Distributed Cloud at the Edge

By: Brad Parks

What? Did I hear right? It seems that ‘distributed’ is coming back in vogue again with tech analysts and marketeers. (Show of hands: Who remembers when ‘distributed computing’ was the hot term?) Now we’re seeing it in the form of increasing references to and discussions around ‘distributed cloud.’ 

Is this another mash-up for hybrid cloud and multi-cloud? A different way of saying the same thing? Or something more?

Let’s take a look at what is and isn’t really new here in cloud terms ‘ and how it’s taking cloud management to the edge. 

First a definition

For purposes of this discussion, I’m going back to the definition of cloud as set forth by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)[1]Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources such as networks, servers, storage, applications, and services that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. The cloud model includes five essential characteristics: on-demand self-service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity, and measured service.  

Deployment models include private cloud, public cloud, and hybrid cloud, which is a combination of on-premises private cloud and some form of hyperscale public cloud. And now there’s increasing talk of supercloud ‘ a cloud architecture that enables application migration as a service that can run across a single hyperscale cloud or span multiple clouds ‘ is coming into the cloud conversation. 

Distributed cloud is just another part of today’s cloud nomenclature. It’s when geographically distributed yet centrally managed clouds ‘ reaching out to include edge computing ‘ are optimized to meet performance requirements and compliance needs.

What makes a cloud a cloud?

A cloud isn’t a concrete entity or a specific location. As NIST sets up the definition, it’s a set of attributes, an experience, really. It’s an on-demand elastic approach to deploying computing resources. And with distrusted computing, that includes deploying computing resources to the edge.

Now reaching all the way to the edge

Of course you’ll find private clouds in, say, your company data centers, and private clouds hosted by platforms like AWS and Azure. And you’ll find distributed cloud at the edge ‘ in a box attached to a light pole in your local downtown, in a car manufacturing floor, or traveling along with an autonomous vehicle. 

As Lumen Technologies aptly puts it, the promise of distributed computing and edge computing lies in the ability to decentralize and distribute compute closer to the source, literally at the ‘edge’ of the network. The result is a faster computational speed than cloud services alone can offer.

To confirm the growth of distributed computing at the edge, a recent Quadrant Strategies survey of 1700+ senior IT decision-makers concluded that a secure, distributed edge compute architecture is crucial to delivering next-level business outcomes and customer experiences.[2]

Factoring distributed computing into the overall cloud shift

From a Gartner perspective, distributed computing is playing a role in the ongoing cloud shift. In a recent Market Impact, Gartner noted that ‘technology and service providers that fail to adapt to the pace of cloud shift face increasing risk of becoming obsolete or, at best, being relegated to low-growth markets. Ongoing disruption will be amplified by the introduction of new technologies, including distributed cloud.’[3]

To capture market opportunities associated with cloud computing, Gartner recommends that technology and service providers must ensure they address several market essentials, including catering to ‘public, distributed and hybrid cloud opportunities by analyzing revenue streams, rates of cloud shift in specific markets and ongoing customer/prospect dependencies on traditional solutions.’[4]

The Morpheus POV on distributed computing at the edge: ‘It’s just another cloud.’

The way we see it at Morpheus, any way you can make application infrastructure elastic and available on demand, that’s a cloud ‘ and that includes distributed computing at the edge.

Here’s a simple use case: Say you’re developing a new application centrally but then need to deploy it across distributed locations. With the Morpheus cloud management platform, you can do that with the click of a button and holistically manage governance and policy wherever that application is used.

For us, it’s the natural progression of cloud management from a ubiquitous, unified control plane that spans easily from private cloud to public cloud to hybrid cloud and now on to the edge. 

To learn more about Morpheus, request a demo today.


[1] The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing, National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. Department of Commerce, Special Publication 800-145.

[2] Quadrant Strategies, Global Poll: Edge Computing Trends, Barriers and Benefits, April 2021.

[3] Gartner, Market Impact: Cloud Shift ‘ 2022 Through 2025, January 2022.

[4] Gartner, Market Impact: Cloud Shift ‘ 2022 Through 2025, January 2022.

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