From processing data in real time to ruling out latency issues and increasing security and compliance, edge computing is helping organisations become more resourceful and dynamic.
As digitisation increases globally, we are observing the advent of ground-breaking products, services and technological solutions that are adding tangible value to the ever-connected global infrastructure. According to Statista, there will be more than 75 billion connected devices worldwide by 2025 – or 10 internet-driven devices for every person.
Such extensive proliferation of IT infrastructure is enabling businesses to draw greater computational power from data centres. However, some applications require a prompt response, and for them, even milliseconds matter. Multiplayer gaming, for instance, requires constant uplink and downlink of data to extend an interactive user experience. But data centres are often situated remotely and can also be on another continent in comparison to a user. This means that the constant back and forth of information will result in data latency of multiple seconds. In battle royale games such as PUBG and Call of Duty, this delay could mean an eventual defeat for the player.
However, the need to eliminate data latency goes beyond leisure activities such as online gaming. Such delays also affect a day trader’s stock market trades – where even a fractional price change can result in substantial losses. So, the requirement of sub-second responses is fast-becoming evident because of the increasingly digitised infrastructure. This is where edge computing, a new network architecture, comes into the picture. But before we discuss this network architecture, let us first analyse cloud computing and its underlying challenges.
The gradually expanding smart IT infrastructure requires constant connection with a broader network or the cloud. Cloud is an adaptive computing environment that enables an organisation to leverage the infrastructure of data centres for its storage, computational, and application requirements.
This approach eliminates costs related to the development, deployment, and maintenance of IT resources while simultaneously extending an organisation the most cutting-edge features and technologies. Moreover, this equips businesses with greater flexibility in upscaling and downscaling operations or modifying subscription of a critical service as per business conditions. But, this flexibility is unobtainable through other traditional methods.
Cloud computing is currently witnessing massive global adoption given its cost-effective model that focuses on operational expenditure. However, as cloud solutions continue to proliferate, they are simultaneously creating three major challenges for organisations.
Cloud-based applications and devices constantly generate data that needs to be processed with respect to a certain predefined function. But IoT devices and sensors also generate additional data that is not relevant for the particular function for the same. This superfluous data, in any case, utilise cloud resources and increases related costs.
Today, cloud technology is enabling the automation of a majority of day-to-day processes. This is bringing greater precision, effectiveness, and efficiency in managing operations. Some of these cloud-driven solutions include automated surveillance devices, healthcare monitors, industrial robots, drones, droids, and so forth. They need a constant flow of information with the data centre. However, long-distance communication is known to cause data latency that results in transmission delays. Such delays can be very unfavourable in multiple cloud applications. For instance, if the sensor data is not timely processed in a self-driving car or in an industrial robot, it can lead to a catastrophic event.
Data centres lead to centralisation of the network as well as the data for organisations. This centralisation leads to a network arrangement that creates a single point of failure. If this point of failure collapses, it makes the whole network unviable. Similarly, the data in transit can also be attacked by a cyber attacker. Events such as these can compromise critical information of businesses and lead to substantial losses.
The ability to process data at the edge of a logical unit (or closer to the source of data, say an IoT device), rather than at centralised points (or data centres), is known as edge computing. An edge computing system gathers data and processes it much closer to the source by using the processing model leveraged by the cloud. Then, the processed data can either be relayed back to the source, if needed or packaged for further processing and analysis. This approach decreases the overall data transmitted to the cloud, thus decreasing overall turnaround time for a given process. It also reduces the overall data load of the cloud and frees the IT resources for other critical tasks.
There are numerous advantages to using edge computing. Primarily, it decreases the total distance that data has to travel in order to get processed, which subsequently decreases transmission costs, reduces latency, and enhances Quality of Service (QoS). Secondly, it limits the dependency on a singular IT resource and leads to decentralisation of the network. This eliminates a singular point of failure, which can cause major service disruption. Edge computing also increases the security and compliance since sensitive data can be filtered out at network edges and only the relevant data-model-building information can be transmitted to the cloud.
In our increasingly digitised world, cloud technology is helping us attain superior process enhancement while serving as a true enabler of automation. With this, organisations can achieve a real-time solution for their everyday challenges – whether it is computing a given data with a particular data processing model or storing it more robustly and cost-effectively. This is possibly why the Indian cloud industry, which had a market size of $1.8 billion by 2017, will grow more than two-fold by 2020 and touch the figure of $4.1 billion. In this value chain, edge computing is only taking the advantages of cloud computing a notch above and making organisations more resourceful and dynamic.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)