Today we are going to talk about something that a lot of us know a little bit about, and most of us want to know a lot more about. From Autonomous Vehicles to 5G Applications to digitizing the International Space Station, this technology is going places. The buzzword is Edge Computing, I am sure you have heard the term and if you are reading this blog on your kindle or laptop or mobile phone or whatever is your reading device of choice, you are getting it all from a server that is not too far away. The servers are sending the data close to you, they are sending the stuff close to you, they are sending the things that you need for your internet experience close to the edge. That’s the basic understanding. But how about we dig deep into it.
Firstly, why should we care about Edge Computing in the first place?
Major Architectural shift has paved the way for Edge Computing
Back in the early 60s, we had these big mainframe computers right. It was about connecting your computers using dumb terminals, much like a standard centralized model. Next, in the 80s everything was upside down, we moved into client-server models, the era of AS400s and Oracle servers. This was also the era when people were first introduced to personal computing. Then came the 2000s, the era of cloud computing. It was a large-scale model across shared infrastructure, but it was centralized, something that revolutionized the IT and technology landscape. This time most of us had personal computers but we all started to access centralized services like Dropbox, Office 365, Slack, and Gmail. Even today devices like Amazon Echo, Google Chromecast, and the Apple TV are powered by content and intelligence that’s in the cloud. It won’t be wrong to say that we rely on infrastructure, hosting, machine learning, and compute power of a very select few cloud providers such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and IBM. As everything that could be centralized has been already centralized, it’s time to harness the opportunities that the Edge can offer. Finally, when emerging technologies like IoT, M2M, 5G, and AI are making their way into our daily lives, we are realizing that everything cannot and must not run on the cloud. So now, the cloud moves to the edge, the computing moves to the edge. We are now at a stage where we have lived the entire technology cycle, from centralized to distributed to combined. As a matter of fact, in 3 years, 45 % of IoT devices will be stored, processed, analyzed, and acted upon close to, or at the edge of the network and over 6 billion devices will be connected to Edge Computing. It is estimated that the edge computing market will be worth $43.4 Billion by 2027 with a CAGR of 37.4%.
Edge Computing is disruptive and fundamentally going to change everything
Before we deep dive, first, let’s get the foundation right. Edge is basically a physical location where the users, the cellphones, the sensors, etc. establish connections. Edge Computing, on the other hand, is basically computing happening at the edge, basically a topology element. Computing can also happen at the cloud or at a data center, but in this case, it’s happening at the edge. Imagine it as the cloud coming close to you.
Getting out of the definition game, let’s now focus on what’s going to actually change
- Ultra-low Latency
Let’s say if user A needs to connect to a user B that’s half a globe away before it can do anything, user A perceives this delay in service as latency. Being closer to the actual user Edge Computing ensures that the data does not have to be sent back and forth to the cloud or a data centre. All the data can be generated, processed, stored, and computed at the edge. This makes it a perfect choice for low latency applications like Industrial IoT, 5G, Self-driving cars, and much more. For eg there is a gas pump in a refinery that is monitoring pressure that needs to be shut quickly without human intervention will require ultra-low latency. In human application scale-like voice assistance it’s in tens of milliseconds and for machine scale-like Autonomous Vehicles it’s in terms in microseconds or even sometimes in nanoseconds.
2. Larger Bandwidth
Instead of sending lots of data back and forth to the cloud for processing, Edge gives the capability of doing all the heavy lifting. For eg With technologies like IoT becoming mainstream, we will have lots of data being transferred between multiple devices and the server (all of this happening at lightning speeds). Edge Computing plays a vital role in making this happen.
3. Privacy, Security, and the Cost
As data gets decentralized at multiple nodes, it ensures compliance with data sovereignty and other regulations. A perfect example of this would be your android device, it stores your fingerprint on the device which then authenticates and manages end-to-end security rather than storing the biometric data on a cloud. Edge Computing is an auto tool for security. Apart from this when it comes to cost-effectiveness, Edge offers the edge by significantly bringing down the backhaul cost by reducing the amount of traffic that needs to be transported to centralized data centres.
Finally, let’s explore how Edge Computing will be an enabler for the 5G Technology
With 5G coming in, it is changing the edge dramatically. Access created edge will have base stations, RAN for LTE/Edge, Radio N/W Controller, CMTS, PON OLT, Hotspots, Data centre’s, small cells, Routers and switches, Wifi Access points.
Or maybe let’s just discuss this sometime later – you can now go back to your binge-watching, something which is again powered by Edge Computing – Another chapter, Another day Voila!