Edge computing. No, it’s not something that Lady Gaga sang about (that’s “The Edge of Glory”) or a Tom Cruise sci-fi movie (that’s Edge of Tomorrow). Rather, it’s a technological innovation that may just be what businesses like yours would need to take full advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the cloud.
What is edge computing?
Prior to cloud computing, information processing occurred locally, i.e., on the device of the user. Then, cloud computing came along and allowed workloads to be offloaded to data centers outside of the enterprise’s network. This means that businesses can now quickly scale their operations without having to correspondingly increase their internal IT capacity as they did before. This was a boon, especially since businesses produced more and more data and became reliant on it.
However, the number of devices being connected to the internet only keeps growing. Everything that’s now purportedly smart or will be made smart — from phones to refrigerators to thermostats to cars — will generate many additional data inputs that will need to be processed into data outputs. This process is affected by network speed, bandwidth, and the distance that the data has to travel (see: latency). The shorter the distance, the faster data is processed — and processing that occurs just on the “edge” of a company’s network is called edge computing.
Unlike with cloud computing, which happens in data centers that are miles away from the user’s own network, edge computing occurs closer to the source of data and where the resulting processed information is consumed by devices or people.
IoT and edge computing
In IT, smart processes are those that don’t require humans to actively control outcomes. For example, IoT machines can be left alone to interact with their environment or with other machines. They do so by gathering data, having that data processed, then making decisions from the processed data. However, the speed at which this happens is crucial in many scenarios.
For instance, self-driving cars need IoT edge computing to be able to make split-second decisions so that the occupants, fellow road users, and other people nearby are always safe. Amazon Go and other cashier-less grocery stores must be able to recognize the items being bought and process payments quickly, or else they’ll just be giving away goods for free. Factories that utilize IoT sensors to ensure the efficiency and safety of equipment can greatly reduce downtime and accidents when the machines’ decisions are made locally and quickly. And for virtual reality and augmented reality (VR/AR) to be truly viable on a massive scale, these technologies need the fast processing that edge computing can provide.
The cloud and edge computing
With a device-to-cloud setup, all of the data gathered by the device is sent to the cloud. This means that your cloud becomes a repository that’s attractive to cybercriminals. However, in a setup that has edge computing in the middle, only the processed and relevant data is sent to the cloud. This means that a compromised cloud does not lead to all of the user’s data being compromised as well.
Moreover, edge computing helps businesses be less vulnerable to distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. A DDoS attack consists of a barrage of artificial queries on a cloud-based server that renders it incapable of responding to legitimate requests. However, even if your cloud is under siege, edge computing can still support your operations with uninterrupted service.
SimplyClouds is at the forefront of cloud-based and cloud-adjacent technologies. To help you get the edge in IoT and the cloud, consult with our experts today.