In a cloud-dominated world, is edge computing the future? Learn all about what edge computing is and why it matters in this comprehensive article.
Edge computing dismantles the classic IT open architecture and does the unthinkable by 2021’s standards:
It skips the convenient cloud entirely, returning local servers and device storage to the forefront. Not to mention delivering bandwidth and latency rates that make the cloud envious.
But what is edge computing?
And why is it outpacing the cloud despite its old-school storage techniques?
Here’s all you need to know about edge computing!
What is Edge Computing?
Edge computing is a modern-era network paradigm that keeps all information processing near “the edge.” (A tech guru’s way of saying “geographically local.”)
By using this cutting-edge data processing tool, you can bypass two critical roadblocks that impair networking:
- Data storage and computation systems located halfway across the country, sending latency (data travel time) to unprecedented levels
- Constantly sending data to and from the cloud, tearing through bandwidth and data at absurd rates (with a hefty price tag)
In 2018, there were more than 22 million devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). If every iPhone, tablet, and computer scattered across the globe integrated with Azure or Google Cloud in real-time, it’d quickly overwhelm the infrastructure.
With edge computing hardware, you can process this data locally. A wireless edge gateway can then filter through the data and decide which to transfer to the cloud.
Where It’s Used
If you’re envisioning a small-scale IT department being the ideal edge computing client, you’re on the right track. But minimizing this digital philosophy to just the corporate world doesn’t do it the justice it deserves.
Edge computing also makes cameos in:
- Self-driving vehicles
- Smart grids (energy monitoring)
- 5G networks
- Smart speakers (voice-controlled)
- Patient monitoring
- Heart rate monitors or wearables
- Off-shore drilling rigs (automatic equipment shutdowns)
Any time you can control a device (i.e., fingerprint locks on a smartphone) or access a network without a real-time connection, you have the edge to thank.
Benefits of Edge Computing
Microsoft Azure, Oracle Cloud, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) are among the top-ranked cloud services for Fortune 500 companies. But according to Gartner, up to 75% of all enterprise data will rely purely on edge computing by 2025.
For reference, that number stood at just 10% back in 2018.
Let’s take a look at what’s triggering this jump in the IT world.
Low Latency Rates
Fiber optic networks transmit data at speeds upward of 124,188 mph. Implying data can travel 20 round trips between Los Angeles and New York in a single second.
But the return route is notorious for slowdowns and bottlenecks. And even a 20-millisecond delay can prove disastrous for real-time technology. For example, self-driving (autonomous) cars, where every microsecond counts to avoid a collision.
Edge computing slashes this latency time into mere microseconds, allowing for real-time updates.
Network reliability is a remarkable selling point for edge computing. Because it doesn’t depend on a long-distance connection to function like the cloud.
In 2017, over four dozen S&P 500 companies realized that cloud-dependence wasn’t always a reliable course. One human error typo effectively capsized the system for four hours, costing these businesses $150 million in sales.
An IoT device on the edge won’t suffer interrupted services, failed connections, or frustrating slowdowns caused by uncontrolled data center outages.
Businesses, both small and large, dedicate some 33% of their tech budgets to cloud platforms. With the average medium-sized business spending $120,000 annually.
This increased external storage and bandwidth can be quite costly. But even more concerning is that a massive chunk of this spending goes to waste. For example, companies storing 24/7 raw video camera feeds that go unreviewed.
Edge computing allows this cloud data transfer to be a more selective process. It cuts down bandwidth, especially useful for mobile or wireless connections.
Problems With Edge Computing
Although dodging the cloud and large-scale data centers via edge computing highlights network efficiency, it’s not without its faults.
Let’s discuss why many modern companies are hesitant to make the switch.
Possible Security Concerns
Edge computing systems are better-shielded from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and malware than the cloud. Yet, these enhanced security reinforcements still have puncturable, pin-sized loopholes.
A weak or unsecured IoT device can open the door to malicious viruses, putting the entire network at risk for infection. These security concerns can be particularly troublesome if you’re handling clients’ medical, financial, or personal information.
It’s possible to counteract these issues with data encryption or VPN tunnels!
Requires More Storage Space
By leaping the traditional cloud computing system and its pay-as-you-go storage capabilities, the IoT device will require far greater storage capacity.
Discarding of Some Data
The glaring problem with edge computing is that you don’t receive a complete picture representing user behavior. Because gateways will only transfer specific details to the primary data center, only a particular data subset will be available.
Edge vs. Cloud
Some new techies toss around the words “edge” and “cloud” as if they’re one and the same, with only minor differences between them. But they couldn’t be more unique!
Here’s a quick edge vs. cloud computing clarification:
A decentralized network that prioritizes real-time data and handles tasks locally, cutting latency and improving network speeds
A centralized network leaning on remote data centers and allows for more extensive scalability (a pay-as-you-go structure)
While both have their pros and cons, neither reigns superior on its own. The “right choice” depends on your business’s size, budget, and security needs.
Edge computing will gradually outpace cloud computing within the next few years, and for several good reasons. With 5G and facial recognition smartphones ruling the tech world, only time will tell just how far this system spreads.
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Copper Beech at Greenville to help them with their online marketing.