Edge computing: What you need to know before you deploy

Here are the three critical factors in deciding when to use edge computing’s specific techniques in your systems

What you need to know about deploying edge computing
Donald Davis/NASA

I explained edge computing back in May, and how it’s related to cloud computing. But I continue to get questions on the use of edge computing, especially on whether should enterprises begin to use edge computing anytime soon. 

To make that decision, there are three aspects of edge computing that you should consider:

1. Edge computing is tactical, not strategic

Edge computing is about putting processing and data near the end points. This saves the information from being transmitted from the point of consumption, such as a robot on a factory floor, back to centralized computing platforms, such as a public cloud.

The core benefit of edge computing is to reduce latency, and as a result increase performance of the complete system, end to end. Moreover, it lets you respond to some data points more quickly, such as shutting down a jet engine that’s overheating, without having to check in with a central process.

Although this latency reduction can aid all types of systems, it’s mostly applicable to remote data processing, such as internet of things devices. 

2. Edge computing is typically tiered

Edge computing is not about snapping off parts of systems and placing them at the edge, but rather about the ability to look at data processing as a set of tiered components that interact one to another, each playing a specific role.

Indeed, the data that’s processed and stored at the edge is typically only temporary. It’s ultimately moved to centralized processing, such as a public cloud, at certain intervals. That central location’s copy becomes the data of record, or the single source of truth. 

3. Edge computing is a specialty computing approach

Don’t do edge computing unless you have a specific need for it. Edge computing is a specialized approach to solving specialized problems. Enterprises are often guilty of adopting technology just because it’s mentioned more than once in the tech press, but doing so will cost you more money and add risk — and edge computing falls into this category.

Edge computing is not a general-purpose approach to computing, like cloud computing is. Cloud computing is a macro pattern that includes a great deal of other technologies. But edge computing is a micro pattern, addressing a subset of needs. The problems it solves are very specific, and its application is tactical around addressing those specific issues.

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