Edge computing has quickly become the newest craze for companies looking to break beyond the limitations imposed by traditional cloud-based computing architecture. Although enterprise level data centers continue to play an important role in modern networks, the exciting possibilities offered by Internet of Things (IoT) devices capable of processing the data they gather closer to the source is forcing everyone to rethink their approach to IT infrastructure.
Plenty has been written about how edge computing works, but these technical explanations often gloss over the substantial benefits it can provide companies. Here are five reasons why edge computing deserves the hype and should be a part of every company’s network strategy.
The most important benefit of edge computing is its ability to increase network performance by combatting latency. Since edge devices process data on board or at local edge data centers, the information they collect doesn’t have to travel nearly as far as it would under a traditional cloud architecture.
It’s easy to forget that data doesn’t travel instantaneously; it’s bound by the same laws of physics as everything else in the known universe. Current commercial fiber optic technology allows data to travel as fast as 2/3 the speed of light, moving from New York to San Francisco in about 21 milliseconds. While that sounds fast, it fails to consider the sheer amount of data being transmitted. With the world expected to generate up to 44 zettabytes (one zettabyte equals a trillion gigabytes) of data in 2020, digital traffic jams are almost guaranteed.
There’s also the problem of the “last mile” bottleneck, in which data must be routed through local network connections before reaching its final destination. Depending upon the quality of these connections, the “last mile” can add anywhere between 10 to 65 milliseconds of latency.
By processing data closer to the source and reducing the physical distance it must travel, edge computing can greatly reduce latency. The end result is higher speeds for end users, with latency measured in microseconds rather than milliseconds. Considering that even a single millisecond of lag can cost companies millions of dollars, the speed advantages of edge computing cannot be overlooked.
While the proliferation of IoT devices does increase the overall attack surface for networks, it also provides some important security advantages. Traditional cloud computing architecture is inherently centralized, which makes it especially vulnerable to distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and power outages. Edge computing distributes processing, storage, and applications across a wide range of devices and data centers, which makes it difficult for any single disruption to take down the network.
One major concern about IoT devices is that they could be used as a point of entry for cyberattacks, allowing malware or other intrusions to infect a network from a single weak point. While this is a genuine risk, the distributed nature of edge computing architecture makes it easier to implement security protocols that can seal off compromised portions without shutting down the entire network.
Since more data is being processed on local devices rather than transmitting it back to a central data center, edge computing also reduces the amount of data actually at risk at any one time. There’s less data to be intercepted during transit, and even if a device is compromised, it will only contain the data it has collected locally rather than the trove of data that could be exposed by a compromised server.
Even if an edge computing architecture incorporates specialized data centers, these often provide additional security measures. A quality edge data center should offer a variety of tools clients can use to secure and monitor their networks in real time.
Building a dedicated data center is an expensive proposition, but it’s often the only option for companies looking to expand their computing capabilities. Traditional private data centers place an artificial constraint on growth, locking companies in to forecasts of their future computing needs. If business growth exceeds expectations, companies are not always able to capitalize on the opportunities because of their insufficient computing resources.
Edge computing offers a far less expensive route to scalability, allowing companies to expand their computing capacity through a combination of IoT devices and edge data centers. The use of processing capable IoT devices also eases growth costs because each new device added doesn’t impose substantial bandwidth demands on networks.
The scalability of edge computing also makes it incredibly versatile. By partnering with local edge data centers, companies can easily target desirable markets without having to invest in expensive infrastructure expansion. Edge data centers allow them to service end users efficiently with little physical distance or latency. They also do not constrain companies with a heavy footprint, allowing them to nimbly shift to other markets should economic conditions change.
By incorporating new IoT devices into their edge network architecture, companies can offer new and better services to their customers without completely restructuring their IT infrastructure. Purpose-designed devices provide an exciting range of possibilities to organizations that value innovation as a means of driving growth.
Given the security advantages provided by edge computing, it should not come as a surprise that it offers better reliability as well. With IoT devices and edge data centers positioned closer to end users, there is less chance of a network problem in a distant location affecting local customers. Even in the event of a nearby data center outage, IoT devices will continue to operate effectively on their own because they handle vital processing functions natively.
With so many processing capable devices and edge data centers connected to the network, it becomes much more difficult for any one failure to shut down service entirely. Data can be rerouted through multiple pathways to ensure users retain access to the products and information they need. Effectively incorporating IoT devices and edge data centers into a comprehensive edge architecture can therefore provide unparalleled reliability.
Edge computing offers several advantages over traditional forms of network architecture and will surely continue to play an important role for companies going forward. With more and more internet capable devices hitting the market, innovative organizations have likely only scratched the surface of what’s possible with edge computing.
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