Edge computing is a distributed information technology (IT) architecture where client data is handled at the network’s edge, as near to the original source as is practical.
The lifeblood of a contemporary company is data, which offers invaluable business insight and supports real-time management of crucial corporate activities.
The quantity of data that can be regularly acquired from sensors and IoT (Internet of Things) devices working in real time from distant places and hostile operating conditions is enormous, and it is available to organizations now practically anywhere around the globe.
However, this virtual data deluge is also altering how organizations approach computers.
The conventional computer paradigm, which is based on centralized data centers and the public internet, is not well adapted to moving rivers of real-world data that are constantly expanding.
Such attempts may be hampered by bandwidth restrictions, latency problems, and unforeseen network outages. Edge computing architecture is being used by businesses to address these data concerns.
Simply described, edge computing involves relocating a part of the storage and processing capacity away from the main data center and toward the actual data source.
Instead of sending unprocessed data to a centralized data center for processing and analysis, that work is now done where the data is really produced, whether that be on the floor of a factory, at a retail establishment, a large utility, or all throughout a smart city.
The only output of the computer effort at the edge that is delivered back to the primary data center for analysis and other human interactions are real-time business insights, equipment repair projections, or other actionable results.
Edge computing is thereby changing how businesses and IT use computers. Discover all there is to know about edge computing, including its definition, operation, impact on the cloud, use cases, tradeoffs, and implementation concerns.
What is Edge Computing?
Edge computing refers to the use of computing resources closer to the end-user, such as in the data center, rather than on the traditional client/server model.
Edge computing can be used for a variety of tasks, such as accelerating the processing of big data, speeding up the delivery of services to customers, and improving the user experience.
What is the process of edge computing?
Location is the only factor in edge computing. Data is generated at a client endpoint, such as a user’s computer, in conventional corporate computing.
Through the corporate LAN, where the data is stored and processed by an enterprise application, the data is sent over a WAN, such as the internet.
The client endpoint is then given the results of that task. For the majority of common commercial applications, this client-server computing strategy has been shown time and time again.
However, conventional data center infrastructures are having a hard time keeping up with the increase in internet-connected gadgets and the amount of data such devices create and require.
By 2025, 75% of enterprise-generated data, according to Gartner, will be produced outside of centralized data centers.
The idea of transferring that much data in circumstances that are often time- or disruption-sensitive puts a tremendous amount of burden on the global internet, which is already frequently congested and disrupted.
As a result, IT architects have turned their attention from the central data center to the logical edge of the infrastructure, shifting storage and processing resources from the data center to the location where the data is created.
Simple: If you can’t move the data closer to the data center, move the data center closer to the data.
The notion of edge computing is not new; it is based on long-standing theories of distant computing, such as remote offices and branch offices, which held that placing computer resources close to the desired location rather than relying on a single central site was more dependable and efficient.
In order to gather and process data locally, edge computing places storage and servers where the data resides. This often only requires a half rack of equipment to run on the distant LAN.
The computer equipment is often installed in shielded or hardened enclosures to insulate it from extremes in temperature, moisture, and other environmental factors.
Only the results of the analysis are transmitted back to the main data center during processing, which often include normalizing and analyzing the data stream to hunt for business information.
Business intelligence concepts might differ greatly. Examples include retail settings where it may be possible to integrate real sales data with video monitoring of the showroom floor to identify the most desired product configuration or customer demand.
Predictive analytics are another example that may direct equipment maintenance and repair prior to real flaws or breakdowns.
Yet other instances often include utilities, like the production of electricity or water, in order to preserve the efficiency of the machinery and the standard of the output.
Edge computing vs cloud computing vs fog computing
The ideas of cloud computing and fog computing are strongly related to edge computing.
Despite some similarities, these ideas are distinct from one another and normally shouldn’t be utilized in the same sentence. It’s beneficial to contrast the ideas and see how they vary.
Highlighting the similarities between edge, cloud, and fog computing makes it simpler to understand how they differ from one another.
All three ideas are related to distributed computing and place an emphasis on the actual placement of compute and storage resources in relation to the data that is being produced. Where those resources are placed makes a difference.
Edge Computing: The placement of computer and storage resources to the site where data is generated is known as edge computing.
In an ideal scenario, this places computing and storage close to the data source at the network edge. For instance, to gather and analyse data generated by sensors within the wind turbine itself, a tiny container with multiple servers and some storage may be put on top of the device.
Another example is the placement of a small amount of computing and storage within a railway station to gather and interpret the vast amounts of sensor data from the train traffic and track.
The outcomes of any such processing may then be returned to a different data center for manual inspection, archiving, and merging with the outcomes of other data for more extensive analytics.
Cloud Computing: Large-scale, highly scalable deployment of computer and storage resources to one or more geographically dispersed sites is known as cloud computing (regions).
