Butner, IBV Global Research Leader for digital operations, supply chain management, and intelligent automation

Anthony Marshall, Senior Research Director, IBM Institute for Business Value

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Originally published 25 May 2020