cloud vs. edge computing

Edge computing has recently started popping up in conversations about the future of cloud computing. Advances in cloud technology have primarily been driven by increasing demand for scalability and agility in the business world. The possibilities opened up by edge computing have also developed in response to these needs along with the budding Internet of Things (IoT) revolution.

What is IoT?

To put it simply, IoT is the novel concept of connecting any piece of equipment with an on/off switch to the Internet. Think computers and cell phones, obviously, to refrigerators, washers/dryers, and even an alarm clock. It’s estimated that by 2021, over 26 billion devices of all shapes and sizes and functionalities will be connected to the Internet. 

IoT has infinite possibilities, many of which may not even be on our collective radar as of today. But the future of IoT is endless and boundless. New opportunities will be discovered every day, and with those opportunities will come new challenges for an IT support company, especially in terms of security and ongoing connectivity that remains live and online. 

So how does the notion of IoT relate to the network structure part of a business, specifically the chosen delivery platform? And is edge computing set to replace cloud computing eventually? Probably not. Here’s why.

The Fundamentals of Cloud Computing

We’ve covered the basics of cloud computing before, so we’ll be brief here. Fundamentally, cloud computing works by storing and processing your network data on a network structured with centralized servers, generally at an off-site data center (or multiple data centers). However, cloud platforms can vary greatly, ranging from private to public clouds with hybrid clouds falling somewhere in between.

The key advantages of cloud models are that they allow you to scale network resources as your business evolves quickly. Since a cloud platform allows you near-instant access to additional network storage, your organization can minimize the infrastructure upgrades and capital expenses required to upgrade your network.

Of course, there’s ultimately a tradeoff for on-demand scalability: network and data processing speeds. This tradeoff has become increasingly apparent with the rising of IoT technology, and edge computing is moving in to fill that void.

So how does a company choose cloud computing over edge computing?

Where Edge Computing Fits In

While cloud computing offers the advantages of rapid scalability for growth-oriented businesses, cloud technology often sacrifices speed to make scaling realistic. As enterprises move toward deploying IoT technology, the need for both scalability and speed has become increasingly apparent. That’s because IoT devices generate a lot of data, and that data has to be processed somewhere and processed quickly.

When it’s processed on the cloud, it takes time to transfer data from where it’s generated to where it’s processed. Additionally, moving massive amounts of data requires additional network resources that slow down other operations. Ultimately, cloud architecture is not the ideal environment for deploying IoT technology.

The solution? 

Edge computing.

Edge computing opens up the possibility of processing data right where it’s generated. As the name suggests, edge computing moves critical data processing systems to the “edge” of the network. By structuring a network, so critical data is processed right where it’s generated, network latency is minimized. At the same time, the demand on networks is minimal, so IoT devices can respond faster and more efficiently.

“We tell our clients that it’s key to understanding that these technologies are not interchangeable and do not replace one for the other,” explains Chad Lauterbach, CEO of Be Structured, a Los Angeles-based managed service provider. “In short, cloud computing processes data that is not necessarily time-sensitive, while edge technology drives time-sensitive data.”

The Implications of Edge Computing

While the technology may seem far off today, tomorrow will be here before we know it. The implications of edge computing for future technology are immense. As automation systems become more prevalent in day-to-day life, edge computing makes these systems more viable and safer.

Autonomous vehicles, for example, require nearly instantaneous data processing and decision making to keep passengers and bystanders safe and even alive. With the power of edge computing, autonomous vehicles can collect and process data with virtually no latency, thereby making life-saving decisions in a split second.

For businesses operating in manufacturing, edge computing offers the ability to monitor, optimize, and refine processes in real-time right on the manufacturing floor. 

Talk about instant optimization of your business. With edge computing, you can make vital business decisions on the fly, see those changes play out in real-time, then make additional tweaks or revert to the previous sales strategy within the course of a few minutes. 

Of course, edge computing resources can be balanced with cloud systems for more data-intensive processes that aren’t as affected by data transfer delays. 

In fact, companies that are uprooting their business and looking for fast, but safe relocation services would be best served with having both edge and cloud protocols in place to assure there is little to no downtime during the process. And, more importantly, ensure that no data is lost or compromised during the move.

Unlike a cloud system, edge computing filters all data, especially the sensitive kind, at the source rather than sending it to a more central, perhaps less secure, data center. Thus, the less delicate data that has to be transferred between devices and up to the cloud creates greater security for your business and your customers. 

In addition, the reduction of the need to transport data along with greater storage requirements means many IoT projects can now be achieved at a far lower cost. Greater security. Decreased budget. What could be greater?

Beyond security and cost, every internet user and IT support company understands the need for speed.

If you’ve used a video streaming service like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, chances are you’ve already used edge computing to some extent. That’s because it’s anticipated that video traffic will account for 82% of all network traffic by 2022, and providers are looking for strategies to deliver video content closer to end-users. One of our favorite service providers in this area is Cloudflare, which we leverage for several clients in many ways to bring their computing closer to the customer and with more security. As a result, video streaming services are utilizing cloud computing technology to provide on-demand content while continuing to expand the user experience.

Edge Computing and Cloud Computing Working Together

Despite their similarity in names, there is little competition between edge computing and cloud computing at the moment. For the foreseeable future, businesses will rely on both to stay ahead of the latest technological developments. That’s because the two technologies are intended to solve two distinct problems. 

By combining the scalability of the cloud with the powerful data-processing capabilities of edge computing, businesses will be able to use technology to expand operations and refine processes like never before.

A Los Angeles IT Support Company

Is your organization interested in exploring the possibilities edge computing can open up for your operations? Or are you still planning your cloud migration? Either way, the experts at Be Structured are here to help your Los Angeles business achieve your true technological potential. Contact our team today to start developing your IT road map for the future.