The cloud is a favored centralized platform for IoT installations since cloud providers offer provide a variety of pre-packaged services for IoT operations.
The closest regional cloud facility may still be hundreds of miles from the location where data is collected, and connections rely on the same erratic internet connectivity that supports traditional data centers, despite the fact that cloud computing offers more than enough resources and services to handle complex analytics.
In actuality, cloud computing serves as an alternative to existing data centers, or perhaps as a supplement to them. Centralized computing may be brought much closer to a data source thanks to the cloud, but not at the network edge.
Fog Computing: However, neither the cloud nor the edge are the only options for deploying computing and storage.
Even if a cloud data center may be too far away, strict edge computing may not be feasible due to resource constraints, physical dispersion, or dispersed deployment.
The idea of “fog computing” may be helpful in this situation. Fog computing often takes a step back and places processing and storage resources “inside,” rather than always “at,” the data.
Fog computing settings may create staggering volumes of sensor or Internet of Things (IoT) data that are spread over enormous physical regions and are just too big to define an edge.
Smart utility grids, smart cities, and smart buildings are a few examples.
Think of a “smart city,” where data is utilized to monitor, assess, and improve the city’s public transportation system, municipal services, and utilities, as well as to inform long-term urban planning.
Fog computing may run a number of fog node installations inside the scope of the environment to gather, process, and analyze data since a single edge deployment simply cannot manage such a load.
It’s crucial to reiterate that fog computing and edge computing have almost similar definitions and architectures and that even technology specialists sometimes use the phrases synonymously.
What makes edge computing so crucial?
The architectures needed to do computer activities must be appropriate for those tasks, and not all computing jobs need the same architecture.
In order to bring computation and storage resources closer to — preferably in the same physical place as — the data source, edge computing has emerged as a practical and significant architecture.
In general, distributed computing models are not very novel, and the ideas of remote offices, branch offices, colocation of data centers, and cloud computing are well-established and have a long history.
But when departing from conventional centralized computer architecture, decentralization may be difficult since it requires high standards of oversight and management that are readily disregarded.
Because it effectively addresses new network issues related to transferring the massive amounts of data that today’s businesses generate and consume, edge computing has gained importance.
It’s not simply a quantity issue. Additionally, applications rely on processing and responses that are becoming more and more time-sensitive.
Take the development of self-driving vehicles. They will rely on sophisticated traffic signal control systems. Vehicles and traffic management systems will need to generate, analyze, and communicate data instantly.
When you multiply this need by a large number of autonomous cars, the potential breadth of the issues becomes more apparent. A quick and responsive network is necessary for this.
Three main network constraints are addressed by edge and fog computing: bandwidth, latency, and congestion or dependability.
- A network’s capacity for carrying data is measured in bandwidth, which is often represented in bits per second. All networks have a finite amount of bandwidth, and wireless communication is subject to increasingly stringent restrictions. This indicates that the volume of data or the number of devices that may transfer data over the network has a limited limit. Although increasing network bandwidth is an option for supporting more devices and data, doing so may be expensive, there are still (greater) limited constraints, and it doesn’t address all the issues.
- The amount of time it takes for data to travel across a network is known as latency. Although data should flow across networks at the speed of light, physical distances and network congestion or outages may cause data to move across networks more slowly. This slows down any analytics and decision-making procedures and limits a system’s capacity for quick responses. In the case of the driverless car, it even cost lives.
- In essence, the internet is a vast “network of networks.” The amount of data generated by tens of billions of devices can overwhelm the internet, leading to high levels of congestion and necessitating time-consuming data retransmissions, despite the fact that it has developed to offer good general-purpose data exchanges for the majority of everyday computing tasks, such as file exchanges or basic streaming. In some situations, network disruptions may make congestion worse or even completely cut off connectivity to certain internet users, rendering the internet of things worthless while it is down.
Edge computing allows for the operation of several devices across a much smaller and more effective LAN where abundant bandwidth is only utilized by local data-generating devices, essentially eliminating delay and congestion.
While local servers can execute necessary edge analytics, or at the very least pre-process and limit the data, local storage gathers and safeguards the raw data, allowing local users to make choices in real time before transmitting findings, or merely necessary data, to the cloud or central data center.
Examples and use cases for edge computing
To gather, filter, process, and analyze data “in-place” at or close to the network edge, edge computing methods are utilized.
It’s an effective way to utilize data that can’t be transferred first to a centralized place, mainly due to the sheer amount of data making such movements either technologically or financially unfeasible or perhaps in violation of regulatory standards like data sovereignty.
