Defined by analyst firm Gartner as a class of solutions that facilitate data processing at or near the source of data generation, edge computing is rising rapidly in popularity as businesses turn to them to support their expansion and digital transformation initiatives.
What are Edge Data Centres?
According to Jamie Bourassa of Schneider Electric, the movement to edge computing parallels the cyclical nature of IT trends. What began with centralised mainframes eventually moved to a decentralised approach with client-server networks. Then, the meteoric rise of the public cloud shifted computing back towards a centralised approach, only to have the recent rise in popularity of hybrid cloud deployments move the needle back towards a decentralised model.
With edge computing, IT infrastructure is moved into specialised facilities known as edge data centres that are located either on-premise, or at locations near to end-users. Designed to complement existing public cloud or colocation deployments, edge data centres offer advantages that neither possess.
An edge deployment isn’t defined by the size of the facility or amount of hardware, but its proximity to end-users or the source of the data to be processed. It is due to this proximity that the core strength of edge computing is realised, namely its ability to support applications that demand a significant amount of bandwidth, require rapid response times, are latency-sensitive, or are a combination of all three.
Performance and Regulatory Compliance
With the growing push toward data sovereignty and regulations designed to safeguard data privacy around the globe, companies are finding the ability to keep data close at hand enormously useful. After all, edge data centres are ideally positioned to meet these requirements by virtue of their physical proximity, while still fulfilling their organisation’s IT requirements.
Crucially, network performance is much less of an issue in an edge data centre than with a colocation deployment or the public cloud. This is because data often travels over a private, high bandwidth network that can be easily and rapidly scaled up if necessarily. Indeed, some may even be wired to the same local area network (LAN) with direct copper or fibre optics cabling.
The elimination of latency and connectivity issues traditionally associated with wide-area connectivity also translates to greater reliability. This benefits enterprise applications by allowing them to function without hiccups, ensuring that productivity is maintained within the organisation.
Opportunities at the Edge
What are some ways that organisations are using their edge data centre? The number of use cases is still increasing, but common ones include supporting advanced Internet of Things (IoT) appliances and augmented reality (AR) applications.
For instance, retailers can leverage AR to improve customer experiences by creating apps that help customers find their way around shops, implement networked smart mirrors to try on clothes without a changing room, or run personalised promotions and offers that leverage their historical purchases and personal tastes.
Within manufacturing environments, artificial intelligence (AI) can be used for predictive maintenance of expensive machinery, drive down long-term maintenance costs and significantly reduce the risk of failure. Elsewhere, raw input from IoT sensors can also be leveraged for quality control (QC) or to reduce wastages.
To facilitate rapid deployment, modern edge data centres are available as pre-tested and self-contained “micro data centres” offered by firms such as Schneider Electric. For now, enterprises looking to deploy their own micro data centres can read more about them here.