Cloud computing used to be the hot new buzzword that everyone was raving about. The idea of easily accessing your data anywhere and across all your devices was a new and novel idea. “In the cloud” became an everyday phrase.
At present, cloud computing has entered mainstream and is now a crucial feature of applications and a major service the world’s companies rely on. Third party solutions such as Slack, Dropbox, Apple’s iCloud and Amazon Web Services are readily available for anyone.
It is natural to think that everything will be eventually done in the cloud. But realistically, the bandwidth requirement and latency problems to make that happen is nearly impossible, not to mention potentially unreliable. Can you imagine a self-driving car suddenly becoming unresponsive due to a slow Internet?
Edge Computing Potentials
In this regard, Edge computing is seen as the next technological step to improve upon cloud computing. Where cloud computing aims to centralize everything into an online server or facility, Edge computing does the opposite: it aims to move crucial computing, data and processing nearer the “edges” and closer to end devices and nodes.
The goal of this move is to make apps and web-based services more reliable and efficient, by minimizing the distance from data to device. And right now there is a lot of interest in the area, so much so that it is estimated to be a $6.72 billion industry by 2022, according to analysts MarketsandMarkets.
The driver of edge computing is primarily due to the increasing load that is putting a strain on the cloud service infrastructure. But probably the biggest incentive is that edge computing enables a host of new artificial intelligence centered features to be available.
It is probably a key reason for the rumored AI chip development of Amazon for Alexa. This means more processing is done on local Echo devices versus on the cloud, which means faster response time, lower server cost and better privacy – because data is stored locally.
In a way, the edge computing paradigm is bringing some of the data back from the clouds and into local devices. The only difference this time around is while data and processing are local, the management of these devices is not.
Take the emerging field of Internet of Things (IoT) for example. Soon, things like your dishwasher or oven might be all connected to the Internet. But this poses a huge security risk. So, to mitigate this, security features and software updates are a crucial part of the system, but these are not done locally – they are automatically “pushed” from servers and into individual devices.
In the edge computing era, we don’t install; we simply use. This is a major push for Microsoft to develop the Azure Sphere, a self-contained microcontroller with Linux OS and cloud service built-in.
In the coming years, we’ll see a bit more development in this area, and one day it might become less of a buzzword and more of a part of everyday life, so we’ll probably be sending those phone photos “into the edge” soon.