Edge Computing Routers – A New Product Trend

Edge computing routers are an integral part of the edge computing infrastructure but have received less attention from major supplier who remain largely focused on traditional routers.  In many current implementations of edge computing, fairly standard routers are being use but we expect that this will change. Traditional and core routers are not intended to handle loads of data created by edge devices (IIoT devices).  This will create a situation where choke points will be created at the network edge and require edge routers.  The ever increasing volume and complexity of data will also require that data centers need to be equipped with very powerful, versatile and highly scalable routers that can handle the increased volume of incoming traffic with minimal latency. These edge routers also need to have more redundancy and security than a traditional router as a failed or hacked router would result in a cascading failure of the whole edge infrastructure.

We believe going forward, a lot of focus will be on edge routers while implementing an edge computing infrastructure. A new kind of edge computing-specific routers is already in the market and CIR believes these new boxes will become dominant in the edge network.

Nokia Edge Routers

A changing supply structure for edge routers

First movers in the edge router space include Cisco, Juniper Networks, HPE and Dell EMC.  Itron has an edge-specific router in the form of IoT Edge Router. CIR sees these companies as aggressively introducing edge computing-specific routers for the coming age of the edge.  Another key company in the market is Ubiquiti Networks which seems to have a focus on the edge computing space with a wide range of offerings through its EdgeMax product portfolio. We also see Nokia as actively pursuing opportunities in the edge computing space, with one of its key offerings being edge routers. Nokia’s edge routers feature in-house-designed router silicon innovations, its own Service Router Operating System (SR OS) software and multi-vendor systems integration capabilities.

We also see Huawei in this space as the company offers several products such as the Huawei AR502H Series Routers, which it claims are designed for large-scale edge computing and IoT networking in harsh environments.  However, it is hard to imagine that Huawei will achieve a large global market share because it is viewed by many governments as a Trojan Horse for the Chinese government.  Huawei is already banned from supplying significant participation in the 5G infrastructure in most of Europe, the US and some of the most important countries in APAC.  However, with a massive domestic market and possessing a favored status Huawei will likely do just fine.

A note on white box routers:  White box routers is another sub-segment that CIR believes holds significant potential within the edge computing routers business. White box routers are easy to deploy and offer greater customization with linking to popular DevOps tools over branded routers from large well-known vendors.  This advantage may earn them a share of the edge computer router space.  Nonetheless, white box router providers are smaller are competing against big brand-name router manufacturers in Cisco, HPE and Dell EMC. This may change as edge computing picks up, a lot will depend on how the white box router manufacturers position themselves. The branded manufacturers (large vendors) are expanding aggressively.

Competition from the end-user device and service segment

It seems natural to suppose that much of the thrust in the edge router market will come from the router industry – including specialized edge router startups.  However, CIR believes that hardware vendors should not be too complacent about this. End user device and service providers are also likely to come to the edge router party.

One example here is Digi International, which is a provider of IoT connectivity products and services. In February 2019, the company introduced Digi IX14 – which it calls an intelligent edge computing router. The company claims that Digi IX14 is ideally suited for utility, Smart City and kiosk applications.

Digi IX14 also includes advanced scripting and customizable business logic via Open-Source Python 3.6, which gives it edge computing capabilities to execute operations at the device level. The device has both an Ethernet and serial port that can be used to link to a single essential IoT sensor, or connect to a network of sensors. The device’s dual SIM slots can allow for carrier flexibility and failover for reduced downtime.