Numerous examples and use cases from the actual world have arisen from this definition:
- Edge computing was used by an industrial producer to monitor manufacturing, allowing real-time analytics and machine learning at the edge to identify production flaws and improve product quality. Environmental sensors were added to the production facility with the help of edge computing, giving information on how each product component is put together and stored, as well as how long the components are kept in stock. The factory facilities and production activities may now be managed by the manufacturer with greater speed and accuracy.
- Think about a company that produces vegetables indoors, away from sunshine, dirt, and pesticides. Grow times are slashed by more than 60% thanks to the method. The company can monitor water consumption, nutritional density, and identify the best time to harvest using sensors. The impacts of environmental conditions are discovered via data collection and analysis, and crop growth algorithms are constantly improved to guarantee that crops are picked in optimal condition.
- Optimization of the network. By monitoring user performance throughout the internet and using analytics to identify the most dependable, low-latency network channel for each user’s data, edge computing may aid in the optimization of network performance. In actuality, edge computing is used to “steer” traffic across the network for the best performance of time-sensitive traffic.
- Workplace safety. When a workplace is remote or unusually dangerous, like a construction site or an oil rig, edge computing can combine and analyze data from on-site cameras, employee safety devices, and various other sensors to help businesses monitor workplace conditions or ensure that employees adhere to established safety protocols.
- Enhanced medical treatment. The quantity of patient data acquired via devices, sensors, and other medical equipment has significantly increased in the healthcare sector. In order for physicians to respond immediately to assist patients prevent health catastrophes in real time, the vast data volume necessitates edge computing to use automation and machine learning to access the data, disregard “normal” data, and detect issue data.
- The amount of data that autonomous cars need and create each day to collect information on their location, speed, vehicle condition, road conditions, traffic conditions, and other vehicles ranges from 5 TB to 20 TB. Additionally, the information has to be combined and evaluated in real time, while the car is moving. Each autonomous car becomes an “edge” in this scenario, requiring extensive onboard processing. Additionally, depending on real ground conditions, the data may assist enterprises and authorities in managing their fleets of vehicles.
- From surveillance, stock management, sales data, and other real-time business information, retail enterprises may also generate vast amounts of data. Edge computing may aid in the analysis of this variety of data and the discovery of business prospects, such as a successful endcap or campaign, the forecasting of sales, the optimization of vendor ordering, and so forth. Edge computing may be a practical option for local processing at each shop since retail enterprises might differ greatly in local contexts.
Advantages of edge computing
In addition to addressing important infrastructure issues like bandwidth restrictions, excessive latency, and network congestion, edge computing may also provide a number of other advantages that make it interesting in other contexts.
Autonomy: Where bandwidth is constrained or connection is erratic due to site environmental factors, edge computing might be helpful.
Examples include ships at sea, offshore farms, and other isolated areas like a desert or a jungle.
When connection is available, edge computing may store data for transmission to a central location only after doing computation on-site, sometimes on the edge device itself, such as water quality sensors on water purifiers in far-flung communities.
The quantity of data that has to be delivered may be significantly decreased by processing data locally, needing much less bandwidth or connection time than would otherwise be required.
Data sovereignty: Moving enormous volumes of data is an issue that goes beyond technology. Data security, privacy, and other legal considerations may become more complicated when traveling across national and regional borders.
Edge computing may be used to retain data near to its origin and within the parameters of current data sovereignty regulations, such as the GDPR, which outlines how data should be kept, processed, and disclosed in the European Union.
This may enable local processing of raw data, masking or safeguarding any sensitive information before transmitting it to a central data center or the cloud, which may be located in another country.
Edge protection: Last but not least, edge computing presents an extra chance to establish and guarantee data security.
Enterprises are still worried about the safety and security of data after it leaves the edge and goes back to the cloud or data center, despite the fact that cloud providers provide IoT services and excel in complicated analysis.
When computation is done at the edge, even when security on IoT devices is still lacking, any data traveling over the network back to the cloud or data center may be encrypted, and the edge deployment itself can be made more resistant to hackers and other nefarious actions.
Disadvantages of edge computing
Edge computing has the potential to provide compelling advantages in a wide range of use cases, but the technology is far from perfect.
Beyond the standard issues with network constraints, there are a number of important factors that might influence the adoption of edge computing:
Limited capability: The scope and diversity of the available resources and services are part of what makes cloud computing so appealing for edge or fog computing.
Although successful, edge infrastructure deployment requires a clear understanding of its scope and purpose. Even a large-scale edge computing deployment serves a specified function at a predetermined size with minimal resources and services.
Connectivity: Even the most tolerant edge deployment will need a certain baseline degree of connection since edge computing bypasses common network restrictions.
It’s essential to plan an edge deployment that takes into account intermittent or inadequate connection, as well as what occurs at the edge if connectivity is lost.
Edge computing success depends on autonomy, AI, and graceful failure planning in the face of connection issues.
