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By | January 16, 2023

Leaders in LF Edge: Interview with Joe Pearson

According to STL Partners, the total edge computing addressable market will grow from $10 billion in 2020 to $543 billion in 2030 at a compound annual growth rate of 49% over the 10-year period. As edge computing becomes a significant revenue opportunity for the technology and telecom industries, it’s even more important to have effective leaders to advance the future of the edge computing industry.

Today we sat down with Joe Pearson, LF Edge Technical Advisory Council (TAC) chair and Edge Computing & Technology Strategist at IBM. Joe tells us how he got involved in the edge computing industry and why leaders must plan for the growth of IoT and edge.

How did you get involved in the LF Edge community and what is your role now?

Thank you for this interview. I work at IBM for Rob High, an IBM Fellow and CTO of Software Networking and Edge Computing. Rob clearly saw two key points many years ago: that edge computing was going to be one of the next areas of innovation and opportunity, and that the best way to ensure widespread adoption would be through foundational edge computing components being released as open-source. This coincided nicely with the Linux Foundation bringing together existing edge computing projects and culminating with the launch of LF Edge in January 2019. I was fortunate to be involved from the beginning and worked with early pioneers in this space through LF Edge’s Technical Advisory Council (TAC).

Fast forward to 2022 and after incubating and launching one project, and being TAC Sponsor for two others, I was voted into the position of Vice-Chair of the TAC.  After serving under the leadership of Jim St. Leger I was recently elected to succeed him as TAC Chair. I also concurrently serve as Chair of the Open Horizon project’s Technical Steering Committee (TSC) within LF Edge.

What is your vision for the edge computing industry? Tell us briefly how you see the edge market developing over the next few years.

Wow.  Please note that I don’t have a crystal ball, and any insight I may have comes from personal observations and the informed opinions of those I trust. I do not speak on behalf of my employer.

I’ll answer those questions in reverse order. Edge computing, especially within open-source, is on the cusp of maturing. That means that we will see re-grouping as some efforts fail to meet expectations. There will be some consolidation in this space. And leading solutions will begin to emerge over the next six to twelve months. Based on that outlook several outcomes will likely happen and it’s my intention that LF Edge and Linux Foundation-hosted projects are involved and at the forefront.  

First, we need to show how LF Edge projects working together can solve both current and future business needs in the following ways: 

  • reducing solution implementation time-to-value by leveraging existing cloud-native tooling and standards, 
  • aiding in application modernization efforts by serving as the foundational framework for cloud-agnostic edge deployments with easily-swappable components,
  • discouraging vendor lock-in by creating and supporting industry and de-facto standards,
  • supporting hardware heterogeneity by promoting and using edge-native development and pipeline creation best practices,
  • demonstrating all of the above with freely-available source code using software licenses that respect contributor intellectual property in order to encourage both community participation and framework adoption.

Second, we need to lead the way in creating, documenting, using, and promoting standards and specifications that enable a healthy and open edge computing ecosystem. A shining example of this is how many LF Edge projects have embraced the FIDO Device Onboard Specification 1.1 for automated, zero-touch device and application deployments.

Third, we’d like to encourage all educational institutions, governments, enterprises, and other organizations to work with us to help shape the open edge computing framework to best meet their needs and requirements.  They can do this by working within individual project communities, by joining LF Edge as Premier, General, or Associate members, and/or by helping to create and run End User Solution Groups.

By working together towards those goals, we can prevent the proliferation of walled gardens and competing incompatible solutions that have prevented equitable cloud growth over the last decade and stifled greater potential innovation.

What impact do you see open source playing in the evolution of the edge market? And how has it shaped where we are today?

Without open-source, all we would have is vendors offering a series of proprietary ecosystems competing with each other to lock customers in. Further, there would be fewer incentives for collaboration between the larger players. Essentially, open-source prevents the edge computing market from being a zero-sum game and ensures portability between vendor solutions. It also levels the playing field between larger and smaller entrants while encouraging innovation at an increased rate. This is one of many reasons why you’ll see revolutionary advancements and experimentation happening in edge computing that just weren’t possible in cloud computing.

With open-source edge computing standards and specifications, we’re beginning to see OEMs and ODMs realizing the benefits of supporting an open approach while enabling competing solutions to emerge. This means fewer licensing fees, not as many unique SKUs needed, and working with communities and standards bodies. Now we still have a ways to go towards generating the critical mass of support that we need in the market, but we’re slowly getting there.

Why is LF Edge important to advance the future of edge computing?

LF Edge is certainly not the only organization involved in edge computing open-source software development. There are many other fine organizations, including our friends in both the Eclipse Foundation and the Apache Foundation. They each have slightly different approaches and governance structures, but our aims are compatible.  

What LF Edge brings that is different from the others is the scale, maturity, and track record of the Linux Foundation itself and the sheer number and variety of organizations already working together within the LF Edge organization and with its projects. This critical mass makes it simpler for both startups and established enterprises to invest time and effort in a single foundation for maximum reach and influence. And the expertise of other groups within the Linux Foundation are being leveraged to make significant strides that may not have otherwise been possible. For example, the OpenSSF best practices are not only helping LF Edge projects to address current security issues on the edge, but they’re also enabling innovation in critical new features like SBOM support.

But arguably more important than that is the promise that LF Edge does not play favorites when it comes to collaboration. Towards that end, the Eclipse Foundation has joined LF Edge as an Associate member and LF Edge projects are exploring opportunities to work together with Eclipse projects to create joint solutions in areas such as Industry 4.0 and Software Defined Vehicles.

What advice do you give to organizations who want to get involved in the LF Edge community?

Make sure that your organization has a clear idea of what vertical(s) you are targeting, who your customers are, and what you are trying to achieve. With those items clearly defined, it becomes much easier to determine which projects to work with initially, and what value you can bring to the community.  

Don’t expect the existing member companies to do the heavy lifting on your behalf.  Instead, think about how your involvement can benefit everyone. And be prepared to contribute resources to help efforts succeed, even if your organization may not see an immediate direct benefit. For example, Intel seeded the initial funding for mentorship stipends within LF Edge, and helped more than eight college students to each spend a semester studying directly with industry mentors and working on important features in LF Edge projects over the last few years.

And be prepared to work together with the other members knowing that each member individually may not always achieve the goals of their organization, but as long as we continue to advance the goals of LF Edge we’re still making forward progress.

About LF Edge:

LF Edge is an umbrella organization to establish an open, interoperable framework for edge computing independent of hardware, silicon, cloud, or operating system. With the support of 29 Premier members, 28 General members and 14 associate members, LF Edge hosts 11 projects including Akraino, EdgeX Foundry, Project EVE and more.

Advance the future of edge computing with LF Edge and become a paying member.