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Edge Computing on the Rise to Empower Smart Devices, But It Will Not Replace the Cloud
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April 12, 2021 Blog

Written by: Rogelio Legaspi, Journalist, AOPG

Much of an organisation’s data is now processed in the cloud, with businesses leveraging its extensive and scalable features for computing and storage. However, companies now understand that not all data should be in the cloud, whether because of performance or regulatory issues.

With the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), such concerns are highlighted. The proliferation of various ‘things’, such as highly connected user devices, sensors and machines, compels organisations to look for solutions beyond the cloud to address numerous challenges, especially in dealing with the rising amounts of data being generated.

Using either cloud or central data centres alone can’t really ensure reliability in data processing, as more devices connected can result in high latency and slower processing. In addition, some data needs to stay at a certain boundary, as some regulations require.

This is where edge computing comes in, where the generation, collection, processing and analysis of data is done at or near the source of data.

According to Gartner, around 75% of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed outside a traditional centralised data centre or cloud by 2025. In fact, IDC estimates that in 2024, the worldwide edge computing market will reach over USD $250 billion.

We can already see progress in edge computing today, as organisations are compelled to digitise most of their workloads while remote setup is still in place. We also see the rise of automation, such as robots in the manufacturing industry or cars that can drive by themselves – utilising edge computing.

In many ways, businesses are already seeing the benefits of leveraging edge computing in their systems and processes.

Contributions of Edge Computing to Businesses

  1. Improved Speed Performance and Latency: Some data is time-critical. For instance, data generated about a detected failure should be analysed and sent immediately to the appropriate people for immediate solutions. Traditionally, this data is first sent to the cloud, analysed and then sent back again. With edge computing, the data is processed in real-time by an edge computing device near the data source for faster results. As every edge device will have some computing power, data does not have to be sent simultaneously to a centralised data centre or the cloud, mitigating the latency problems.
  2. Enhanced Security: With edge computing, it is not necessary to send all the data generated into the cloud. Meaning, the device will process the data itself and will decide what vital information needs to be further analysed and sent through the cloud. This enhances security since less data is transferred to the cloud, and less frequently.
  3. Cost-Efficient: Cloud-based solutions can be expensive (those OpEx cloud costs do add up!). With edge computing, there is no need to send your data to the cloud (and incur various cloud charges) when it can be processed more effectively by edge computing devices near your source of data. When you do need the cloud, however, you can send just the vital data that is already filtered by your edge devices, meaning you could potentially pay a smaller amount.
  4. Sustainability: Centralised data centres are energy-intensive, which ultimately increases the production of carbon emissions and electronic wastes. Edge computing reduces this by diminishing the reliance on data centres and harnessing the power of already deployed devices.

The Rise of Edge Computing

With all these benefits, many industries and organisations are increasingly utilising edge computing for their business. Manufacturing industries use edge computing for their automated processes and robotics, enabling machines to work effectively and detecting errors faster without the need for the cloud.

For sensors, edge computing also reduces various risks by detecting danger in real-time. Let’s say a sensor detects that a device has already surpassed its temperature threshold. With edge computing, the device will process data in real-time and immediately notify corresponding personnel for immediate solutions.

You can also see the usage of edge computing on automated vehicles. If they only rely on cloud computing, decision-making can be hugely delayed, therefore raising the chances of accidents and other risks while on the road. With edge computing, independent cars are able to process all the data it has generated from sensors or camera feeds to immediately execute a task.

These are only a few of the plethora of use cases of edge computing. But with this approach in place, will cloud computing be eradicated completely?

Edge and Cloud: Better Together

The extensive use of edge computing does not necessarily make cloud computing completely redundant. Instead, cloud computing will have a different role now, accompanying edge computing.

Since vital data only remains in the edge devices, industries can store and backup this data on the cloud to ensure security and reliability. The role of the cloud in this environment will also be as the centralised storage for the data, in which a business can control and monitor in a single place or platform.

The cloud acts as a complement to edge computing. What cloud cannot do, edge computing can – and vice versa.

With this in mind, some major cloud providers are now looking to accelerate their edge computing capabilities and offerings. Companies like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud are all making big investments in edge computing, especially by collaborating with telecom companies to extend their networks and to bring computing power closer to the source of data.

There is no need to think about whether you should apply edge or cloud computing to your business, as both are important in a holistic approach to data management and processing in this digital world.

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