Edge computing keeps hitting the tech headlines, with many people predicting it will be the successor to cloud. But what does it actually involve, why is it different and how could it transform businesses large and small, in 2022 and beyond? Vapour’s CEO Tim Mercer offers his thoughts…
What is edge computing?
As the name would suggest, edge computing sits on the outer architecture of a network – the edge – as opposed to in the private, public or even hybrid cloud domain. It brings computing and storage closer to the data origin.
While it has been frequently referenced in the media in recent times, the concept of edge computing has actually been around since the late 1990s/early 2000s.
Is edge computing and cloud computing the same thing?
While edge computing complements the cloud, and can form a key part of an organisation’s tech infrastructure, it is totally different.
Typically used to run applications with real-time, sensitive data, the edge provides access to that data locally, so that you can do what you need to with it, and when you’re finished, it is sent to the cloud to be managed and supported.
It is (or should be) used in instances when sending that real-time data to a data centre would be too slow, too expensive, or would cause latency issues. In the early days I read that for big data think cloud, and for instant data think edge. That’s an easy way to distinguish the two.
Do edge and cloud computing suit certain industries better than others?
Edge computing is particularly relevant in scenarios that require rapid access to live data. IoT strategies, driverless cars and health wearables are all great examples where the data better resides on a device on the edge.
Many people wouldn’t consider their mobile phone as an edge device, for example. But my phone gives me real-time local access to the data produced by my Garmin watch (a wearable), and that data is then stored in Garmin, when I no longer need it.
The new BMW iX comes with a 5G SIM which enables the sharing of live traffic information with other 5G cars nearby, to inform drivers’ chosen routes. In fact, 5G has been a major driver in edge computing advancements, as it presents a speed of connectivity that just wasn’t possible before.
There are lots of use cases, and they are only going to increase in variety.
Will edge computing take over from cloud computing?
I’ve read stat after stat about edge computing, with one claiming that almost 80% of decision makers will use it over the next 12 months. These figures aren’t surprising, because, in all honesty, edge computing has been around for some time – it’s just got a shiny new name badge.
I don’t think the debate is as simple as one or the other, as the technologies are complementary. It doesn’t matter if a customer is running 30 applications – if there’s even one that they’re heavily reliant on, is particularly complex, or they require data from in real-time, we will talk to them about the ability to manage it locally, before sending the data to the cloud for storage. We’ve done this for some time.
As should always be the case in the tech space, decisions should be made on a case by case basis. In fact, it doesn’t have to be ‘one or the other’ – edge or cloud. Decisions should be made according to factors such as cost, security, performance, scale and so on.
When it comes to the public versus private cloud debate, we’d never categorically say one or the other. It’s much the same in terms of edge versus cloud computing, but it needs a confident, customer-focused, technology agnostic specialist to truly advise on what’s right for the business, and not just push the solution that’s most familiar to them.
Which is better – edge computing or cloud computing?
The application drives this, not the solution. So, it depends on the scenario.
And organisations – certainly those with savvy CTOs – are asking more probing questions to ensure they receive the right recommendations. They’re talking to vendors about how to better manage their applications, how these applications traverse networks, what they do inside businesses, how they can affect overall network performance, and so on. There’s also a larger appetite for making corporate networks more secure, agile and scalable, and for many businesses, cloud and edge will both have a role to play.
What should enterprises consider when choosing an edge computing vendor?
As always, knowledge, experience, and a commitment to understanding what’s going on inside the enterprise’s business, are key. To truly do a ‘solution sell’ justice, the tech space relies on exploration and empathy more than ever.
I’d also encourage a degree of ‘buyer beware’ when it comes to defaulting to bigger partners who may be among the most well-known brands in the market. They may absolutely be able to do everything, but they may not be niche – or attentive – enough to deliver the type or quality of service that the enterprise really needs.
We’ll see more and more collaboration in this space, and vendors who realise they don’t necessarily have everything in their kitbag, will thrive here. There may even be instances where a vendor with vast edge computing experience still brings in a complementary service provider to deliver a 100% fit-for-purpose solution. That’s fantastic commitment to satisfying the customer, as opposed to simply settling for what the vendor has done before.
We’ve never shied away from such partnerships. Naturally, we have very strict criteria to ensure our values and standards align. But collaboration has been key to our success on many occasions – particularly when it comes to gaining cut through in a competitive space.
Need more information about edge computing, or keen to know how to design the perfect network for your organisation? Let’s chat…