The cloud has been a revolution for the tech sector over the past decade. It enabled and accelerated mass access to quick, inexpensive and reliable computing resources, forming the bedrock of entirely new industries that continue to shape our world and innovate in exciting new ways. Despite all its successes though, it may be time for the cloud to concede some market share to newer concepts that promise superior results for our upcoming requirements. Concepts like edge computing.
What Is Edge Computing?
To those out of the loop – edge computing isn’t a new concept, per se. It is a paradigm where computational and data storage resources are brought closer to the sites where data is generated and/or needed. This results in:
- Low latency, translating to much faster response times,
- Better utilisation of network bandwidth and resources, and
- Allows for much higher analytical calculation rates.
Edge computing is generally deployed when referencing computer programs, analytical resources, and infrastructure interacting directly with data as soon as it is generated, such as sensors, gauges, etc.
Cloud computing, of course, is a much more broader term used for distributed computing and data storage practices in general. This is why edge computing is often referred to as computing that happens at the ‘edge’ of the cloud – which is the infrastructure the data goes through prior to processing in the main computational or storage cloud.
While edge computing continues to see interest and adoption, enterprises must ensure their business processes are robust enough to withstand the changing ways in which data is handled. We are on the cusp of an era that will demand fresh perspectives, and even necessitate new, reworked business models.
Edge Computing Is Gaining Traction
Edge computing has been witnessing a steady increase in popularity over the past few years. The primary driving factor here is that we have more devices online than ever before, with almost 25+ billion intelligent devices connected to the internet, processing almost 50 trillion GBs of data. Data centers, with traditional server-client based architectures, will sooner or later be found incapacitated with the massive amounts of data pouring in from IoT devices. This can cause a host of issues, ranging from latency drops, network bottlenecks, and more critical server capacity breaks and network downtime.
In an organisational context, this can translate to thousands of dollars in revenue loss, breaks in processing chains, and even halts in normal business processes. Edge computing allows organisations to spread their resources and evenly distribute computational power over their entire cloud, by taking the bulk of initial data processing and analytics away from the main data center or central cloud, and pushing it to edge computing centers, closer to where the data is generated.
How Is Edge Computing Useful?
Edge computing seems to be an ideal solution for industries like autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, and cloud gaming, where latency must be kept to a minimum. It also immensely reduces network resources requirements, in addition to the maintenance and cost involved. In fact, the principles for edge computing can be utilised in any industry and by any enterprise that has a constant need for immediate data processing, and cannot afford delays in responses:
- Processes such as monitoring manufacturing assembly lines can be streamlined, with mini-datacenters at the places of production themselves, allowing for a much faster detection of defects, auditing of quality, and immediate response to changes in the manufacturing process.
- Even technologies like facial recognition could gain from edge computing, with AI analytics being performed on smaller datacenters closer to the recognition device, or even on the device itself, with the increasing computational power of mobile devices.
- Edge computing also offloads resources from the main cloud, which can then be used to perform more complex or resource-hungry tasks, as the initial processing is done at the edge, as soon as data is received or generated.
How can enterprises be prepared?
- Enterprises must ensure their business processes are adaptable and scalable enough to truly take advantage of edge computing. For organisations that have offloaded most of their processing and storage to the cloud, edge computing might seem like a migration process best delayed, or worse – avoided, involving having to manage what are essentially multiple smaller clouds, in addition to the central enterprise cloud. However, data processing and analysis can get immensely streamlined, allowing enterprises to effectively delegate their resources and manage edge computing clouds independently.
- Enterprises must begin with ensuring their setup is compatible. This means shifting most of the data-centric processes and initial analytics to smaller data centers near where the data is produced, let’s say, to the manufacturing plants themselves.
- Organisations must also take care to customise their cloud deployments to their needs. An organisation that does not deal with large amounts of real-time data, or data that needs to be processed immediately after generation, is unlikely to see major improvement in their workflows with the adoption of edge computing.
- Having to manage edge computing centers along with the central enterprise cloud means beefing up security protocols, and extra attention allocated to onsite security measures. Network connections between the edge clouds and central cloud must be safeguarded to prevent leakage of sensitive information while transferring information.
- Redundancy in data analytics must also be looked into, to ensure the same analytical process are not being run in both the edge computing centers and the central cloud. Enterprises must carefully delegate the tasks and responsibilities between their cloud resources to ensure a smooth and streamlined processing and transfer of data, being careful to avoid chances for data loss or corruption.
As we continue to hurtle to exciting new shifts in the industry, innovative paradigms like edge computing will smoothen the transition of businesses to a cloud-based architecture, and helps streamline business processes. Despite most industries relying on the cloud in some form or the other, we’re not far from picturing (and adopting) the innovations edge computing could usher in as different sectors come up with unique implementations. How enterprises will adapt to this new shift, will be exciting to witness.