Bringing the cloud to the edge
The internet of things (IoT) keeps expanding and creating opportunities in many different areas and thereby shaping new business models that meet customers' needs. Opportunities, productivity, and growth all rely on data.
IoT devices are constantly gathering data. After collection, they send the data to another location in the cloud providing centralized resources such as compute and storage. Businesses use a good deal of this gathered data for statistical analysis, forecasting, and data analytics. The cloud is a resource somewhere else, and the problem with the cloud is simply distance.
Cloud servers have the power to process and mine large data sets but are too far away to process data and respond in real time. Because of the distance, the cloud model creates a challenge in environments where operations are mission-critical or internet connectivity isn’t so great.
Optimally, we'd like to distribute the computing requirements and bring processing closer to the edge of the network, to reduce the amount of data that is sent to the cloud for processing and analysis. There is a huge value in having access to real-time information and analytics from device-generated data, which helps businesses to make critical split-second decisions.
Edge computing refers to the act of bringing computing resources and application services closer to the edge.
What is edge computing?
Edge computing (or fog computing) combines hardware and software at or near the physical location of either the user or the source of the data. Edge computing is also defined as a distributed computing paradigm that decentralizes the cloud to the logical extremes of a network. These extremes include remote locations such as manufacturing plants, warehouses, retail stores, transportation centers, and more.
In other words, it provides you with the capability to move application workloads anywhere that you need computing outside of your public or private cloud environment.
Benefits of edge computing
The main benefits of edge computing purely and simply include a response to organization challenges such as regulations, latency, bandwidth, company culture, proprietary applications, and so on.
Other benefits include the following:
Speed: Most importantly, edge computing increases network performance by reducing latency. Lowering latency increases available bandwidth and enables faster application response times. The massive reduction of lag time has broad implications for mission-critical technologies and equally expansive benefits for business.
Security: By placing all of that computing power locally, in a limited geographical area, you further reduce the risk of exposing sensitive data. Thus, you allow organizations to control their data and their transmission over the network better. Edge computing helps overcome the issues of local compliance and privacy regulations, as well as the problem of data sovereignty.
Resiliency: Edge computing adopts a decentralized approach by having distributed small edge sites spread across a limited geographic area. By design, each edge site operates independently from each other and the core site even if something causes the core site to stop functioning.
Challenges of edge computing
Edge computing comes with the following risks and challenges:
Scalability: Scaling out many distributed edge sites can be more complicated than adding the equivalent capacity to a single data center. The increased overhead of physical locations can be difficult to manage for companies with limited resources.
Operation: On-site technical expertise can be limited or scarce in some edge computing sites. Site management operations need to be highly reproducible and aligned across all edge distributed sites to simplify management and to avoid gaps such as system patches, configuration, and versions.
Security: Edge computing offers greater control over information flows by restricting data in a limited geographical area. However, you might consider the physical security of the site to be low compared to the cloud, which can lead to a greater risk of malicious or accidental activities.
After discussing the benefits of edge computing and challenges along the way, it becomes clear that edge computing is not going to replace cloud computing, at least not in the near future.
Indeed, edge computing emerged due to the rising pressure on network capacity and the growing demand for faster and faster response times from compute-intensive applications, such as machine learning, gaming, and more.
As a result, for a decade, we’ve increasingly been pushing computing power out to the cloud. At the same time, we’re pushing in the opposite direction—sending computing power to the local extremities of our networks—to the edge.
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