A Beginner’s Guide to Edge Computing

Date: January 24, 2019

The present era, which can definitely be classified as the cloud computing era, is slowly adopting a new technology – in other words, ‘cloud is gently moving from the center to the edge’. It’s not like the cloud technology is at stake; it’s more like a complementary technology has emerged that will allow data from IoT devices to be analysed and processed at the edge of the network before being sent to the cloud.

“Edge computing is a distributed, open IT architecture that features decentralized power, enabling mobile computing and IoT technologies. In edge computing, data is processed by the device itself or by a local computer or server, rather than being transmitted to a data center.”

Certain quick decisions can now be taken even without the need for data to be processed in the cloud, thanks to the power of Edge Computing.

Why Edge Computing?

When on-premise data load started to bother enterprises, data centers were moved to the cloud. Now, as the load on the cloud has increased, it’s time to find a resort at the ‘edge’. As the count of intelligent devices is on the rise, the need for data to be processed close to its source is building up.

Edge computing emerged as a means to enhance efficiency and was gradually accepted for security and compliance reasons as well, although the security part is subjected to debates and discussion.

Edge computing offers certain advantages over the conventional cloud-based strategy. It analyses the data locally and thereby processes much of it before it is sent to the cloud, thus cutting down on backhaul traffic to the central processing unit and reducing latency. There are use-cases where a delay of even milliseconds can cause undesirable results in financial or manufacturing services.

By minimizing the distance data has to travel, the cost of running can also be reduced in most cases. Besides bandwidth and privacy concerns, this also has an impact on the rise of edge computing.

What is the current state of Edge?

Tech Pro Research had conducted a survey of several enterprises. As per their reports, 52% of respondents confirmed that they are currently using edge computing and 51% plan to employ edge computing within the coming 12 months.

As per reports from Gartner, 10% of enterprises have already shut down their traditional data center in 2018, and 80% of them are predicted to follow by 2025. As per reports from MarketsandMarkets, the edge computing market is expected to rise in worth to $6.72 bn in 2022 from $1.47 in 2017.

It is a known fact that Apple and Google are now focussing on transferring parts of AI processing to the user’s device instead of doing that in the cloud. A recent rumour making the rounds also states that Amazon is working on its own AI chip for Alexa.

We at PathPartner have incorporated edge computing in a number of projects. To give a quick example, our Driver Monitoring Solution (DMS) uses edge computing to process a major chunk of the information required to give the driver quick alerts on drowsiness or distraction detection. For remote monitoring, however, the data is sent to the cloud. Thus, DMS is a good example of technology that utilizes a combination of edge and cloud computing.

What is the difference between Edge and Fog Computing?

When we discuss ‘Edge’ computing, the term ‘Fog’ cannot remain unmentioned. Both of these terms are used interchangeably when real-time analysis is discussed. Edge computing can be considered a category or subset of Fog computing. Edge is basically the de facto element of fog computing.

The term ‘Fog Computing’ has a close association with its meteorological meaning of ‘Fog’ which is defined as the ‘cloud close to the land’, quite analogous to the fact that ‘fog’ is close to the ‘edge’. So, ‘Fog’ basically refers to the network that connects ‘Edge’ to the ‘Cloud’.

Edge computing essentially refers to the processing of data being done close to where it was created, i.e., the edge devices. Fog, however, refers to the hub of network connections that exists between the edge and the cloud. Thus, Fog is more about the way the data is processed from its source to its destination.

Edge Computing

What is the future of Edge Computing?

There are certain scenarios where Edge computing has an edge over the existing infrastructure. For instance, self-driving cars would work more quickly and efficiently if they didn’t have to go back and ask the cloud every single time they need to make a decision. Similarly, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) too are demanding the need for edge processing in order to reduce latency.

Other use cases that would largely benefit from edge computing include: Industrial Automation; Retail, which plans to rely heavily on AR and VR; Video monitoring where every frame need not be sent to the cloud for processing, and; Smart homes & offices where a delay isn’t appreciated.

As per MarketsandMarkets, retail is predicted to be the fastest-growing segment of edge computing. According to estimates from McKinsey & Co., IoT will be valued at $7.5T by 2025.

What factors should you consider before getting on board with an Edge Computing project?

Like most other technologies associated with the Internet of Things, security is an important consideration when it comes to Edge Computing. The data centers have, over the years, heightened their levels of physical security, but edge devices are often in public places or other locations where physical security is not a viable option. However, top players in Edge Computing are not likely to take security-related concerns lightly and would gradually come up with foolproof solutions to curb these issues.

Edge Computing comes with the promise of at least a certain amount of data at the edge of the network, but there might be some analysis that would fare better if carried out centrally. For instance, some processing might need the kind of power that isn’t available locally.

Last but not least, cost is an important consideration. As per the survey done by Tech Pro, there are mixed reviews on the impact of edge computing on data center budgets. According to 32%, their budget remained unaltered; 26% said it increased, whereas for 32.6 % it dried up.

PathPartner provides IoT services and works with clients to develop various IoT architectures, including Edge deployments.

Final Thoughts

Edge computing is relatively a new phenomenon and thus is subjected to inadequate industrial standard and interoperability issues. One question that is often raised in the computing world is ‘Will Edge replace Cloud?’, and the answer is most definitely ‘no’. History has proved that every extreme stance on technology never really saw the light of the day. Even the prediction about cloud computing replacing all on-premises computing turned out to be a fanciful projection. The reality is usually somewhere in between, where the new technology blends with the erstwhile technology and finds a fine balance.

Thus, coming years can expect to see edge computing as an approach that would be used to deploy in the cloud in order to provide for specific use-cases centering around the Internet of Things.

References

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