KubeCon + CloudNativeCon sponsor guest post from Jennifer Kotzen, Head of Container and Application Platforms Marketing, SUSE

One of the hottest topics at Kubecon this month was Edge Computing, and for good reason: the promise of tremendous improvements to everyday living and equally compelling opportunities for business growth are worthy motivators! And the technology is of course very exciting in its own right too. Clearly, cloud native technologies will play a central role in delivering the promise of edge computing.

Think about that for a moment. For all the change our community has been witnessing and advancing over the past few years, the work we will do going forward will be even more impactful. As we continue to drive development of cloud native technologies to the edge, we will be at the heart of a technology revolution that will fundamentally change the way humans engage with each other and our world. That’s a very exciting place to be!

We can, and we will, build amazing new edge solutions. And we can – and we must – do still more. As developers of cloud native technologies, it is up to us to ensure that we are not only building great software, but taking advantage of our position as creators to ensure that we build with a conscience. This is our real opportunity to shine.

In their March, 2020 Paper “Edge Computing: A Comprehensive Survey of Current Initiatives and a Roadmap for a Sustainable Edge Computing Development” researchers Andrea Hamm, Alexander Willner, and Ina Scheiferdecker present an instructive view of what it may mean to develop sustainable edge computing systems. The short paper is worth a quick read, especially for those of us working in the cloud native community.

As we build technologies for the edge, we might, or we might not, bear the ideas of sustainable development in mind. Along the way, we will make many choices, accept innumerable trade-offs, and prioritize among myriad competing objectives. And the choices we make may have profound and far reaching consequences. Will we choose wisely?

Consider for example the power consumption, and associated power generation and distribution challenges of ubiquitous edge computing. Will we find ways to address them responsibly? Will we consider and enable control of potentially destabilizing impacts of real time processing, as exhibited for example in financial trading applications? How will we balance the benefits of massive data analysis and machine learning with the risks of lost privacy?

Following the United Nations’ definition of sustainable development as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” the research team (Hamm, et al) presents a framework for considering questions of sustainable development of edge computing systems. The framework is built around the well-known economic, social, and environmental pillars of sustainability, and can be a useful starting point for conversations that may help us make better decisions as we create transformative edge solutions.

For many of us committed to the open source ethos, it’s a short leap to also align behind the ideals of sustainable development, which is really good news. Becoming cognizant of the reality that there are sustainability factors to consider as we develop new edge technologies is a powerful first step in taking our responsibility to heart – it’s a step we’re taking at SUSE, and we hope you will too.