Cloud computing was a game-changer. It still occupies a vital position in the modern network environment since cloud-based computing resources are critical to many enterprises and their customers.
Yet, the decentralized nature of cloud-based networks has inevitably increased delays in the transfer of data, which rules out the viability of some applications. With the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) devices and the possibilities they come with, enterprises need to shift data computing from the cloud to the edge.
Everything’s moving to the edge.
What Is Edge Computing?
Edge computing, also known as fog computing, is a distributed network infrastructure that integrates intelligence close to the edge nodes. This allows data to be processed and analyzed in real-time near the source of the data. Edge computing eliminates the need to upload data to the cloud or centralized data servers.
Edge computing depends entirely on distributed device nodes to perform computation. While this distributed computation architecture may interact with a centralized cloud, it performs computations independently of the centralized cloud.
Edge computing is becoming vital as IoT devices work their way into almost every industry and create the exciting potential to bring some innovative technologies to commercial viability.
Here are 5 reasons why shifting computing from the cloud to the network’s periphery is a huge win for enterprises.
1. Reduced IT Expenses
An average small-sized enterprise with less than $50 million annual revenue spends close to 7% of its total revenue on IT. A huge chunk of the IT budget is spent on cloud computing, due to the massive volumes of data that are sent to the cloud or a centralized center to be processed and analyzed.
Moving data computing to the network’s edge and closer to the sources cuts down on the amount of data being sent to the cloud, allowing enterprises to reduce their IT operational costs.
Edge computing’s role in increasing the enterprise’s return on investments is also indisputable. As enterprises continue to invest millions of dollars in sound IT infrastructure, the technological efficiency of edge computing will improve the enterprise’s return on IT investments.
2. Improved Customer Experience
Edge computing comes in handy for solving problems within the retail industry, and in giving customers a better experience. The move away from brick-and-mortar stores and towards digital has transformed the attitudes and expectations of retail customers. E-commerce offers customers a personal and interactive shopping experience, which is tough to replicate in brick-and-mortar stores.
The solution lies in edge computing.
The technical challenge of bringing seamless online experience offline requires a computing infrastructure with reduced latency, processing, and bandwidth requirements. Cloud computing, virtual reality, and augmented reality aren’t going to cut it - however promising these technologies are. Shifting computing from the cloud to the periphery will reduce the bandwidth and latency and offer in-store customers seamless shopping experiences in microseconds.
3. Data Security and Efficiency
Processing huge chunks of data is more secure and efficient if it’s done near the source of the data. When data is processed and computed at the edge as opposed to the cloud, the internet bandwidth and the associated costs are slashed, improving the efficiency. For data-heavy enterprises, where data efficiency and security are a priority, this is a huge win.
One downside to cloud computing infrastructure is that it increases the data’s vulnerability to cyber and phishing attacks. This is because a public cloud or a centralized data center has a single point of weakness, exposing the network to security risks. Edge computing, on the other hand, adds an extra layer of security to protect the enterprise’s data. Unlike cloud computing, edge computing does not rely on a single point of application, computing, or storage but distributes the processes across a vast range of devices.
In case of any security compromises in the edge computing infrastructure, the distributed nature of the network architecture prevents a total shutdown. The compromised parts of the network can be disconnected before they affect the entire network ecosystem.
4. Edge Computing is Scalable and Versatile
With the recent growth of IoT devices and VoIP, edge computing has an opportunity to carve out a niche for itself. Enterprises seeking to scale their computing capability and achieve the versatility required to bring IoT technology into their operations have to tap into the potential of a cheaper, and more dedicated, data center.
The solution, again, is to bring computing to the periphery through edge computing. With edge computing infrastructure already installed in an enterprise, the adoption of IoT becomes cheaper and puts negligible pressure on the network’s bandwidth. Enterprises can leverage edge computing’s scalability to quickly expand to other profitable markets without incurring astronomical infrastructure costs.
And if the conditions become undesirable in one market, enterprises have the flexibility to move into other markets rapidly with relative ease. For streaming service companies, giving customers a seamless and uninterrupted streaming experience is no longer a competitive advantage but a key feature. Such enterprises can leverage edge computing’s scalability, versatility, and reduced latency to provide consumers with non-stop streaming services.
5. Extra Revenue
Edge computing will not only cut down on IT expenses, it will also present enterprises with new and innovative ways to generate more revenue. As it stands, edge computing is the only bridge that will allow the application and commercialization of cutting-edge technologies such as self-driving cars and surgery-performing robots.
Let’s take the case of robotic surgery. Every single microsecond matters in this case. The slightest hint of latency is disastrous, so it has to be reduced significantly by shifting computing from the cloud to the edge. Each gigabyte of data has to be processed, computed, and applied close to the source to ensure precision and accuracy. With edge computing, healthcare enterprises and hospitals can explore this revenue-generating avenue.
Another field whose commercial viability lies in edge computing is autonomous driving. For a self-driven car to make even the slightest turn, gigabytes of data have to be sent to the cloud for processing and computing. Couple the tremendous amount of data sent to the cloud with increased latency and bandwidth, and you realize why it will be catastrophic for self-driven cars to rely on cloud computing alone.
While some of these concepts may not sound commercially viable yet, edge computing is generating new lines of businesses in other industries. Take the retail industry, for example. The digital revolution saw many retailers go online, and droves of e-commerce companies are still cropping up every day. As part of a digital shopping onboarding strategy, some brick-and-mortar stores are leveraging the immediacy of edge computing to help their customers transition seamlessly from in-store to digital.
Edge computing helps such enterprises to create an inventory in real-time that auto-suggests a similar item to what a customer wants but is out of stock. The system also asks the customer if they’d love the item delivered to their door. This way, the customer has been introduced to digital shopping, and the system records their tastes and preferences to auto-suggest similar items the next time the customer shops at the store. Thanks to the reduced latency and increased bandwidth of edge computing, retail stores can explore an entirely new revenue generation and customer retention avenue.
Everything is Going to the Edge
Edge computing is steadily gaining momentum with promising prospects for early adopters. Whether it’s by generating extra revenue, improving data security and efficiency, increasing ROI, and cutting down on IT spend, bringing data processing to the edge promises positive disruptions to enterprises.
Cloud computing was once a revolutionary computing technology. But, in the world of IoT, going to the edge is the smart move for visionary enterprises.
About Samuel O'Brien
Sam O'Brien is the Senior Website Optimisation & User Experience Manager for EMEA at RingCentral, a global UCaaS systems provider. Sam has a passion for innovation and loves exploring ways to collaborate more with dispersed teams. He has written for websites such as BambooHR and Vault.