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Forrester has released a bundle of tech predictions for 2021, and part of it is a firm claim about edge computing: 2021 is the year it will finally become a real value. “Until now, edge computing was promising but still developing. In 2021, new business models will emerge that facilitate the deployment of edge in production,” Forrester said in a summary of its predictions.

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The new business models that will push edge computing “from science project to real value” in 2021 are largely based around two factors, Forrester said: Cloud platforms having to compete with artificial intelligence, and the widespread proliferation of 5G will make edge use cases more practical. With those two drivers in mind, Forrester made five predictions about how the tech world will evolve in 2021 that will directly impact edge computing.

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Edge hosting will evolve into a full-fledged marketplace

Content delivery networks like Akamai and Fastly, Forrester said, are starting to target edge computing demands, leading to them reaching out to colocation companies to find small, widely distributed data centers where applications can be hosted closer to the populations they serve.

Even large colocation firms lack the localized presence needed to meet edge computing demands, Forrester said, and the small local players needed to complete their edge services are often obscured by those same large companies.

“In 2021, colocation marketplace aggregators like Edgevana and Inflect will emerge as attractive options for the CDNs and global colocation leaders serving enterprise needs, even in rural locales,” Forrester predicts.

Kubernetes will dominate, but there won’t be an orchestration winner

Forrester predicts that lightweight Kubernetes deployments will end up accounting for 20% of edge orchestration in 2021, but that doesn’t mean the battle for edge orchestration will end. Canonical, Huawei, OpenStack, Rancher, and other companies are also trying to expand their lightweight, edge-optimized platforms, and competition will be fierce in the year to come.

AI will leave the data center for the edge

Forrester predicts that the use of AI in edge computing will undergo a big shift in 2021: Instead of machine learning models being trained in the data center, learning will start to happen at the edge.

That shift will be possible thanks to new chips from Intel and Nvidia, as well as new machine learning techniques like reinforcement and federated learning. “Edge application intelligence will blossom in 2021 to accelerate digital transformation, especially in industries that must bridge the physical and digital worlds in real time,” Forrester said.

Private 5G networks will spread

Nationwide 5G from major telecom networks won’t be sufficient to meet edge computing needs, Forrester said. In its place will be private 5G networks deployed by companies and developed by manufacturers like Ericsson, Huawei, and Nokia.

In 2021, Forrester predicts, private 5G networks will be used in cases like factory floor automation, AR/VR for remote inspection, surveillance, quality assurance, remote monitoring, predictive maintenance, and employee safety.

Public cloud growth will slow while edge spending will grow

Forrester predicts the public cloud market will experience a growth decline from 42% in 2018 to 24% in 2022 due to market maturation. In its place will be an explosion of growth in edge computing, meaning more growth for companies that have invested in cloud-like solutions for edge computing and content delivery, not centralized data centers.

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Public cloud entities won’t disappear, but they won’t dominate the future of distributed computing, Forrester predicts. “Their culture is based on massive data centers and tight control of the architecture, the exact opposite of what rms need to serve customers locally. Vendors with a winning edge strategy will do better.”