Thinking about edge computing can be like a differential equation: several inputs and even more outcomes. Like an oval, the topology of an enterprise data center network has one edge. But, like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, you can’t see the entire circuit from anyplace you happen to sit. The authors of the annual State of the Edge report limit their definition of the edge to one type of location, but with two sides: one for infrastructure and the other for servicing client-side devices. At the Open Compute Project Summit last year, a Mellanox representative asserted the existence of four edges: for enterprise computing, media, the Internet of Things and mobile apps.
“Ask 50 people, ‘Where is the edge?’ You’re probably going to get 50 different answers,” says Matt Trifiro, chief marketing officer with micro data center maker Vapor IO. “As a person trying to advance an ecosystem, that’s always been very frustrating to me. Vendors and analysts all grab onto their particular version of the edge, and we all think we’re talking about the same thing, but we’re actually not.”
Two Principal Edge Cases
Trifiro points to one key distinction that, in the end, actually matters. There are edge applications for two principal cases:
- Outbound content delivery to consumers — The internet itself is the most prominent example of a network made orders of magnitude more powerful by processing power at its periphery. Content delivery networks cache frequently accessed content at the edge in order to deliver Web pages and multimedia streams to you faster and with a higher quality of service (QoS). You’re using a CDN right this moment. (Otherwise, you might still be waiting for the page to come up.)
- Inbound data processing and hygiene to databases — When high volumes of data (especially video) are being acquired from the field, shuttling all that data directly to the central data center for processing can lead to bottlenecks. And consuming all that bandwidth can be a drain on operating expenses. Having processing power at or near the point of data ingress creates the opportunity to reduce or eliminate latencies caused by both the volume and the “raw” state of freshly collected data, shifting much of the burden of workload processing to points in the network that consume the least time.
Outlining Trends Influenced by Edge
“I think what we tend to do is separate a couple of very, very key trends into their own silos,” argues Kevin Shatzkamer, VP for enterprise and service provider strategy and solutions at Dell EMC. Specifically, he pointed to these historical trends:
- Cloud computing drove the broad trend towards consumption-based delivery models.
- Telecommunications providers are moving away from their legacy, proprietary stacks and infrastructure onto open-source, cloud-inspired delivery models, sparked by the success of network-functions virtualization (NFV).
- Software-defined networking led to the realization that virtualization could be made elastic to meet fluctuating customer demands. In recent years, SDN has made its way to site-to-site communications with the rapid proliferation of SD-WAN.
- Hybrid cloud has re-emerged as the savior of data center networking. It isn’t affordable or practical to push everything, especially data, onto public cloud platforms. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Azure Stack and soon Amazon Web Services’ Outposts are enabling a kind of hybridization in reverse, where the cloud providers are building their own assets inside customers’ facilities. And customers are happy to pay premiums for that privilege.
These issues have all germinated within their own silos. As they have emerged onto the public stage, they give the impression that, suddenly, there are several co-existing edges, perhaps countless ones. These may be tricks of perception, however. As core data centers,’ micro or modular data centers,’ telcos’ and cloud service providers’ edges all collide, a single edge emerges — one point of contact for inbound and outbound traffic.
Edge is Most Significant for Last Mile
“There are lots of edges, but the edge we care about — the one we’re all talking about — is the edge of the last-mile network,” Vapor IO’s Trifiro says. “That can be from the radio tower to the phone or a Wi-Fi hotspot or a car, or it could be fiber underground from the headend to the house — the link between the infrastructure and the device.”
If you need support navigating changes to your business related to edge computing or large-scale data center migrations, give us a call Silverback Data Center Solutions. Our focus is on end-to-end large scale rapid migration, rapid deployment, and related digital infrastructure services.
Excerpt from the original article by Scott Fulton