By Lance Crosby
Founder & CEO at Stackpath
As the founder and CEO of SoftLayer (what is now IBM Cloud) I had the opportunity to be at the forefront of the cloud era since before anyone really knew what the “cloud” even was. With all the market confusion and rapid, drastic changes that are happening, it feels like 2009 all over again. And I can tell you that development of the “edge”—though, technically, a part of the cloud — is leading to as dramatic a revolution.
And a revolution is called for, if only to meet changes happening in the media industry. Video on demand, over-the-top media, and music/audio streaming are quickly making traditional media obsolete. In 2020 more people will watch more online video than TV, and 1 million minutes of online video will be consumed every second. Delivery speed, capacity, and quality is key, and media and entertainment companies have increasingly stringent requirements. Customers are becoming more and more impatient. If a media company can’t get content to the customers or “eyeballs” quickly and easily, somebody else will.
It used to be fine to have enormous data farms out in the middle of nowhere in a corn field in Iowa or Eastern Washington, wherever there was cheap real estate, but things have changed. The traditional cloud model where workloads reside mainly in mega-data centers that sit way out past the exurbs just isn’t good enough.
The edge has a unique and strategic location in the overall topology of the cloud. Edge-optimized workloads share computing, storage and delivery responsibilities between origin data centers and computing, storage, and delivery resources in PoPs closer to the eyeballs. That provides an opportunity for companies to decentralize processing, better aggregate and consolidate data, reduce latency, and increase security. These enable real-world, measurable business value such as faster data analysis, lower network traffic costs, optimized cloud and on-premise costs, better quality of service, and improved regulatory compliance. In the era of GDPR, this is now more important than ever.
So far, the industry has barely tried tapping the full potential of the edge. It’s mostly just produced off-the-shelf edge services. What customers need now is a true platform that is on the edge and close to the users. A platform that is secure, provides composable infrastructure services, and can quickly and easily accommodate an increased demand, so they can leverage edge services and even create and deliver edge services of their own.
So, who will own the edge?
I don’t think it will be the public cloud services providers. They may own the cloud as it exists today, but they are not agnostic. With their closed ecosystems, customers won’t be able to securely and seamlessly integrate services from multiple providers at the edge as will be necessary.
It won’t be the legacy CDN service providers either, unless they find a way to stop time and invest massive CAPEX to rebuild their existing infrastructures. They are great at providing content delivery on their own infrastructures but cannot give third parties the ability to build on their infrastructure. This will be necessary to tap the full potential of the edge.
It also won’t be the legacy security service providers. They deploy their services on others’ clouds and edge infrastructures, but don’t have the expertise, scale or scope to build their own platforms.
This is exactly why I founded StackPath, a platform of secure edge services that enables developers to protect, accelerate, and innovate cloud properties ranging from websites to media delivery and IoT services. A platform that is origin agnostic, able to hyperscale, is inherently secure, and allows users to easily connect to a fully secure SaaS world. Integrated and automated through a single API and customer portal which allows anyone to build and deploy their own solutions at the edge. It includes:
- Edge compute: Deploy container instances and virtual machines with varying levels of CPU and RAM to any edge location on StackPath’s global network. Or simplify setup by deploying functions at the edge with serverless.
- Edge delivery: Deliver small and large objects at the edge with a global flat-rate CDN, use managed DNS to automatically route traffic to the nearest DNS server, and use object storage to eliminate data transfer charges from third party storage providers.
- Edge security: Stop threats and bad traffic at the Internet’s edge with WAF and DDoS protection.
- Edge monitoring: Track the performance and availability of endpoints, APIs, websites, and applications from the local perspective of users.
These services include individual “Stacks” for latency-sensitive applications. Many of our customers just use one Stack, but for those that manage multiple web properties — which may benefit from separate tracking or require different set of tools — creating multiple Stacks is the way to go.
Similar to how many customers only use one Stack, many only use a single service. But there’s a shift happening right now. Organizations are starting to understand the performance benefits of using a single edge platform.
Take Future PLC, a global media company with 171 million monthly users. After using StackPath’s CDN to deliver ads, they brainstormed other ways to optimize their programmatic advertising stack. An opportunity was right in front of them: serverless, or functions at the edge.
Using StackPath’s serverless product, Future PLC was able to decrease latency for their real-time bidding platform which improved the experience for their advertisers. At the same time, they were able to get rid of their old third-party provider, simplify their advertising stack, and save 30% on costs.
So, when we talk about the edge this shows that we’re not talking about this big expensive thing that’s trendy and doesn’t deliver. In reality, it delivers and does much more. We’re not trying to be at the edge of the Internet here. We’re already at it and those who join us are already seeing the benefits.