Distributed Computing vs. Edge Computing: What are the Differences?

Posted by Gregg Primm

Edge computing, a relatively recent adaptation of computing models, is the newest way for enterprises to distribute computing power. Edge topology is spread among multiple devices to allow data processing and service delivery close to the data source or computing device. This proximity to the end user, whether an employee or consumer using a cell phone or a retailer using a point of sale system, is what ensures provide time-sensitive and efficient operations.

The term distributed computing, which has been around for decades, means computation, storage and networking shared by multiple systems and being run as one system, or with the purpose of accomplishing one goal. The computers, servers and workstations may be in the same data center or building and connected with a local network. Or they may be in multiple locations, even very different geographic locations,, and connected with a wide area network or via the cloud.

Because a distributed system behaves as a single system, it’s efficient and flexible and maximizes performance. It’s possible to expand computing power by adding equipment or to build in redundancy with multiple pieces of equipment that can provide the same services and can be activated when needed.

A distributed cloud refers to using cloud technology, rather than local or wide area networks, to connect those distributed resources. That makes edge computing part of a distributed cloud system. Most edge components, including servers, routers, WiFi, and local data centers, are connected by the cloud and work as an extension of an enterprise network. The edge can be almost anywhere anyone uses a connected device.

There are four practical components to the edge:

  • Edge topology: An organization’s entire IT infrastructure – network layout and architecture, including all of the components of an edge deployment.
  • Enterprise (or core) data centers: Centralized data center facilities that are primarily designed to support the overall operational needs of an organization.
  • Edge data centers: Remote computing and processing facilities that independently handle localized activity and connect back to the core data center.
  • Edge devices: Equipment deployed at the end of the network that deliver the computing services and process transactions for that location, such as servers in a branch office server closet or sophisticated, network-connected devices that work independently of the data center.

Distributed computing has been around for almost as long as modern computing. Today this model enables enterprises to improve efficiencies and increase speed of delivery – by distributing those services in the cloud or to the edge of the network.

Learn more about the edge with our whitepaper Standing at the Edge? Look Before You Leap.