by Paul Gysen
- Cloud & IM Consulting Lead
Edge computing, if not actually on the rise in the field of IoT (Internet of Things) and its applications, is definitely a hot topic in IT circles these days. To the extent that maybe you yourself have already been thinking of joining in this new computing trend? In that case: hold on a minute! Let’s have a look at its potential benefits first and investigate the business opportunities for applying this new concept.
As I’ve explained in a previous blog post, edge computing is bringing at least part of the data processing closer to the source of the data. By shifting some of that processing activity off the central and remote cloud and hosting it near(er) to or where it is actually needed, you can improve both the security of your data and the responsiveness of your applications. Also, it offers you the reliability and flexibility to scale your infrastructure where required and, never to be sneezed at, it can significantly reduce your network and telecom costs.
Let’s take a closer look at these main benefits. Starting with security, it is clear that by keeping part of your data near to or on the actual end-point device and having it processed there locally, less data needs to be exchanged with your data centre(s), whether in or out of the cloud. Consequently, less data is exposed to attacks, leakage or other types of threats, vastly improving your data protection capabilities. Also, taking into account new privacy laws such as the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), part of the data sovereignty requirements may be taken care of by keeping certain sensitive data local and only uploading that data in an aggregated or even anonymised way.
Another advantage of edge computing is that by significantly reducing the network latency between the end-point device and the data processing, you are also enhancing your applications’ responsiveness and thus your end-user experience. When frequent interactions take place and/or large amounts of data are exchanged, that speed benefit is even more valued.
By doing both, i.e. optimising the amount of data exchanged between your edge servers and your central data centre(s) or cloud infrastructure as well as reducing your bandwidth and latency requirements, you can also drive down the associated network and telecom costs. Especially where pricey leased lines or 3G/4G/5G telecommunications are involved.
Finally, since edge computing implies and requires a distributed architecture, it also increases the reliability and flexibility to scale your infrastructure. Edge computing notably makes it easier to grow your number of endpoints or to upscale their capacity when and where required, without impacting your central infrastructure investments. That same architecture also allows you to dedicate each component of your overall infrastructure to what it does best, using large central servers for heavy analytics that require the processing of vast amounts of data, for instance, while serving your responsive, user-friendly applications at end-point side with local edge computing.
Judging by these clear and convincing benefits, all industries and market segments may find one or more business opportunities in edge computing. It may allow your business to better adapt to local needs, for instance, with the additional capability to evolve independently in accordance with local requirements. It may also allow you to develop new and very fast local applications that require autonomous reliability, without having to depend on a central infrastructure. A case in example is the smart car, which needs to aggregate data for and from varied sensors. Another example is provided by drones that are able to cope autonomously with their surrounding environment while performing a specific task. Other examples of edge computing range from retail applications such as shopping carts and video streaming in outlets to interactive kiosks and handheld devices for field technicians. Not forgetting the wide range of IoT devices that are already out there, of course.
Finally, and not surprisingly, the new computing paradign brought on by edge computung also comes with its own cohort of risks and challenges. That will be the subject of my next blog post. You can check it out here.