Traditional networks are rigidly designed to funnel all data back to a central point where it can be analyzed by powerful hardware that then transmits commands and other responses out to devices distributed throughout the network.
The problem with this arrangement is data doesn’t travel from point to point instantaneously. It’s still limited by the laws of physics, so the farther it has to travel, the longer it will take to arrive. This equates to reduced performance in terms of latency, which is the measurement of how long it takes for a data packet to travel between points in a network.
Edge computing reduces latency by shortening the distance between where data is gathered and where it is processed.
The key factor is that data being generated on the network edge primarily remains there, with only some of it being relayed back to the network’s central core.
By locating essential processing functions closer to the network’s edge, organizations can deploy applications and tools that are much more flexible and less dependent upon high levels of connectivity to function.
Edge devices typically have enough processing power and storage to function effectively until they’re able to reconnect to the rest of the network. This has made them especially valuable for many healthcare and industrial applications.
The scalable nature of edge computing also makes it an ideal solution for fast-growing, agile companies who need to provide flexible and reliable service to their customers. Similarly, edge data centers move businesses closer to their actual customers, allowing them to relieve bandwidth pressure, reduce latency issues, and deliver superior performance.
What is an Edge Data Center?
The key distinguishing feature of an edge data center is its location.
Traditionally, most organizations rely upon data centers in one way or another to deliver online products and services to their customers. That has led businesses to use a single data center (perhaps with a backup location) that serves as the network's central hub. As performance has become a more important differentiator in the market, more companies are turning to edge data centers to meet their needs.
Edge data centers tend to be located in emerging markets that are underserved by larger data center providers. By placing servers in edge facilities, organizations can avoid the dreaded “last mile” latency problem that so often cripples network performance.
Streaming providers, for instance, can cache popular content in edge data centers to both deliver low-latency media to local users and take bandwidth pressure off more distant facilities that are serving other markets.
Edge Computing vs Cloud Computing
A common question is, “What’s the difference between edge computing and cloud computing?” But, it’s not particularly helpful to think of the two as being opposing approaches.
Edge computing is a way of designing network architecture to minimize latency and the amount of data traversing the network. Cloud computing, however, is about the infrastructure and the virtualization of hardware assets.
It’s entirely possible, for example, to set up a cloud computing network that incorporates edge computing architecture by adding some form of processing capacity along the outer portions of the network. In most cases, that will consist of smart IoT devices that can gather data and perform some processing tasks without having to transmit requests and receive commands from the central cloud.
Edge Computing FAQ
Now that our edge computing course is complete, here are a few more questions people often have about edge computing:
Does edge computing need 5G?
No. Edge computing and IoT devices can function perfectly well with existing cellular connections, WiFi, or cabling. However, the performance potential of 5G connectivity would make many edge computing deployments more effective.
Is edge computing secure?
Yes. Like any other network, edge architecture presents several security challenges every organization should be aware of. The principal issue to watch in edge deployments is the broad surface area of the network, which provides multiple attack vectors for a potential cyberattack. But edge networks should incorporate zero-trust security architecture to ensure an attacker can’t penetrate the network further after gaining access to an edge device.
Is edge computing new?
Yes and no. While edge deployments incorporating IoT technology are innovative and new, the actual concept of locating key processing functions close to end-users is an old one.
Latency has always been a challenge with computing networks, but bandwidth posed a much greater problem for many years. When bandwidth volumes and processing speeds were both low, latency issues tended to go unnoticed. Now that modern connections can deliver high volumes of data to powerful servers, latency has become more noticeable and problematic. This has pushed many companies to embrace edge computing deployments.
How is edge computing implemented?
For many organizations, simply placing additional servers in an edge data center is sufficient to create an edge computing network. Some companies even use specialized micro data centers to further augment processing capabilities in edge locations. More complex networks may incorporate IoT devices that can function independently of the network and take over some of the processing load that typically goes back to the central servers. The proper configurations need to be in place to make sure data is diverted to the right destination.
Get to the Edge with vXchnge
With multiple data centers located in key emerging markets across the US, vXchnge is well-positioned to help our customers get to the edge. Whether you’re looking to extend your existing network’s functionality or improve performance to better serve end-users, our state-of-the-art data centers provide all the connectivity and reliability you need to build a versatile edge computing network.