Security: The design of an edge computing deployment must take into account both proper device management, such as policy-driven configuration enforcement, and security in the computing and storage resources, including elements like software patching and updates, with a focus on encryption in the data at rest and in flight.
Secure communications are a feature of IoT services from major cloud providers, although they are not always present when creating an edge site from scratch.
Data lifecycles: The constant issue with today’s data overload is how much of it is superfluous. Consider a medical monitoring gadget.
Keeping days of routine patient data isn’t necessary since only the issue data is important. Real-time analytics often uses short-term data that isn’t maintained for an extended period of time.
Once studies are completed, a firm must determine which data to preserve and what to discard. Additionally, the data that is kept must be safeguarded in compliance with corporate and legal guidelines.
Implementing edge computing
Edge computing is a simple concept that could seem simple on paper, but creating a strategy that works and putting it into practice can be difficult.
The development of a relevant business and technological edge strategy is the first essential component of any successful technology deployment.
Such a plan does not include choosing suppliers or equipment. An edge approach, on the other hand, takes edge computing into account.
Understanding the “why” necessitates having a firm grasp on the technological and organizational issues that the company is attempting to resolve, such as circumventing network restrictions and upholding data sovereignty.
Such tactics may begin with a discussion of what the edge really entails, where it exists for the company, and how it should help the enterprise.
Additionally, edge initiatives must be in line with ongoing business and technological roadmaps. For instance, edge and other distributed computing technologies may be well suited if the company wants to minimize the footprint of its centralized data centers.
The project’s hardware and software alternatives should be carefully considered as implementation approaches.
The edge computing market is crowded with companies, including Adlink Technology, Cisco, Amazon, Dell EMC, and HPE.
Cost, performance, features, compatibility, and support must all be considered while evaluating any product offering. Tools should provide thorough visibility and control over the remote edge environment from a software standpoint.
An edge computing initiative’s actual implementation may range greatly in size and scope, from a small amount of local computer hardware in a rugged shell atop a utility to a massive network of sensors providing a high-bandwidth, low-latency network link to the public cloud.
Every edge deployment is unique. These variances are what make edge project success so dependent on edge strategy and planning.
Deployment on the edge needs thorough monitoring.
Remember that getting IT employees to the actual edge site may be challenging or even impossible, therefore edge installations should be designed to provide resilience, fault-tolerance, and self-healing capabilities.
Monitoring solutions must provide a clear picture of the remote deployment, make provisioning and setup simple, provide in-depth alerting and reporting, and uphold installation and data security.
A variety of measures and KPIs, including site availability or uptime, network performance, storage capacity and usage, and computing resources, are often used in edge monitoring.
Additionally, no edge design would be complete without giving edge maintenance significant thought:
- Security measures, both physical and logical, must be taken, and technologies that prioritize vulnerability management and intrusion detection and prevention should be used. As every device is a network element that may be accessed or compromised, creating an overwhelming number of potential attack surfaces, security must extend to sensor and IoT devices.
- Another problem is connection, and it is necessary to make arrangements for access to management and reporting even in the absence of connectivity for the real data. For supplemental connectivity and control, some edge installations employ a second connection.
- Remote provisioning and administration are crucial due to the edge installations’ isolated and often hostile settings. IT administrators must be able to monitor activity at the edge and take appropriate action to regulate deployments as needed.
- Physical maintenance. Physical upkeep needs cannot be ignored. With frequent battery and device changes, IoT devices often have short lifespans. Equipment inevitably breaks down and has to be maintained and replaced. Maintenance must take into account the practical site logistics.
Opportunities with edge computing, IoT, and 5G technology
Edge computing is continually developing, using new techniques and technologies to improve its performance.
The edge availability trend is perhaps the most significant one, and by 2028, edge services are anticipated to be accessible globally.
Instead of being situation-specific as it is now, edge computing is anticipated to become more commonplace and change how people use the internet, bringing with it more abstraction and possible use cases.
The increase in compute, storage, and network appliance devices made expressly for edge computing is evidence of this.
Increased multivendor collaborations will improve product flexibility and interoperability at the edge. One such is the collaboration between AWS and Verizon to improve connectivity at the edge.
In the upcoming years, wireless communication technologies like 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will also have an impact on edge deployments and utilization.
These technologies will make wireless networks more flexible and affordable while also enabling virtualization and automation capabilities that have not yet been fully explored, like improved vehicle autonomy and workload migrations to the edge.
With the growth of IoT and the unexpected influx of data such devices create, edge computing became more popular.
However, since IoT technologies are still in their infancy, edge computing’s progress will also be impacted by the advancement of IoT devices.
The creation of mini modular data centers is one example of such future options (MMDCs).
The MMDC is essentially a data center in a box that can be placed closer to data — like across a city or region — to bring computation considerably closer to data without placing the edge at the data proper.