How Will Edge Computing Evolve in 2021?


As more organizations switch to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic, many are transitioning away from traditional servers to cloud computing services for enhanced flexibility and security. Some groups are also beginning to turn to edge computing technology: a distributed, open IT architecture with decentralized processing power, as a way to enhance cloud infrastructure. With edge computing, data is processed around the “edge” of a network by mobile devices, local computers, or servers instead of being sent to a central data center. As a result of reducing the distance the data must travel, edge computing reduces latency, which allows for faster internet speed and enhanced network performance.

“2021 will see major enterprises and tech companies driving towards homogenous, cost-effective infrastructure across these tiers, from public cloud, to private in colos, to modular commercial, and to consumer-proximal,” Ali Fenn, president of the data center consulting company ITRenew, told TechRepublic. “Winners will look to advanced and modern paradigms for IT and networking, and untether from conventional stacks, racks, and vendors, to deliver plug-and-play, operationally efficient IT, at the lowest possible cost.”

Three Major Ways Edge Computing in 2021 Could Evolve

Market research firm Forrester makes the following predictions about edge computing in the new year:

  • Edge computing will be hosted on small data center marketplaces: To function, edge computing technology needs to be located close to the user—whether it’s a human working from home or a robot in a production line. For the most part, big data centers operated by cloud providers will be too far away for organizations with national or global workforces. For this reason, marketplaces consisting of many small, local data centers will make the transition to edge computing easier.
  • Private 5G networks will help organizations transition to the edge: It will be years before major telecoms erect 5G networks for the public on a widespread level, but organizations can create their own private 5G networks to serve their workers, production lines, and warehouses. For example, a private 5G network coupled with edge computing technology could provide a local Internet of Things network for a company’s production line equipped with robots and machine tools, making it faster and more efficient.
  • An increase in edge services will take growth away from traditional cloud providers: The pandemic spurred many organizations this year to turn to cloud providers to offset their storage needs and support remote operations. In 2021, it’s likely that edge computing services will begin to compete with traditional cloud providers.

Many Organizations Will Depend on Third-Party Vendors

While edge computing will be an appealing option for many organizations, adapting edge technology won’t be easy. Most organizations will lack the resources necessary to deploy their own in-house edge computing capabilities. As a result, they may need to hire third-party vendors to set up their edge infrastructure. This means organizations that are locked in vendor agreements will be subject to the vendors’ technical resources as well as the vendors’ way of operating. 

“Like many other technology-related decisions, cost of ownership, sufficient technical resources and competencies, and whether there is a strategic value of owning the network-edge stack will factor in this decision process,” Peters Suh, network lead for Accenture North America, told Network World. “However, over the long haul, most enterprises will likely look for third-party support.”

Whether organizations rely on third-party vendors, discover their own in-house solutions, or a combination of the two, the transition to edge computing will accelerate in 2021, but how long it will take to fully get there remains a question. 

Bring Your Organization to the Edge

Many organizations don’t fully understand edge computing and the impact it can have on their business. From providing real-time data analysis to reducing system malfunctions, edge computing can be customized to meet an organization’s specific needs.

Prepare your organization for edge computing integration. Designed to train your entire team to support edge computing, IEEE Introduction to Edge Computing is an online five-course program. To learn more about getting access to these courses for your organization, connect with an IEEE Content Specialist today.

Contact an IEEE Content Specialist to learn more about how this program can benefit your organization.

Interested in getting access for yourself? Visit the IEEE Learning Network (ILN) today!


Combs, Veronica. (25 November 2020). Will edge computing become the new cloud in 2021? TechRepublic.

O’Donnell, Gleen. (24 November 2020). In 2021, edge computing will hit an inflection point. ZDNet.

Gold, Jon. (20 November 2020). Edge computing: When to outsource, when to DIY. Network World.

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