What is Edge Computing and What It Means for Enterprises?
What Is Edge Computing?
Edge computing is a distributed framework that features data processing at the edge of the network, closer to the source of data. To compute and store the information, it relies on data-generating devices themselves or local processing power, rather than a centralized server.
This distribution enables edge computing applications to respond to data input almost instantly. The combination of edge-enabled devices and edge data centers creates an infrastructure that reduces the latency level. This allows for improved operational efficiency of devices, applications, and the network in general.
For self-driving cars and healthcare devices, for example, low latency is a crucial requirement, as they handle real-time data. However, every other industry can equally benefit from implementing edge solutions. From smart speakers and automated manufacturing to security systems and immersive advertisements — edge makes it faster, more efficient and more secure.
What Are the Edge Computing Benefits for Enterprises?
Edge computing is a relatively new technology that is yet to show its full potential. However, existing cases of its implementation already prove it has the following advantages for businesses:
- Improved performance. Data needs time to travel. The fastest cable can transfer information at about two-thirds the speed of light. As fast as it sounds, delivering data to the cloud and back is still not fast enough for many applications that rely on real-time operations. Processing data near its source greatly contributes to latency reductions and, as a result, higher efficiency.
- Better security. The distributed data computing infrastructure provides an additional layer of security between the data source and the cloud. As data is processed at the periphery’s points, it allows for locating and isolating a vulnerability at a single spot to minimize disruptions. In such a way, if one of the devices at the edge is compromised, it can be disconnected to prevent spreading the threat across the entire network.
- Reliability. Taking into account the security aspect, no wonder edge computing offers high reliability. The decentralization aspect lowers the chances that distant issues in the network will affect the end-user. Besides that, many of the edge computing applications can work autonomously when losing connection with the network.
- Reduced cost. With edge computing, most data is processed at local devices or edge data centers. This way, the amount of data sent to the cloud scales down significantly and the cost of data transfer is greatly reduced.
- Scalability. When businesses rely on traditional data centers, they may be limited in their growth by the cost and effort required to scale. Edge computing is able to connect devices to each other or local edge data centers, increasing common processing and storage capabilities. It favors the companies that seek a low-cost way to expand their network.
With these advantages, edge computing brings new value to multiple industries and gains more recognition. According to Gartner, by 2025, 75% of data will be processed outside traditional centralized datacenters or the cloud. Still, it doesn’t mean the cloud is losing its value.
Edge Computing vs Cloud Computing
Despite many believe that edge computing is to substitute the cloud, it is unlikely to happen. The two technologies are not interchangeable, as each has specific features that meet the needs of businesses. They should rather be seen as complementary and be used together to maximize the potential benefit.
For instance, the centralized nature of cloud computing makes it a powerful data-processing solution. It can also be scaled to a large extend to provide more storage and improve processing capacities, depending on the enterprise needs. At the same time, the cloud lacks speed, especially when it comes to gathering data from the edge. And this is where edge computing takes the turn.
While the cloud can work with big data, edge computing supports fast and secure local processing. Edge systems can filter out unnecessary data and move to the cloud valuable information only for further analysis.
Imagine a smart home system, which operates autonomously – responding to voice commands. For simple actions, such as to turn lights on and off or set up the alarm, edge computing capabilities are enough. As soon as the data reaches the cloud, it can be processed and analyzed on a deeper level to build behavior patterns, make predictions, and improve system performance. The combination of the two creates a highly efficient infrastructure and takes the best of both worlds.
Do You Need to Implement Edge Computing Now?
Overall, edge systems sound like a go-to solution. Nonetheless, you should take into account that it has just started its development. The imperfections of today’s network diminish some of the possibilities of edge systems. What should boost the edge computing implementation is 5G technology.
The new standard of telecommunications, 5G should be ten times faster than the current 4G technology. Edge computing and 5G will complement each other when it comes to data processing and transferring. The information will flood data centers. It will drive edge systems to spread and compute data locally, instead of sending it all to the cloud. 5G will also require new antennas, devices, software to move high volumes of data. Wide implementation of edge computing can help avoid additional investments at the initial stage. Later on, edge data centers may be located around 5G towers to connect to the cloud faster.
However, there is no need to wait for the 5G launch if today’s edge computing capabilities are enough for your goals. You should only decide if you need to adopt the technology in the first place.
Deloitte has offered a guideline to help companies evaluate their need for edge computing. While it is primarily focused on edge implementation within IoT environments, this guideline may also be relevant for all companies in general:
- Autonomy and resilience: if your system doesn’t tolerate connection interruptions and requires autonomy, edge computing may be your option.
- Urgency and safety: you may need edge computing if speed is a crucial factor in decision-making and safety is a key concern.
- Privacy, security, compliance: in case of compliance with legal regulations and security requirements, you may have to keep data where it is generated, i.e. on the edge device.
- Operational technology: the simplicity of the device used demands to use an edge gateway.
- Data volumes and bandwidth: edge computing is beneficial when you need to make more efficient and economical use of bandwidth and other data resources. Especially, when there is a lot of data to transfer or it requires initial processing before being sent to the cloud.
The decision on implementing edge computing should be carefully measured and aligned with your business goals and needs. The scale, the level of distribution and the number of nodes in the network can vary from one organization to another.
Jaromir Coufal, Principal Product Manager at RedHat, says: “There is no single recipe for edge computing that fits every company. But a good rule of thumb is that you centralize your computing where you can and you distribute it where you must.”
Edge computing is a promising technology that is on the edge of wide adoption. The global edge computing market is estimated to reach around $16.5 billion by 2025. Driven by the future 5G launch and today’s developed IoT infrastructure, edge systems will become one of the essential elements of digital transformation for many industries.
For example, wide adoption of edge computing will allow for introducing edge analytics. Harvard Business Review states that currently less than 1% of unstructured data is analyzed and put to use. Edge computing will contribute to filtering, structuring and analyzing a much more significant amount of data to provide businesses with valuable insights and drive strategic decisions.
If you are ready to explore the possibilities of the newest technologies for your industry, contact us today. Infopulse experts will gladly consult you on the ways you can adopt digital innovations with maximum benefit.