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Edge Computing… Cloud’s Next Frontier

The past several years have represented a massive shift in IT infrastructure strategy and significant change to where enterprise applications and workloads reside. In modern organizations, the IT landscape now extends past the core datacenter and cloud application into office buildings, manufacturing plants, moving vessels, and even employees’ homes. Collectively, these represent what is called the edge, and in order to operate there, companies must embrace edge computing.

Edge computing empowers IT leaders to solve complex and sometimes conflicting challenges— things like increasing agility, optimizing costs, and enhancing security—more effectively than they can with cloud solutions on their own. It distributes resources closer to their data sources to reduce latency, conserve bandwidth, and enable real-time data processing.

In this guide, we’ll deep dive into how edge computing achieves this, the benefits of incorporating the edge into your IT strategy, and how to implement it effectively with the support of expert partners.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Cloud computing centralizes resources, while edge computing localizes them to their data source.
  • Competitive demand for edge computing is increasing with the rise of IoT technology, need for real-time data processing, and challenges like bandwidth limitations and low-latency needs.
  • Bringing the cloud to the edge is the ideal solution to maximize edge benefits and minimize risk.
  • Expert IT service providers help enterprises implement cloud-edge integration strategies more seamlessly, optimizing benefits and reducing risk at every stage.

Understanding Edge Computing

Edge vs. Cloud: What’s the Difference?

The cloud has become (and will remain) a central tenet of modern IT strategy—a total necessity for operating modern workplace models and meeting the demand for high storage capacity and processing capabilities in today’s data-driven business environment.

It’s important to understand, then, that the edge is not a replacement for the cloud but a complement to it—one with the potential to enhance the power of the cloud to deliver competitive benefits. At the same time, they are different, and knowing when and how each type of solution is most appropriate is a critical piece to the puzzle for CIOs designing their IT infrastructure.

Venn diagram comparing edge computing vs. cloud computing strategiesImage Source

By definition, the cloud refers to centralized computing resources and services that are accessed over the internet. These resources, such as servers, storage, and applications, are hosted in data centers that can be located anywhere in the world, far from the end-users.

Cloud computing is characterized by its centralization, scalability, and ability to provide services and storage on-demand. It allows for significant flexibility, as resources can be scaled up or down based on the user's needs.

Edge computing, on the other hand, involves processing data and running applications closer to the location where they are needed—that is, at the "edge" of the network. This approach is used especially in scenarios where low latency, high bandwidth, or local data processing is essential.

In edge computing, data processing happens on local devices or on servers situated closer to the user or data source, rather than being transmitted to a centralized cloud-based data center.

Drivers and Benefits of Edge Computing

The shift towards edge computing is driven by several key factors contributing to its growing adoption across industries:

1. Proliferation of IoT Devices

The exponential growth in Internet of Things (IoT) devices generates vast amounts of data. Processing
this data closer to its source—at the edge—reduces the latency that would be experienced if the data
were sent to distant cloud servers.

This is particularly important in industries like manufacturing and healthcare, where immediate data
processing leads to significant operational improvements.

2. Need for Real-Time Processing

Many modern applications, such as autonomous vehicles, telemedicine, and industrial robotics, require
real-time or near-real-time data processing to function effectively. Edge computing facilitates this by
processing data locally, significantly reducing response times and enhancing the performance of these
time-sensitive applications.

3. Bandwidth Limitations

Transmitting large volumes of data to and from cloud data centers can strain network bandwidth and
increase costs. By processing data at the edge, only relevant and processed data needs to be sent to the
cloud, optimizing bandwidth usage.

4. Low Latency Needs

Many applications and business-critical operations demand low latency. Edge computing minimizes the
delay in data transmission, providing a seamless experience to users and ensuring efficient operation of
latency-sensitive applications.

5. Data Privacy and Sovereignty

In some cases, regulations or concerns over data privacy mandate that data be processed and stored
locally. Edge computing addresses these concerns by keeping data within its country or region of origin,
ensuring compliance with local data privacy laws and regulations.

