For all its innovative characteristics, cloud computing shares a number of similarities with the centralized physical networks that long formed the backbone of IT infrastructure. All critical processing and asset storage is located at the core of the network. This centralized structure is relatively easy to manage, but the advent of cloud computing and wireless connectivity added the complication of distance, allowing networks to span vast distances. Unfortunately, this created challenges as new Internet of Things (IoT) devices made it possible to collect and respond to vast amounts of data on the edge of the network.
The solution? Edge computing.
By adding processing capacity to devices located on the edge of the network, this new approach to IT infrastructure makes it possible for more data to remain at the edge while still driving actionable results. Instead of transmitting all data back to the central cloud server, IoT devices in an edge computing infrastructure can “think” for themselves, collecting and acting on data locally while transmitting a far smaller data load back to the network core.
Edge computing offers tremendous advantages in terms of speed. By locating processing tasks in devices on the outer edge of the network, data can be generated, analyzed, and put to use faster than in a traditional cloud architecture. Although data travels almost at the speed of light, this isn’t quite as fast as it may sound, especially when it has to be routed through multiple paths in the “last mile” before reaching its intended destination. This physical constraint results in network latency, causing slow performance that can be fatal for many services (quite literally in the case of autonomous vehicles). Combined with edge data centers, devices capable of processing and acting on data locally keeps unnecessary data traffic from eating up valuable bandwidth, ensuring that the network runs quickly and smoothly.
The processing power of IoT devices opens up a wide variety of edge computing use cases. From autonomous vehicles to healthcare delivery to industrial manufacturing, edge computing infrastructure allows unparalleled flexibility, making it possible to integrate and connect systems that would never have been able to communicate across channels using centralized cloud networks. This increase in connectivity options will make existing systems and networks more versatile than ever before, reducing many of the incompatibility issues that limited the effectiveness of valuable services in the past. As IoT devices become more powerful and less dependent upon cloud infrastructure, edge computing strategies will allow ambitious companies to leverage those resources to deliver an improved customer experience and manage higher volumes of data to gain more targeted business insights.
Edge computing turns the traditional concept of server-based infrastructure on its head, allowing organizations to rapidly scale operations by relocating processing to the edge of their networks where most of the data is being gathered. Rather than investing in bigger and bigger cloud infrastructure, companies can add AI-driven IoT devices to expand service reach rapidly without rethinking their entire network. For companies that still need extra processing punch for their applications or need ways to distribute content quickly and efficiently, edge data centers provide a flexible and easily incorporated solution. Edge computing infrastructure allows a company’s network to grow organically, adding new computing and storage resources wherever they’re needed rather than the traditional centralized method that can result in multiple inefficiencies.
With computing and storage resources distributed along the edge of the network rather than housed in a single, centralized location, edge computing infrastructure offers a level of reliability and security that is fundamentally different from cloud-based networks. Like some multi-limbed creatures out of legend, portions of the network can be cut off or even compromised without damaging the rest of the network. Even if the servers at the core of the network go down, edge computing IoT devices can continue to gather data and function without interruption, diverting critical data to edge data centers or even storing data on-board until the central cloud is restored. While the increased number of possible touchpoint may attract cyberattacks, the distributed nature of the network makes it less likely that they will gain anything useful from compromising a single point of access.
Edge computing is already presenting companies with tremendous opportunities in a variety of markets. From startups looking to scale their computing capacity rapidly to larger companies looking to deliver better customer experiences, edge computing infrastructure has the potential to completely reshape computing networks around the world. With the number of IoT devices expected to grow rapidly over the next decade and become a much more ubiquitous part of everyday life for the average consumer, organizations that put off thinking about how to incorporate edge computing into their IT infrastructure run the risk of falling behind in the fast-paced economy of the future. Edge computing’s ability to expand network reach will open up entirely new markets that traditional networks have had difficulty serving, and early adopters will have a natural advantage extending their service to the customers located there.Although companies have already found many innovative uses for edge computing, they’ve likely only scratched the surface of what is possible. Given the utility and cost effectiveness of edge computing networks, organizations have little to lose by incorporating these innovative new strategies into their IT infrastructure
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