Debunking Edge predictions for 2023

While projections might claim edge computing will boom in 2023, said Dr. Ritesh Mukherjee. SVP and General Manager at Inseego sees need for discussion.

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Predicting the future is a risky business. Predicting the future of network technologies is even more dangerous, mainly because our predictions are based on existing theories.

However, we could play devil’s advocate. For example, if someone says that ChatGPT delivers fantastic results, we could argue that ChatGPT repackages tons of existing information – so everything it does is massive plagiarism.

Do you see what I did there? Before you start writing a lengthy rebuttal of my outlandish claim about ChatGPT, let’s play devil’s advocate with network-related technologies expected to thrive in 2023.

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Why 2023 isn’t the year for multi-edge computing

Multi-access edge computing and 5G can work together to provide new services. There is no question that MEC and 5G will reduce latency and enable fast response.

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Most forecasts state that edge computing will boom in 2023. That’s up for debate. Edge computing is one of those technologies that’s a hammer looking for a nail. Most MEC use cases such as AR/VR, autonomous cars, healthcare and others are still in their infancy. Some applications that require fast responses can migrate to the premises rather than the edge to avoid network dependency.

For example, autonomous cars make immediate driving decisions based on what is happening around the car. They don’t ask any edge node in the network to tell them to slow down and avoid hitting the vehicle slowing in front. Amazon is moving towards voice processing in Alexa devices instead of depending on the network edge. Verizon and Equinix have publicly admitted that demand for edge computing has stalled. We will continue to see deployment nests, but it will be a while before edge computing booms without a new application meeting MEC requirements.

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Why 2023 is not the year for private 5G networks

Private 5G networks are one of those technologies that have received a lot of airtime. Most operators have made announcements and many smaller companies are offering solutions. The AWS Private 5G FAQ page states that the service supports LTE Core and LTE radios operating in the Citizens Band Radio Service band. They say there will be an option to move to 5G with no schedules.

The reason most deployments in the US today use 4G LTE or CBRS is because the CBRS spectrum is freed up, making it easier for businesses to use. The other reason is that improvements in Wi-Fi 6/6E/7 make it suitable for many applications where the 6GHz spectrum is available.

There’s no point in comparing future versions of 5G to older Wi-Fi versions. Both technologies will exist. There will be more private 5G deployments in the future, but contrary to most predictions for 2023, it will be slow.

Kubernetes cannot solve the problem yet

For 5G applications to thrive and benefit from reduced latency and network determinism, they must be deployed as virtual or container network functions on the edge nodes. Kubernetes was thrown into the mix to solve this problem.

However, the rim isn’t just a closer cloud. Kubernetes struggles in resource-constrained edge environments, hence efforts to scale it down, including MicroK8s, K3s, KubeEdge, and other variants.

Hypervisors introduce performance overhead and defeat the purpose of bringing applications closer to the user. To counteract this, we’ve added DPDK, SR-IOV, PCI passthrough, and other line-rate packet processing solutions. Latency-sensitive applications need instant access to edge resources. To achieve this, we built in CPU pinning, HugePages and other techniques to give applications exclusive access to resources.

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At the rate at which we are providing solutions to solve the fringes we create, we might as well throw in the kitchen sink. All this adds complexity and requires the intervention of highly skilled resources. We need to figure it out and package it for 5G solutions, but it will take time for those solutions to mature in 2023.

Playing devil’s advocate on the sidelines

IoT, metaverse, video analytics, robotics, personal 5G, gaming and other applications have all been touted as the killer app for 5G and edge computing at some point. They could still be the much-needed impetus to bring these networking technologies to the commercial market.

We need to experiment and plan to roll out these solutions on a large scale. In the meantime, ChatGPT seems to be working fine from our laptops without the need for 5G or edge computing.

dr Ritesh Mukherjee

Ritesh Mukherjee leads Enterprise Networking as Senior Vice President and General Manager at Inseego. He is responsible for transforming networks and services with 5G, SDN/NFV, SASE, SD-WAN, Cloud and IoT technologies.