“The Edge” seems to be all anyone can talk about. The Financial Times calls it the future of computing. Carnegie Mellon University runs the Living Edge Lab to better understand how to use it in the real world. Forrester warns that with global telecom companies set to implement or expand edge computing and empower their 5G networks in 2019, it’s much bigger than just the Internet of Things (IoT). And Gartner’s Tom Bittman claims it will eat the cloud – and that “the time to have an edge strategy is very, very soon.”
The edge is the “next big thing,“ promising to deliver vast improvements in network speed, scalability, security and resiliency over traditional network architectures. However, even with all this interest and attention, despite all the value and benefit edge deployments promise to deliver, no one seems to have agreed on any standardized definitions or architectures for the edge yet. And without that, organizations seeking to reap the much-touted benefits of edge deployments are left to try to define the edge for themselves.
What unique qualities of edge computing do IT teams need to understand? After all, edge computing is just the latest spin on distributed computing. In broad terms, edge computing refers to any distributed computing topology where the storage and processing of data occurs close to the point where it’s generated and used rather than at a traditional, centralized data center. Distributed computing is a decades old concept, so why the renewed excitement? Judging by all the chatter about edge computing this particular distributed computing approach has clearly reached a tipping point.
So, when it comes to defining what, exactly the edge is, it makes sense to first start by defining what components it consists of. There are four practical components to address – topology, enterprise data centers, edge data centers, and edge devices.
- Edge topology: Edge topology refers to 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 retail location or branch office server closet or sophisticated, network-connected devices that work independently of the data center.
There are many variations to edge computing architectures, but all edge approaches share the same basic goal: computational efficiency. Rather than send data to the cloud or a central data center, edge deployments allow data processing or service delivery to occur closer to the source of data, on or near the computing device itself. This distributed topology enables organizations to greatly increase the efficiency and resiliency of their networks while ensuring the low latency and availability of local storage required for efficient and time-sensitive operations.
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