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Why Edge Computing Applications Are Your Key to New Markets

By: Ernest Sampera on March 17, 2020

With the widespread adoption of cloud computing and streaming media, network performance has become a key differentiator in a crowded market. It’s no longer enough to simply provide a great software application or media content; if it can’t be delivered on-demand with minimal downtime, consumers will quickly turn to the provider’s competitors.

While it’s important to build the networks that host and manage these applications upon reliable infrastructure that offers high levels of uptime, latency considerations are just as important to quality network performance. Delivering low latency services to emerging markets that lack the necessary infrastructure for high-performance networking has long presented a major challenge, but today’s innovative edge computing technologies offer a number of workable solutions for companies looking to expand their reach and market share.

What is Edge Computing?

Unfortunately, no amount of bandwidth or server processing power can overcome the laws of physics when it comes to transmitting data packets from one location to another. The greater the distance between the data’s origin point and its destination, the longer it will take for it to get there, which translates into higher levels of latency. In the early days of online services, latency was rarely an issue because most hardware lacked the computing power to process the data it received. Bandwidth limitations further slowed data transmission, as only so much information could be transferred over network infrastructure, much of which had never been designed to handle so much traffic. With today’s powerful hardware and high bandwidth connections, data packets can be delivered in much larger volumes and processed much more quickly. So quickly, in fact, that the data can’t travel fast enough to keep up, resulting in significant lag and erratic performance.

Edge computing solutions aim to solve this problem in a rather straightforward fashion by moving servers closer to the end users who are using applications and consuming content. By shifting processing and storage closer to the network edge, organizations can dramatically reduce the distance data has to travel, which cuts down on latency and improves overall network performance. As consumers continue to use more network-based services and IoT devices, edge computing framework can help ensure that those applications continue to run smoothly even as the demand for them increases.

What are Edge Computing Applications?

While it’s not exactly accurate to define programs as specific edge computing applications, there are many ways in which edge computing infrastructure can be deployed to improve network-based services. The key factor involves pushing processing-capable hardware closer to the network edge.

This can take the form of an edge data center, which is often a multi-tenant colocation facility located in or near an emerging market with a rapidly growing consumer base. These markets are often far away from the hyperscale data centers that host the most popular cloud computing applications and streaming media platforms. By placing servers in an edge data center, companies can effectively create a relay station of sorts that can process essential data close to end users while passing less urgent data along to a larger facility located elsewhere. Content providers can also cache high-demand media in these data centers to allow local users to access it more easily.

Processing-capable IoT devices can perform in a similar fashion. With enough on-board computing power and storage to handle most tasks, an edge IoT device can collect and analyze local data even when disconnected from a broader network. It may not possess full functionality when running in an “offline” mode, but it can still perform a number of useful tasks. When it does reconnect to the network, it can transmit stored data and access additional processing resources. Even when connected to the network, the IoT device can still use edge computing by handling much of its data processing locally rather than relying on the servers in a cloud data center. This allows it to cut down on latency and provide much greater versatility.

Why Edge Computing Applications Make Market Expansion Easier

The processing potential of edge computing technologies also makes it easier for companies to expand their network service into new markets without having to make the same infrastructure investments that were so necessary in the past. That’s good news for regions with smaller urban centers and for rural communities that lack the high-bandwidth network connectivity common to the Tier 1 markets found in and around major cities.

Edge data centers are much smaller and less expensive to build and maintain than the hyperscale facilities used by many enterprises and cloud computing providers. Building an energy-efficient edge facility in a small market is a relatively modest investment that could provide companies with a “first mover” advantage that pays substantial dividends in both the short and long term. Micro data centers provide even more flexibility, allowing organizations to target end users with unparalleled precision. While an edge data center might expand service into a previously underserved market, a micro facility could be placed in areas with greater demand to improve network performance or in even more distant areas to further extend the network edge.

In many cases, however, IoT devices will beat these facilities to the edge. Consumers in relatively isolated areas (in terms of network access) are already turning to smartphones and cellular networks to make up for the lack of direct broadband access. Many companies are already taking advantage of this trend by installing micro data centers at the base of cellular towers to better facilitate IoT connectivity. As these devices become more common, innovative strategies like this will help companies to reach more customers and greatly expand their market reach.

Get to the Edge Faster

Understanding how to leverage edge computing solutions will be critical for companies looking to penetrate new markets in the next decade. Rather than waiting for someone to make the sizable capital investments to build the backbone networks needed to reach consumers with traditional IT deployments, organizations can use edge computing infrastructure to take advantage of growing demand today. Whether it’s colocating servers in an existing edge data center or expanding the capabilities of IoT devices, forward-thinking companies have an opportunity to get ahead of the competition to deliver reliable, low-latency services to customers. As demand continues to grow and 5G technology expands network reach across the country, getting a foothold in these emerging markets now can translate into greater benefits in the future.

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