6. Increased Reliability

By processing data locally, edge computing reduces dependency on continuous cloud connectivity, which
can be crucial in areas with unreliable internet connections. This ensures that essential functions are
maintained even in the absence of a stable central network.

The benefits of edge computing are evident in these demands—enhanced operational efficiency, lower
costs, and improved data processing speeds. Integrating it into existing IT infrastructures enables
businesses to leverage the latest technological advancements while maintaining control and compliance
over their data.

As we continue to generate more data at the edge of networks, the role of edge computing in driving
innovation and efficiency will only become more pronounced.

Edge Computing Challenges and Risks

Despite its advantages, edge computing introduces specific challenges and risks. With data processing
and storage happening at multiple edge locations, ensuring consistent security protocols and protecting
against breaches becomes more complex.

At the same time, deploying and managing a distributed network of edge devices can be challenging and
require advanced tools and expertise. Without them, the edge can end up forgotten about, with critical
applications running unpatched versions of their software systems on out-of-date or end-of-life

Finally, integrating edge computing solutions with existing cloud and on-premise infrastructure can also
be complicated and difficult for internal IT teams to execute on their own.

These difficulties put infrastructures at risk of unintentional gaps and vulnerabilities, opening the door
for nefarious actors to compromise systems and even entire organizations.

Addressing these challenges is a must for companies that plan to leverage the full potential of edge
computing. In the next section, we’ll explore how a comprehensive edge computing strategy can enable
your enterprise to maximize edge benefits while mitigating the risks that come with it.

The Solution: Bring the Cloud to the Edge

As Gartner aptly puts it: “Edge computing without a strategy will eventually cause digital gridlock.”
Fortunately, the solution to implementing a strategy that addresses these edge computing challenges is
as obvious as it seems—simply bring the cloud to the edge. This requires strategically integrating cloud
capabilities directly at the edge of the network, combining the strengths of the cloud with the proximity
benefits of edge computing.

Core tenets of successful cloud-edge integration include:

  • Hybrid Cloud Architecture: A hybrid model where cloud services are extended to edge devices
  • Localized Data Processing: Certain applications require local compute resources for low
    latency or application specific requirements
  • Enhanced Security and Compliance: Processing and analyzing data locally to reduce the risk
    associated with data transmission, ensuring compliance with regional regulations
  • Advanced Technologies Integration: Leveraging the edge to deploy technologies like AI and
    machine learning more effectively, taking advantage of local data processing for more immediate
    insights and actions
  • Streamlined Management and Operations: Extending cloud services to the edge to streamline
    the management of edge devices and data
  • Resilient Connectivity: Ensuring that critical processes remain operational even in scenarios
    where internet connectivity is unreliable or limited

In partnership with Microsoft, Protera is helping our most innovative clients achieve these benefits and
more. With Azure Stack HCI, we have the ability to deploy Azure Cloud Services to any location. Many
cloud services are supported in this mode as well, from Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) to Kubernetes and
SQL PaaS, among others.

As these resources and virtual machines are made visible in your Azure Portal, it becomes significantly
easier to manage these assets with the same care and feeding as you would for the rest of your Azure

Everything from backups, monitoring, patching and disaster recovery should fit into line with your
existing operating procedures. As a result, your edge workloads no longer have to be second class citizens
with a different management toolset as your core Azure applications.

Azure Stack HCI utilizes the same firewall NSG model and integrates with Microsoft Defender and
Sentinel. Azure Defender for IoT/OT goes a step farther to alert and protect OT assets such as critical
machinery or pumps.

In short: You can operate a fully-integrated and aligned cloud and edge computing strategy that’s secure,
reliable, and designed to enhance your business in impactful ways.

Looking Ahead: Move to the Edge with Protera

Digital transformation started with migrating and modernizing core business applications from legacy
solutions to modern cloud platforms. The next frontier of cloud will be extending the cloud provider and
capabilities to the edge.

The best edge computing strategies will make the edge a natural extension of the cloud—one that
services the needs and requirements of the unique enterprise while powering the agility needed to meet
the changing demands of modern business.

Protera provides comprehensive data center transformation services that can help you integrate cloud and edge resources to optimize security and performance. Talk to a Protera expert today to learn more.