What is Edge Computing?
Edge computing is a distributed computing model in which computing takes place near the physical location where data is being collected and analysed, rather than on a centralised server or in the cloud. This new infrastructure involves sensors to collect data and edge servers to securely process data in real-time on site, while also connecting other devices, such as laptops and smartphones, to the network.
By 2025, 175 zettabytes (or 175 trillion gigabytes) of data will be generated around the globe. Edge devices will create more than 90 zettabytes of that data.
-IDC Data Age 2025 report The Digitization of the World: From Edge to Core
Why is Edge Computing important?
Edge computing is important because it creates new and improved ways to maximise operational efficiency, improve performance and safety, and minimise unplanned downtime, which are critical to today’s modern, always-on operations. With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), especially the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), edge computing supports innovation and opens up new ways of doing business.
Edge computing will power the next industrial revolution, transforming manufacturing and services. Edge computing doesn’t just power real-time collection of data. It is the gateway to optimising that data, creating business intelligence. Edge computing supports innovation by being scalable and flexible. It can be up and running more quickly and is more easily managed than a traditional data centre, allowing companies to respond to changing business needs faster.
In addition, edge computing is more efficient and cost-effective. Using edge analytics to collect and process data in real time reduces latency and costs associated with sending data to the cloud so decisions can be made more quickly. This can be important for applications such as oil and gas sites where recognising issues quickly can avoid environmental hazards and mitigate damage.
The ability to avoid unplanned disruptions in operations and ensure performance and safety of critical equipment is another reason edge computing is important. The ability to reduce unplanned downtime and operational costs without sacrificing safety standards is paramount.
Increasing computing power at the edge enables sophisticated artificial intelligence algorithms to be deployed and creates the opportunity for machine learning. This is part of the foundation needed to establish autonomous systems, allowing companies to increase efficiency and productivity while decreasing costs for maintenance and personnel. This also frees personnel to focus on higher value activities within the operation.
What are the Benefits and Challenges of Edge Computing?
One of the top benefits of implementing edge computing is the ability to collect and analyse data where it is collected, catching and correcting problems that might not be identified as quickly if the data were to be sent to a central server or cloud for processing and analysis. Keeping data on site also reduces the security risk associated with porting data, which can be important in financial organisations, for example. It also reduces bandwidth costs by processing some data on site, rather than sending all data to a cloud or central server.
Successful edge computing requires a thoughtful architecture and implementation, which can be a challenge without the right expertise. Having multitudes of sites collecting and analysing data can mean more sites that need to be configured and monitored, adding complexity. Having too few can mean critical data is missed. Decentralised locations can also mean fewer technical personnel on site, meaning non-technical operations staff may be called in to troubleshoot. These challenges can be addressed by working with knowledgeable system integrators and using the right edge technology.
How Secure is the Edge?
Because edge computing is distributed, the security risk is different than a centralised environment. The security controls found in private data centres or public clouds, like firewalls or antivirus tools, don’t automatically transfer. Experts recommend a few simple steps, including hardening each host, real-time network monitoring, encrypting data, and adding physical security measures.
91% of today’s data is created and processed in centralised data centres. By 2022 about 75% of all data will need analysis and action at the edge.
The Cloud and the Edge
Does the Edge Replace the Cloud?
Edge computing works hand in hand with the cloud to provide a flexible solution based on the data collection and analysis needs of each organisation. For real-time collection and analysis, the edge is ideal for certain workloads. At the same time, the cloud can provide a centralised location for large-scale analytics. Together they provide real-time and longer term insights into performance and power initiatives such as machine learning and asset performance management.
Hybrid Cloud and the Edge
If you’re already using a hybrid cloud architecture, then you’re familiar with the benefits of partitioning data between public and private clouds. Edge computing can be a great addition to this existing network. There are different configurations, and all work well, depending on your business goals and usage. For example, the edge can take the place of the private cloud, taking the primary computing role, or you can pair the edge with an existing hybrid cloud with both public and private clouds.
Industries Optimising the Edge
Stratus is a Leader in Edge Computing
At Stratus Technologies, we’re empowering our global partners and customers to turn data into actionable insights where it matters most – at the edge. For decades, we’ve protected partners and customers from significant financial and reputational risk by securely and reliably delivering information to applications in the cloud and the data centre. Now, we are extending these benefits to the Edge to maximise operational efficiency and improve performance and safety, while minimising unplanned downtime and cost. Making your life easier, more efficient and more productive.
The newest Stratus solution, ztC Edge, was specifically designed for the edge. Stratus ztC Edge is a secure, rugged, highly automated computing platform that delivers business-critical industrial applications quickly, reliably and efficiently, even in decentralised, understaffed locations. Features such as built-in virtualisation, automated restart and data protection, automated local site recovery, simplified security, redundant solid state nodes, customisable availability, industrial interoperability, OT maintainability, and cloud-based system health monitoring and managed support services, help companies increase efficiency and reduce IT dependence, while minimising downtime risk.