How Edge Computing is Changing IT Infrastructure
5 min read
Edge computing can improve the end-user experience and provide network savings to businesses that architect their infrastructure to take advantages of increased processing capabilities at the edge of the network.
Edge computing is a style of computing that brings computer data storage physically closer to its end users. As technology advances so that interactions between users and servers take place over a cloud, and as the Internet of Things (IoT) creates physical separation between our tech and the computing systems that operate them, edge computing offers users an advantage in that it allows data to be processed near where it is created, rather than having to be transmitted across data centers and clouds. The advantages can be vast, covering industries from healthcare and finance to gaming.
Edge computing gets its name because the data processing happens at the “edge” of the network, rather than near its central system. In this paradigm, computation is done in these edge nodes rather than in a centralized cloud, and the edge nodes then push this data to a central data repository. Because it allows data to be collected and processed nearer to the end-user, the end-user experiences this processing in near real-time. The familiar lag or buffering effects that are often associated with data transference are negated, due to the systems not needing the bandwidth to send all that information. With less distance for data to travel, the system networks experience less traffic as well. This can reduce the overall operational costs, and lead to fewer delays in service.
The benefits of edge computing vary widely – beyond some of the industries and use cases you might expect. Key industries such as healthcare and finance are obviously benefited, given that split-second computer processing is often necessary in such high-stakes situations. Telecommunications is aided strongly as well: the technical trickery of a live broadcast is easily manageable when data can be processed at the edge of a network, rather than it being beamed back to a central source. And IoT devices, which range from facial recognition door locks to GPSes, and from voice-activated personal assistants to robot vacuums, are able to react seemingly instantaneous due to the same principles. Mobile and streaming services, which once led to the push for edge computing in the first place, are now being further enabled and advanced by this technology. It all results in a reduction in latency across all these varied applications, all because large amounts of data don’t need to move over a network before being processed.
To benefit the network owner most effectively, edge systems can be programmed to mostly collect “noise” and only send processed or useful data to a central cloud. This can lead to a cost in savings with less data travelling across the system’s network. This is possible because IT equipment is doing more processing in smaller boxes, allowing more computation to happen away from a centralized cloud. Edge nodes themselves are often micro-data centers — or small, distributed IT infrastructure deployments in third party data centers.
As edge computing grows, we can expect smaller data centers to prop up in more distributed, remote physical locations than today. Rapid growth in smaller facilities, and expanding beyond the concentrated markets to regional markets and smaller metros, will lead to faster, better connected, and more cost-effective computing in the future. Since reducing latency is such a significant goal across so many industries, and the advancement of Internet of Things technology shows no signs of slowing down, it seems very likely that this particular paradigm will only continue to leap forward!
When architecting hybrid cloud infrastructure, businesses will have to evaluate whether applications and processing are more efficient in the public cloud, a private cloud, or at the network edge. Properly evaluating its data needs and building its systems will save a business major dollars and cents, and lead to a better user experience with less data latency. Every IT professional who does deployment architecture should be considering which application and processes should be moved to the edge of the network, starting by evaluating which parts of their application are latency sensitive.
While no less secure than any other colo deployment, edge nodes benefit the business and the user by reducing the volume of data that must be moved. If a business is going to deploy edge nodes in a shared facility, it should first make sure it has the security it needs in place. But with proper security and a well-outlined deployment architecture that already includes public and private clouds, the addition of edge computing is a win-win. If increased speed at a reduction of cost is a priority for any business owner, this is an implementation they should strongly consider.
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