How edge computing is intertwined with open source

How edge computing is intertwined with open source.

It was only six years ago that Kubernetes was created, yet in those few years the technology has become the go-to standard for container orchestration and management systems, and its use is growing at an incredible rate globally. Kubernetes and cloud native technologies enable a broad array of applications because they serve as a reliable connecting mechanism for a myriad of open source innovations, from supporting various types of infrastructures and adding AI/ML capabilities to making developers’ lives simpler and business applications more streamlined.

Kubernetes is also very popular with CIOs, having become the top container management system since its introduction. GitHub entries related to Kubernetes appear at 60,682 — and as we see the swift expansion of Kubernetes use in the enterprise and in new use cases including edge computing, these figures are only set to rise.

The benefits of Kubernetes are numerous, especially when used for DevOps. The technology facilitates fast, simple management and coherent organisation of containerised services and applications. Kubernetes also enables the automation of operational tasks, for example, application availability management and scaling. And, when using Kubernetes, businesses can more easily shift workloads between different providers due to the ubiquity of Kubernetes service offerings among cloud providers and the portability of containers themselves. Given these advantages, it’s no wonder Kubernetes is growing in popularity

A recent global study carried out by SUSE and Insight Avenue, an independent market research agency, revealed how IT leaders are responding to the challenges of today. Most notably, the study revealed that average production workloads that are containerised are expected to increase from 27% today to 34% in a year’s time, and in two years’ time they expect another 47% growth. Increased containerisation along with the need for container orchestration is driving demand for Kubernetes, reflecting a rising maturity as enterprises continue to transition over to solutions that are cloud native.

Overall, Kubernetes is vital for businesses looking to capitalise on key technology trends now and in the coming years. For businesses looking to accelerate their application delivery with containerised and cloud native workloads it plays an integral role. With the accelerated uptake of hybrid cloud and edge computing new needs emerge. In fact, IT leaders anticipate a substantial difference for the success of their organisation by adopting IoT (82%) or edge computing (80%), and of course open source (70%), according to the Insight Avenue Research.

Let’s turn our attention to some notable use cases behind these figures.

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The Intertwining of edge, core and cloud

Across a variety of sectors edge computing is being implemented so that organisations can take advantage of the many benefits it brings. With edge computing, it is possible to extend the reach of our current computing systems into far-flung environments, to deliver context specific value into each of many remote locations. And, while edge is exciting new territory in many ways, it is important to remember that edge solutions encompass more than edge environments. The most successful systems integrate many edges and back-end cloud services to provide greater value.

We can contextualise the interdependencies of an edge computing system by thinking about a forest, wherein every object has a purpose and a role to play to maintain the health of the ecosystem. In the same way, edge solutions require seamless integration of networked systems that span from edge to core to cloud, as well as applications that can run as needed in these environments. At first glance, the more centralized approach of clouds and the highly distributed device-based approach of edge may appear to be chalk and cheese, yet in edge solutions they are closely entwined and depend on each other to work properly.

An excellent example for an edge to core to cloud use case is smart, self-driving cars. Decked out with sensors and computer units, these vehicles are the edges of a comprehensive system that is massively distributed. The volume of data these smart cars create is vast: some of it is processed locally in the vehicle, where low latency is critical for driving reactions, while some data is fed back to the data centres of automotive manufacturers. There, information from all cars can be stored, filtered, managed and analysed collectively to deliver valuable insights to manufacturers. However, the car system requires updates and instructions too, therefore this system is a two-way street. Lastly, the public clouds, where centralised data and end user applications are hosted, are connecting to and with the vehicles.

In this situation it is clear, that there are many components — cars, data centres, clouds, networks, and many applications — but there are also the people, solutions and processes that make it all work, which cannot be ignored. IT and developer teams, as well as active users, utilise tools and processes to handle applications, data, infrastructure, security, and observability. These tools, including Kubernetes, bring the entire system to life and offer the crucial support that all the components require.

Understandably, edge computing networks are vast, they grow very fast and are made up of many different types of clouds and infrastructure. Fortunately, open source projects have been created, including K3s and KubeEdge, that provide a way to use Kubernetes in edge environments. With Kubernetes, applications can be managed more automatically and can be rapidly and easily evolved, addressing key challenges of edge environments. Additional open source technologies facilitate the management of the entire ecosystem via multi cloud, multi cluster, including edge ones, management capabilities.

The automotive industry is not the only sector that can benefit. Other industries, such as retail or healthcare, can also adopt this scenario with the only essential being that edge computing necessitates an integrated infrastructure that crosses edge to core to cloud.

With cloud native technologies being so useful, we are seeing them being adapted for edge computing. The most critical part: for the enterprise, these developments will lay the foundations for Kubernetes and other cloud native projects to become the unifying platform that makes edge computing truly accessible. If your organisation is striving to innovate now, and in the future, then Kubernetes and cloud native solutions have a critical role to play.

Written by Thomas Di Giacomo, president of engineering and innovation at SUSE

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