Building servers for the edge will involve respoking, not reinventing, the wheel. Servers for different classes of customers carry much the same functionality, although different elements are emphasized. Two such categories are service providers and end users, said Gordon Smith, vice president of marketing for Speedera Networks. “Being a service provider, the evolution of edge computing for us consists of customized deployment of the servers that already exist,” Smith said.
Currently, customer edge gear is not hot, Sun’s Roth said. “In many cases the emphasis has redoubled on the network edge and data center edge at the expense of the customer edge,” Roth noted. “In economic hard times, people are willing to give up a certain amount of control. They need a Web presence and are willing to use a data center to do it.”
The move to the edge suggests that in many cases execution of applications will be divided between the edge and core. Much of the evolution of the edge — and the outfitting of the servers that fit it — will depend on how that evolution progresses. “The idea of coordination between the central site and the edge in a more structured way is in its early phases,” said Joe Anthony, program director for IBM’s WebSphere marketing.
The ability to execute logic at the edges — not just cache information that is dependent on the central source — is being built into WebSphere version 5, Anthony said. This evolution will accelerate because of the emergence of Web services (which by definition run in a more decentralized manner) and by Edge Side Includes (ESI), an emerging standard for defining Web page components and dynamic assembly at the network’s edge.
Dispersion of functionality doesn’t happen in a uniform manner. Certain business applications will remain at the core for logistic reasons, even if it is technically possible to push them out, while others apps will get their tickets punched at the earliest possible moment. Which functionality remains in the core and which is shipped out will have ramifications throughout the network in terms of security, communications, and overall network management.
For this reason, the line between the core and the edge will become fuzzy. This line will continue to shift as technology, applications, and other elements evolve, leaving the world of servers and server technologies to continue in a state of permanent evolution. What is certain, however, is that servers will continue to sit on the precipice of significant and long-term change.