What is Edge Computing in Simple Terms?
The world of IT moves fast. And so does the language. If you’re not into this stuff day-to-day, the wording starts to go beyond jargon, into the realms of gatekeeping.
Edge Computing is one such mystifying term for something that’s actually quite simple. But finding an explanation for Edge Computing that doesn’t boggle the mind is like trying to find a digital needle in a haystack.
So, let’s answer it this way; what is Edge Computing in simple terms?
Edge Computing means getting IT resources as close to users as possible. A portion of storage and computing power is moved out of the central data centre, into the “edges” of the network. Instead of the data centre handling everything, local satellite servers do the work, closer to the source – and then send it to the data centre when it’s done.
As an example, let’s say you operate a national chain of department stores. Each location would have its own local server that logs all sales and inventory, staff hours, controls security, power and lighting – and does all the sums and processing involved. The result of all that computing work is then sent back to the main data centre, for review by head office.
How does Edge Computing Work?
Edge Computing uses local servers that are smaller and less powerful (and so, cheaper) than a data centre installation. This can mean having a server and all the associated hardware/software installed at every location – or it could be an installation that serves several clustered locations at once.
This decentralises the IT infrastructure into many locations, allowing each location to process its own data. The processed data is then sent back to the main data centre, for long-term storage and “big picture” analysis.
It’s a little bit like how your personal laptop does all the real-time work when you’re composing an email or writing a document, before it gets uploaded to the web – but on an industrial scale.
Among other things, this decentralisation can vastly speed up processing, and reduce the burden on the main data centre.
Benefits of Edge Computing over other Cloud solutions
With the number of devices connected to the internet, and the volume of data being produced by businesses, traditional data centres are being pushed to the limits.
Edge Computing reduces the load and makes this more efficient. And it’s becoming very popular. In fact, by 2025, 75% of enterprise-generated data will be created outside of centralised data centres. Here’s why:
- Lowest possible latency – work faster
- Reduce bandwidth consumption – faster main data centre
- Locally-stored data – compliant with each state’s data laws
- Reduces overall internet congestion
Edge Computing has so many applications that it would be impossible to list them all out properly, and in some ways, all networks rely on Edge Computing in one way or another. But here are some practical, real-world applications that might be familiar or interesting.
When to use Edge Computing
The most common and relatable solution to many businesses is Edge Computing for remote work and satellite offices.
Let’s say you run a UK business, headquartered in London. You rely locally on your data centre in Central London, which does the majority of your data processing and storage. But now, you have a satellite office in Miami, USA, with a remote team working over there.
Even though your Private Cloud installation in London is super fast, resilient and secure, with global connectivity, it can never be as fast as a local installation. Also, you might not be able to store people’s data exclusively on machines in London, which would violate compliance and data laws in the USA.
By getting a Private Cloud installation in a Miami data centre, you can serve users at lightspeed, while overcoming the technical burdens of international data exchange – plus, you’ll be fully compliant.
Read more – Should Businesses Use Multiple Data Centres?
Another example would be a hospital. In the UK, each hospital produces reams of data every hour of every day – and sending all of this over to a single data centre could result in chaos. So, Edge Computing handles data creation and management, breaking it down into on-site servers, which do the work before sending it on for permanent storage and central analysis.
Or how about offshore oil rigs? They’re truly remote locations, in often extremely violent seas – but they need to process and transmit data as much as any other arm of industry. Instead of relying on a centralised data centre, in a location with choppy internet connections (at best), Edge Computing does the work on-site. The data can then be transmitted in packets, as and when a stable connection becomes available.
Edge computing solutions
As you can see, Edge Computing is not a singular solution. It also relies on data centres (be they Private Clouds, satellite servers or fully owned, on-site installations) for central processing.
Edge networks can also be expanded and broken down into ever-smaller chunks – as is the case with MEC, or Mobile edge computing.
MEC: Mobile Edge Computing (or Multi Access Edge Computing)
Mobile Edge Computing could turn every mobile device with a 5G connection into a tiny little piece of a gigantic Edge network.
In MEC, applications and processing tasks are carried out as close to the device as possible – or even on the device itself. This means mobile network congestion can be reduced, and that applications perform better. MEC is quite new, even by today’s standards – but it’s happening right now. It could revolutionise how data is created, stored, and transmitted for business and public services, aiding computational offloading, content delivery, mobile big data analytics, edge video caching, and much more.
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