For any reason, if you have this article open in front of you, we would like to assume that you are here to know what is edge computing. Or is edge computing the technology that will replace cloud computing? Well, edge computing is a wildfire-like technology, changing how we deal with our data. It is somewhat like ‘Cloud computing’, but it’s more local. To know if or how it will replace cloud computing, we need to understand the technology more.
So, before we dive deep into understanding edge computing, we should see how cloud computing works and what makes edge computing different.
Cloud Computing: where the data generated is stored in the far away data centres, termed clouds. The ‘cloud’ does not mean your data hangs somewhere in the atmosphere; it technically refers to a data centre or computing centre located many kilometres from the source generating the data.
In cloud computing, a certain number of sources are connected to a particular server that collects and processes that entire data and works on it. And this very issue gave rise to the idea of edge computing.
Initially, fewer devices were needed to store their data on the cloud, but with growing technology and changing times, more and more devices are becoming smart. Becoming smart for devices means nothing, but in some way or another, it can store your data or maybe can also process it. May it be in any way, like a security camera recording and sending visuals, or your mobile applications lining up for updates, anything or everything in that matter needs to upload their data to the server or needs to download some data from the server is adding up to the congestion. More and more smart devices trying to communicate with the cloud server is undoubtedly a concern.
And if we talk about today itself, we already have vast oceans of unwanted data stored on cloud servers. Imagine what the future might be like if this is not taken care of.
So, in came the concept of edge computing.
What is edge computing?
You might come across many different explanations, but at its core, edge computing simply means distributed computing on a localised network. Or a network where the information processing happens at the ‘edge’ where things or people produce or consume that information. In simpler terms, the computing here needs to happen closer to the data source than the far-off cloud server.
How does edge computing support the Cloud computing model?
Cloud computing sounds like an unbeatable system, and that it is; once you store something on the cloud, it is always there. You can access any information from any part of the world. Great! But who said such incredible systems could not have their issues? The explosive growth in data generation and the need to process and compute it has out-spaced the network and its infrastructure capabilities. And the same issue has led to increased latency and higher bandwidth consumption.
Not just computers or mobile phones, but the IoT devices, medical monitoring devices, security devices, self-driving cars and anything that uses sensors of any kind, or is processing data, need to compute that data. The usage of more and more sensors has not only increased the data multi-fold but also delayed processing time.
With edge computing, one can either process data at the data centres near the source or on/in the source itself. This points toward devices becoming smarter. The equipment needed to process the data generated/collected can be directly fitted into the device, where the initial processing can be done, and only essential data can be sent to the could. Imagine a security camera dumping everything it is recording onto the cloud. If the camera is working/recording 24x7, imagine the amount of data from each such device. On the other hand, what if the camera recorded the parameters and a server processed them and sent only particular triggers that indicated a threat to the actual cloud server? This will drastically decrease the amount of data being dumped onto the cloud and lower bandwidth consumption and latency.
One can say it is flexible hybrid Cloud computing. Where the near-user location data centres not only function on big data but work on instant data in real-time. Also, there are multiple other advantages of Edge computing:
1. Reduced latency: now, when the computing device sits near where the data is being generated, it is nearly impossible to face more significant delays in getting your processing done. Edge computing minimises the need for long-distance communication between the server and the client. It instantly works on the data and provides results with almost no delay by lowering the response time. Hence the system is connected via edge computing function in real-time, reducing transmission delays.
2. Allows busiest sites to load quickly, supports smooth and fast computing of services that require streaming and avoids bandwidth constraints.
3. It drastically reduces network costs and decreases server resources and bandwidth costs.
4. It helps better and secures the movement of sensitive data. As in edge computing, installing security standards at every edge gateway/node/server and the client is essential.
5. It works at its best even in the areas where connectivity is inconstant, as it uses the 5G network for added functionality.
6. It can be incorporated with various applications, resources, products and services, leading to enhanced customer experience.
Edge computing is making the job of cloud computing more accessible. The gradually increasing data is processed and filtered on the edge servers, and only essential data triggers are sent forward to be stored on the cloud server. This improves functionality and lowers response time.
Are there any drawbacks?
Being rated a new technological concept, Edge computing has a few drawbacks that can indeed be eliminated in the long run.
1. Increased cost for local hardware: to enable edge computing, it is necessary to invest in the technology. Either installing edge servers or data computing equipment on the device brings in more expenses. But with time, when production of such smart devices begins on a larger scale, this drawback can be taken care of.
2. Security concerns: if the network we use is not secure or you can not rely on it to keep your information safe, then there is no point in connecting to that network. When all the devices can store/process/read your data, it becomes extremely important to take care of the security aspect of it. Smart devices can be more prone to attacks where users’ information/data can be at risk. So, the only way to fight this is to instal high-security protocols on all such devices.
Will Edge computing replace Cloud computing?
No, in any way, edge computing cannot replace cloud computing, whereas it exists to support cloud computing in performing better. The data load directly to the cloud server can be reduced drastically through edge computing, improving how the cloud deals with our data.