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What is Edge Computing?

by Iwan Price-Evans on Networking • June 6, 2022

Edge computing refers to applications running at the 'edge' of a network. The edge consists of distributed computing devices such as servers or users' computers.

The edge computing philosophy is to distribute processing to local devices to reduce the number of processes running in the data center or cloud and to reduce the physical distance between computing resources and client devices accessing applications and services. This reduces latency and delays in an application's response.

Edge computing can be integrated with Internet of Things (IoT) devices but it's important to note that edge computing and IoT are not the same. Edge is an architecture and a form of distributed computing.

Edge Computing History

Forms of edge computing were first created in the 1990s for video and web services that were located close to their users. Ten years later in the 2000s, this architecture developed into the distribution of applications and application components to edge servers. These became the first edge services delivering e-commerce carts, local service locators, and data aggregation.

How Does Edge Computing Work?

The architecture of edge computing consists of components that are distributed apart from a central location, such as an organization's data center or cloud service.

These components can be end-user computers, specially designed edge servers, or any other computing resource that can be coordinated by the organization and is accessible to users.

Edge servers are scaled-down versions of servers that can be on-premises. This makes them easy to deploy to small, remote locations.

Edge computing architecture includes:

  • Data storage
  • Applications and application components
  • Computer devices
  • IoT devices
  • Network connectivity to the central data center or cloud service

Information is collected on the devices and, depending on the use case, can be processed there as well. Edge architecture is designed to use the available resources of the edge device. Therefore the available device memory, storage, processing power, and bandwidth are designed to be enough to perform whatever functionality is needed for the edge system.

Any information needed centrally is communicated to the central database over the network. The majority of processing is done on the edge device so network traffic to and from the central database can be kept to a minimum.

What Are The Benefits Of Edge Computing?

Responsiveness

Many computing scenarios require minimum latency or delay. For example, multi-player video games need to reduce any delay in action occurring in the game, such as weapons firing and missing the target. By deploying complex edge functionality gaming providers can minimize latency.

Read our white paper on reducing latency in cloud gaming.

Another scenario is voice assistants such as Siri, Cortana, and Alexa. These have to process speech, compress it, and send it to the cloud to be processed. Therefore if you're asking a question that needs the central system to find the answer, the service provider needs to minimize the delay in response. Providers are developing edge AI systems that can provide this processing of questions and deliver answers remotely.

Security

With edge computing, it's possible to distribute the security of a system. An example of this is the iPhone's security and privacy functionality. Security is handed to the device to manage where it performs encryption and biometric data storage locally.

Read our white paper on edge security.

What Is The Difference Between Edge Computing, Cloud Computing, and CDNs?

Read our guide comparing Edge, Cloud, and CDNs.