what is edge computing?

JANUARY 29, 2021

Brad Kirby
What is Edge Computing?
The most basic explanation of Edge Computing describes it as the next generation of the geographical location of physical computing infrastructure and architecture, relocating closer to enterprises and people to meet the demand from the next wave of devices and applications – better known as the Internet of Things (IoT) or Industrial IoT (IIoT). In short, data packets move benefits such as low latency, cost reduction, security, and data residency are just a few reasons developers are moving away from cloud computing and to the edge.

The Linux Foundation's Open Glossary of Edge Computing defines it as the delivery of computing capabilities to the logical extremes of a network in order to improve the performance, security, operating cost and reliability of applications and services. By shortening the distance between devices and the cloud resources that serve them, and also reducing the number of network hops, edge computing mitigates the latency and bandwidth constraints of today's internet, ushering in new classes of applications, offering exciting breakthroughs and possibilities.. In practical terms, this means distributing new resources and software stacks along the path between today's centralized data centers and the increasingly large number of deployed nodes in the field, on both the service provider and user sides of the last mile network.

Computing in the era of IoT is moving out of the realm of the abstract – spreadsheets, mobile apps, websites and software-as-a-service platforms – and into the real world to power augmented reality, empower decision-making via AI and machine learning, operate cars and increase public safety.

Edge computing – as a geographically distributed computing architecture – allows applications to execute closer to end users, utilizing data, compute resources, networking and infrastructure in near proximity, meeting demand from the explosive increase in the number of IoT & IIoT devices and the related complexity of the applications. Autonomous vehicles (land and air), smart cities, AR/VR, machine learning, neural networks. etc. are just a few edge computing use cases. Edge computing will be critical for many technological innovations that have yet to even be imagined.

"All hail our new distributed architecture. Maybe now it's time to shine."

-Stacey Higginbotham, Stacey on IoT, commenting on EDJX

What about Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing capitalized on the outsourcing of IT infrastructure previously managed on premise. Tech behemoths like Amazon, Google and Microsoft built centralized, massive data centers in a few select locations, achieving economies of scale, substantially reducing IT costs for enterprises vs. on premise client servers. Additional services and technology created by cloud providers were an important advancement that enabled many businesses to grow. And like on-premise servers, cloud computing will continue to play a role.

However, since computing demand will be driven by globally distributed devices and applications, edge computing is the logical technology to serve the future, pushing the cloud everywhere while advancing technology and reducing costs. For the same reasons on-premise client-servers moved to the cloud, the cloud is moving to the edge.

Where is the Edge?

The most common question asked is: Where exactly is "the edge"? And it is a very fair question that is essential to better understanding edge computing. But you would be hard pressed to find any two executives that provide the same answer. Because the answer is: it depends. For a telecom company, edge computing may be located at their network edge. Manufacturers may define it as the factory floor. Autonomous vehicles may define it as anywhere they can drive. And smart cities may just say "everywhere". The varying perspectives and requirements for a distributed network means the physical locations of edge computing will continuously change. The difficulty stems from the expectation that the number of "things" is expected to grow from 20B in 2020 to 75B in 2025. It is nearly impossible to predict what those things may be, how and where they will operate, and what applications they will be running that require additional computing.

At EDJX, we think the best answer is that the Edge is located in the last 1,000 feet of every connected device on the planet.

Obviously edge computing will never come close to serving the entire edge as defined above as it would be economically infeasible. But the important takeaway is that innovation regarding the residency of physical computing infrastructure will be critical for the success of edge computing. Therefore the real estate – and not necessarily the physical computing hardware in use - will be critical to successfully supplying the future demand of compute at the edge.

Sustainability at the Edge

The race is on for the $4T edge computing economy. The number of IoT devices continues to proliferate and the amount of data being generated by these devices has been forecasted by IDC to increase from 18.9B Zetabytes in 2019 to 75.3B Zetabytes in 2025. If the past is any prediction of the future, the amount of edge data that will be generated is currently grossly underestimated. The substantial increase therefore creates concerns about the environmental impact that edge computing has on the planet.

Any good tech start-up is truly trying to change the world, and we believe that building infrastructure that can support edge applications that minimizes the carbon footprint and e-waste associated with building it is a critical component of the edge computing ecosystem. The Computer/Internet industry is the world's fastest-growing waste stream; the UN refers to e-waste as a tsunami. Accordingly, there is a tremendous opportunity for a company to build sustainability into its business model.

We created EdjBlock® in partnership with ITRenew and VPS to utilize perfectly good computing resources to launch the foundational infrastructure of the world's first distributed CDN and serverless platform at the edge in partnership with Cyxtera and existing EDJX partners. Integrating software-defined networking and power enables optimal utilization at near edge points-of-presence that serve as a bridge between far edge compute (such as far edge IoT devices) and data centers to form a distributed edge cloud.

Is Edge Computing Hype or Reality?

As reported by TechRepublic, Edge Computing is slated to skyrocket in 2021. Major CDN players are all releasing Edge platforms in the coming months alongside platforms from several major telecom giants.

There are various reasons why Edge Computing is becoming a reality today. Some of these reasons include:

  • New applications – and therefore future growth of IoT, data, etc. - will require lower latency that will best served by edge computing and next generation CDN providers.
  • Proliferation of IoT devices is projected to reach into the trillions.
  • Infrastructure is becoming highly automated as cloud has become mainstream.
  • Rise in automation across industries.
  • Rise in multi-dimensional experiences across industries.
  • The internet was created with the intention of decentralized infrastructure; centralized clouds are creating too much power in a few technology companies.
We're excited to be entering the year 2021 with edge computing as the tip of the spear into limitless application-building and overarching possibilities. We have exciting announcements coming up here at EDJX – please be sure to follow us on Twitter, LI and sign up for our newsletter by clicking below to be up on the edge latest.

Edge Computing Resources

Are you interested in keeping up on the latest news in Edge Computing? If so, below are a list of resources that we recommend to keep up to speed:
Subscribe to the EDJX Newsletter
Data Center Frontier – Edge Computing
Topio Networks – Edge Essentials Newsletter
Edge Industry Review – Daily News Dedicated to Edge Computing
STL Partners - Edge Computing Newsletter