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Edge Computing 101: What it is and why it matters

Author

GBM Executive

Director Strategy & Business Development

Edge computing is everywhere at the moment. Gartner believes it will be used to process 75% of enterprise data by 2025[1]. New technologies like Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, digitization, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 5G mobile networks are designed to be supported by edge computing and will likely accelerate its adoption. At GBM, we believe in the importance of edge computing in facilitating our customers’ digital transformation journey across the region.

But, what is edge computing? What can you use it for? And what kinds of solutions are available? The exact meaning of the term is still lost on many of us. That’s why, in this blog post, we’ll shed light on “the what, the why and the how” of edge computing for our readers.

What is edge computing?

Here’s a basic definition, which I’ll explain further in a minute. Edge computing is:

Creating and processing data outside the data center and closer to the end-user – using external equipment such as remote servers, sensing devices, or even the user’s own smartphone – to make data faster to transport and more available.

That was quite a mouthful, so let’s break it down further.

Why do that?

Why would you want to create and process data closer to users? For a few reasons…

  1. You want to gather Big Data from the real world, which can only be done with external devices like in Internet of Things (IoT) systems.
  2. You want to deliver bandwidth-intensive experiences (like multimedia apps) to users in many locations, and processing everything server-side in one datacenter is slow and expensive.
  3. You want to distribute cloud applications across many locations, so that all your sites are not depending on one central data center (which would be slow, and disastrous if that datacenter went down).
  4. Your need to comply with different data regulations for users in different locations, and you can only do it by storing and processing user’s data close to them.

Why is it faster?

Ok, but how does moving things away from your super-powerful datacenter make data more available and faster to transfer? Again, there are several reasons why.

  • Latency – The further away your users, the slower data travels to and from your main datacenter. It makes sense to serve them from localized datacenters, and process as much data as possible client-side (on the user device).
  • Capacity – Your datacenter can only process and serve so much data at once. The more you can process in external resources, the less the strain and the more available your services.
  • Redundancy – If your datacenter is responsible for everything, everything is going to go down when disaster strikes. Distribute computing across branches, facilities and users to protect business continuity.

And finally, why is it called edge computing? Because data is processed “at the network’s edge”. It’s not as easy to grasp as cloud computing, is it?

What are some real-world uses of edge computing?

Edge computing sounds very sensible in theory, I hope you’ll agree. But what are some real-world use cases that create real value for businesses? Here’s a bunch of potential “edge sites” as identified by Schneider Electric, one of the leading providers of edge infrastructure.

Remote office and branch office – instead of sending data to and from the central datacenter, or even the cloud, for processing, run workloads locally and send only the results home for aggregation.

Video analytics – A perfect example of high-bandwidth applications is facial recognition in security footage. Local edge computing is the fast and efficient way to do it.

Manufacturing and supply chain control (IoT) – A prime use for IoT devices, which can sense defects, optimize operations, monitor safety and more, all of which must be done “at the edge”.

How do you build an edge computing solution?

It may well be that your business already collects and processes some data at the edge, but you might need specialized infrastructure to fully exploit edge computing’s speed, efficiency and reliability.

After all, it’s no small feat to distribute the functions of your traditional data center across many local sites. How will you manage deployment, maintenance and security without losing your efficiency gains? It takes an edge computing approach.

For local and regional edge sites, the answer is usually integrated micro data centers, which are easy to deploy and remotely monitor. Schneider Electric’s Micro Data Centers, for example, feature hyperconverged infrastructure, power distribution, UPS and physical security. They’re an edge datacenter in a box, pre-configured and ready to go.

Of course, there’s the issue of joining everything together, and that’s naturally where GBM can help. We have vast experience in delivering integrated edge computing and IoT solutions in the Middle East region. GBM can make edge computing a turnkey experience for you.

So, there you have it: the what, the why and the how of edge computing.

There’s far more to consider, though – if you’d like to know more, including whether edge computing can help your business, feel free to contact GBM. We are here to help.

Reference

[1] https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/what-edge-computing-means-for-infrastructure-and-operations-leaders/

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