The world of computing is in constant evolution as the twin factors of cultural change and technological advancements work in tandem to redefine how businesses operate. As The Internet of Things (IoT), immersive technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and increasing network demands act in concert with an increasingly distributed workforce, the challenge becomes finding ways to increase latency, bandwidth, and data security on networks groaning under the weight of unprecedented use. The solution? Edge computing.
What is Edge Computing?
Born in the explosion of internet-connected devices and applications requiring real-time data processing, edge computing is the analyzing and processing of data near or at its source. A distributed, open IT architecture, the “edge” is the metaphoric outer perimeter of a cloud network, where information is processed. This is in contrast to cloud computing, which relies on the transmission of data to a central location or data center that can be miles away.
Edge computing revenue is anticipated to reach $17.9 billion by 2025 with an additional $1 billion to be gained in optical modules and networking to support the improved transmission of edge data. The report, issued by ResearchAndMarkets.com, indicates that edge computing is a major growth and target market for cloud service providers that are preparing to offer edge computing services in a world where the explosion of connected IoT devices is set to hit 30.6 billion units by 2025.
Edge Computing for SMBs
In 2020, as it became clear that the COVID-19 pandemic was a long-term health crisis, businesses took the extraordinary step to develop and sustain a distributed workforce paradigm. The ripples of this workplace shift were felt across both the workplace and at home, where the functionality and security of networks were challenged and, in many instances, overhauled.
To underscore the impact of the new distributed workforce, OpenVault’s Broadband Insights Report tracked Q1 2020 broadband data usage and revealed a 47-percent increase in broadband usage. Inevitably, this steep increase in data usage slowed down broadband speeds by as much as half.
The growing value and need for a distributed workforce has surged in a historic technological moment. Gartner expects more than 15 billion IoT devices will connect to enterprise networks by 2029 — an explosion due in no small part to the arrival of 5G networking and rapid developments in the use cases for AI. The demand for a robust, scalable, and reliable means of managing data traffic has never been greater, especially for businesses of all sizes in the midst of reevaluating and redesigning their network infrastructures.
For businesses to thrive in this flourishing of data processing requires moving some of this labor and traffic to the network edge. Here is how edge computing works in your distributed network.
Better data management
As small to midsize businesses turn to cloud-centric architectures and platforms to fuel digital transformation, adding edge computing into a distributed cloud-based solution will allow you to analyze and process data locally. Processing data close to or within devices that are using it allows you to access and use that data in real time without negatively impacting the performance of the edge application. It also reduces the amount of data processed in the cloud, effectively reducing latency and lowering bandwidth costs.
Privacy and security
The management of data within or close to edge devices improves data security and privacy by virtue of limiting the distance it has to travel between the cloud and other devices. However, implementing a robust security strategy throughout your distributed network is a must.
IoT’s widespread adoption, while seen as inevitable, has an unnerving history with cybercriminals hacking everything from baby monitors to smart refrigerators. For businesses, the risks are even greater, with IBM reporting that the cost of a data breach was $3.86 million dollars in 2020, up 10 percent from 2014.
Devices and sensors sitting on the network’s edge can be easy entry points for cyber breaches. In addition to engaging a cybersecurity provider, you should also use strong passwords, employ end-to-end encryption on your network to safely transport data between devices, and make sure all edge software is up to date.
For SMBs already invested in distributed cloud infrastructures that include edge computing, managing devices such as IoT sensors, cameras, and smart locks will be required. Tracking, monitoring and managing the health of edge devices include:
- Properly configuring and deploying them
- Remotely detecting and troubleshooting problems
- Ensuring software and firmware updates are implemented
- Maintaining a registry of devices on the edge
Edge device management is often a part of your cloud service package, but there are also SaaS (software-as-a-service) tools such as VMWare Edge and Azure IoT Edge that offer deep, expansive management of IoT devices on the network’s edge as well as the means to harness data collected by these devices.
The Marriage of the Edge and the Cloud
Edge computing has been on the verge for years, but as cloud computing, IoT, 5G, and AI usher in the digital transformation of a broad spectrum of businesses, it has become invaluable. As part of this symbiotic technological ecosystem, edge computing brings to the table immediate access to the data and devices fueling what many are calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
SMBs already invested in digital transformation understand the game-changing value of effective data processing, analysis, and management. Edge computing is now the key to an ocean of real-time data access and insights that will empower businesses to make better decisions to stay competitive in a rapidly changing world.