Settling the edge computing vs. cloud computing debate

The press is attempting to pit edge computing against cloud computing, but the two will never be mutually exclusive

Settling the edge computing vs. cloud computing debate

I’m beginning to hear a lot of noise from the tech press warning that cloud computing is in danger from emerging edge computing technology. As somebody who works on both sides of the network, I want to clear a few things up.

Indeed some processing is moving to the edge of the network, when it makes sense. For example, take a vehicle management system that has two sides: the edge computing side and the cloud/central computing side. Both have different roles.

The edge computing side that’s in the vehicle needs to respond immediately to changing data in and around the vehicle, such as an impeding crash or weather-related hazards. It does not make sense to send that data all the way to a central cloud server, where the decision is made to apply the brakes, and then back to the vehicle. By then you’ll have hit the semi.

However, edge devices are typically much lower powered, with limited storage and compute capabilities. Deep learning processing and predictive analytics to determine the best approach to vehicle maintenance based on petabytes of historic data is best done on back-end cloud-hosted servers. See how that works?

The edge computing market will continue to grow. A report on the topic, sponsored by software provider AlefEdge, pegs the size of the edge-computing market at more than $4 trillion by 2030. At the same time the cloud computing market will be 10 times that, and you’ll find the growth of both markets more or less proportional.

Edge computing needs cloud computing, and the other way around. Indeed, public cloud computing providers will take advantage of the use of edge-based systems, providing small cloud service replicants, or smaller edge-based version of cloud services.

These edge-based cloud replicants are likely to be the path of least resistance to begin an edge computing-based project. Plus, they will come with built-in native cloud security, governance, and management.

Moreover, there is the public cloud’s private clouds, which have become de facto cloud-connected edge-based systems as well. All of the major providers have them now, and they are indeed edge devices, in the truest sense of the word. Cloud replicants will be a subset of native cloud features that live in data centers.

A few conclusions can be drawn from this: Edge computing is an old architectural concept that has found new legs recently considering the price of microcomputing (a Raspberry Pi costs less than an actual raspberry pie), so we can build architectures that are more responsive and resilient to outages.

Central higher-powered computing services existing in the cloud are still of huge value, both for the scalable computing and storage infrastructure, and for the need to centralize the storage and analysis of data.

Mic dropped. 


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