What is Edge Computing?

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Judit Llordés
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Is edge computing the same as cloud computing or something completely different? Beyond the cutting edge of computing, what exactly is edge computing? You may have heard of this term, but as devices get smarter and smaller and wireless connections get faster, edge computing is likely to become more and more important.

This article will define edge computing and its similarities and differences to cloud computing, as well as who uses the technology and how.

What is Edge Computing?

Basically, processing can happen on the device, like with a calculator, or over the internet, like most of what you do on your phone or computer. Processing that happens off the device, on the Internet, is usually facilitated by the more familiar cloud computing.

Cloud computing is processing performed by a network of connected servers in a data center. This network is accessed through an Internet-connected device that is not contributing to the computing activity on its own.

Edge computing is essentially a form of cloud computing in which processing is distributed across multiple devices rather than in a single location, on what is known as an "origin server" in cloud computing.

In fact, “Edge Cloud Computing” recreates a cloud-like system using “edge servers” or “micro-servers” instead of origin servers.

While edge cloud computing works much like normal end-user cloud computing, edge devices share computing activity with servers.

Why is edge computing important?

Edge computing is important in modern and next-generation devices because it is more reliable and secure than cloud computing. It's also more powerful and versatile than rigorously on-device processing.

Edge Computing enables smaller and faster devices

Most users have developed a lust for both smaller and more powerful devices. As cloud computing involves computer networks, it will always be more powerful than any device that most people could reasonably own.

Cloud computing solves the problem of device size. However, we also want the processing to be fast.

When you use cloud computing for word processing, it might seem instant. In reality, transmitting data from a device to a cloud and back takes time, but word processing is aided by being a low-data-hungry activity.

With cloud computing activities with high data requirements, such as streaming games or watching multimedia content, you are more likely to notice a drop in performance. You will notice that the performance drops even more if the cloud service is in high demand at the time.

Most peripheral devices share the processing load. Items that don't change often or very quickly are processed on the device. Items that change rapidly and require more processing power are processed in the cloud.

This way, part of the processing request is taken over by the device rather than everything that happens in the cloud. Fewer cloud data requirements mean faster processing on the same internet connection.

Edge computing adds security

All data processed on the device should not be sent to the cloud. Any data that does not need to be sent to the cloud is more protected from potential data thieves.

That the cloud itself is not secure is a common cloud computing myth. However, any Internet connection is a potential opportunity for hackers. Just as the bank robbers of the Old Wild West might attack the coach rather than the bank, whether or not the cloud itself is safe isn't necessarily the problem.

Edge computing allows you to divide data between your device and the cloud to speed things up. But edge devices also allow you to split data processing between the device and the cloud so that sensitive information never leaves the device.

Also, in the case of cloud edge computing, outages are less likely for users because maintenance can be performed or damage to micro-servers or edge servers can occur without all network users being affected.

Are there any drawbacks to edge computing?

There are drawbacks to edge computing. Some of these downsides come from edge computing which also uses the cloud. For example, edge devices still need to have an Internet connection for maximum utility. However, edge computing technology also poses some of its problems.

Right now, edge devices require quite specialized computer chips. As a result, most edge devices can only really apply edge computing to one thing. They aren't necessarily single-use, but they're also not as versatile as strictly cloud devices.

Who Uses Edge Computing?

Right now, the use cases of edge computing are quite limited. The technology is only employed by companies that really have a good reason not to rely strictly on onboarding or cloud computing.

Cellnex Telecom is a wireless telecommunications operator serving most of Europe. By using edge cloud computing, which distributes processing across multiple locations rather than relying on a data center, the company offers better and more reliable service across its large market and dispersed user base.

Perceive creates chips for perimeter devices, mainly security devices for the smart home. These chips allow devices to understand images, video and audio while limiting the volume of potentially sensitive data they have to send to the cloud. Likewise, companies like Microsoft are using edge computing in IoT devices that are less cloud-dependent.

AT&T promises that edge computing will make cloud gaming faster and more accessible in the future. Games require more data to stream than other forms of media because games require reaction to user input. Processing some commands or distributing graphics rendering can reduce connection requirements and latency.

What does Smart Home mean?

Are you living on the edge?

Depending on how you use connected devices, you may already be using edge computing solutions at work or at home. Smart home devices are likely to be the way most people first encounter edge computing for some time.

However, as edge computing makes devices smaller, faster, and more powerful, applications of this technology are likely to become more ubiquitous.

Further Reading:

  • How to reset network settings on Samsung Galaxy S7
  • How to install LineageOS 16 on Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge based on Android 9.0 Pie
  • 8 solutions for when Microsoft Edge won't open PDFs in Windows
  • How to save a webpage as PDF on Microsoft Edge
  • How to enable kids mode in Microsoft Edge

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