The Stack Archive Whitepaper

The Drivers and Benefits of Edge Computing

Mon 15 Feb 2016

The Internet is one of the vital foundations of today’s online digital world, but the way it is used now, and in the future, is at odds with some of the design premises to which it was first constructed.

Traditional data networks (the Internet) and mobile device networks are merging leading to a transformational period. Originally intended to be resilient to failures and outages, and to route traffic around problems, speed of response was considered a secondary priority to reliability. Now, as traffic accumulates on international networks in greater volume and from an increasing variety of sources, making response latency a more important issue, new strategies such as Edge Computing have to be considered to maximise the Internet’s potential.

A new White Paper from Schneider Electric, a global specialist in energy management and automation, #226 The Drivers and Benefits of Edge Computing describes in detail how today’s Internet usage trends, including high-bandwidth applications such as video on demand, and the proliferation of network-ready devices spurred on by the Internet of Things (IoT), impact upon the technical limitations of key elements such as Internet Protocol (IP) and Border Gateway Protocol (BGP).

Authored by Steve Carlini, Sr Director, Data Center Global Solutions for Schneider Electric, the paper shows that BGP, although proven as a guarantor of reliability and resilience is sub-optimal from a latency performance standpoint. It also describes how the number of hops or transfers across switches that a stream of data can be made to negotiate can slow down data transmission.

A solution for many such problems is Edge Computing, which moves key data and network services away from centralised hubs and closer both to the transmitters and consumers of data. Streamers of high-bandwidth content, for example, can make use of data centres at the Edge of the network to duplicate their content on multiple servers, thereby allowing it to be cached closer to their users.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the phenomenon in which sensors on any sort of physical asset, including machines, equipment, premises or vehicles) gather data to monitor their status or behaviour and transmit it to interested parties. With the number of such Internet-connected items expected to reach 50 billion by 2020, the amount of information flowing across networks will require careful traffic management to ease congestion and maintain response times. Routing such information through local network switches is an obvious solution.

The Paper also describes the different varieties of Edge Computing installations including localised micro data centres, usually comprising prefabricated and pre-tested racks which can be configured to order and deployed quickly. Regional data centres are larger installations which can be used to service local communities, reducing bandwidth latencies and allowing for delivery of greater quantities of information at greater speeds while maintaining the reliability and resilience for which the Internet was originally designed.

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