Why Edge Computing Matters in Software Development

Data is vital to the way our businesses work, providing insights and supporting real-time control of operations. However, the amount of data we work with has grown exponentially. With huge volumes of data collected from sensors and devices in real-time from multiple locations, working with a centralised data centre isn’t enough. That’s why, to counteract bandwidth limitations, latency issues and network disruptions, businesses are turning to edge computing architecture. 

In a time when our businesses need to meet rising customer expectations, ensure reliability and performance and reduce costs, edge computing is rapidly growing in popularity. Edge computing enables businesses to meet these goals by delivering localised computing power. Ultimately, data can often be more efficiently processed when the power is close to the thing that is generating it. With the rapid expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and more processing power being available on mobile and embedded devices, edge computing is going to see huge growth. While, at the time of writing, only 10% of data is created and processed outside of traditional data centres, over the next two years, it’s predicted that it’ll rise to 75%. Edge computing is set to have a profound impact on software development, with more use cases, projects and applications than ever.  

What is Edge Computing?

Using traditional computing methods, data produced at an endpoint is moved to the corporate network to be worked upon by an enterprise application, with results then sent back to the endpoint. The technique works well for client-server computing for many business applications. However, with an increasing number of devices and volume of data, this traditional data centre infrastructure isn’t able to cope; it puts too much pressure on the global internet, which can experience congestion and disruption. So, while we often associate edge computing with IoT applications, it is relevant to many software development projects. The edge is, in simple terms, computing as close as possible to the origin of the information.

How Does Edge Computing Work?

The aim of edge computing is to push workloads that usually run on data centres onto user devices and closer to the source of the data itself. Instead of transmitting data to a central data centre to be processed and analysed, work is performed in situ. This applies to many situations, whether it’s a retail store or a smart city. To make edge computing work, the computing power is often deployed in strengthened enclosures that protect it from extremes of temperature and other environmental conditions. Only the result of the computing work is returned to the main data centre to deliver insights, predictive maintenance capabilities and more. 

A lot of the internet already works on a similar model to edge computing, using Content Delivery Networks (CDNs). Examples include Cloudflare and AWS CloudFront; they bring content closer to users and offload traffic from core servers. However, unlike a CDN that operates with assets like images, videos and photos, edge computing uses servers and applications with their own custom code and logic that can be executed to make decisions and process data. In this way, an edge computing service provider offers a more customisable CDN, where an application’s custom code can be run on its servers. 

The Benefits of Edge Computing

Edge computing has many benefits to offer both software developers, businesses and end users. First and foremost, users get a better experience in terms of reliability and performance. Businesses, meanwhile, can save on costs and gain more fine-grained control over resource consumption. The most notable benefits of edge computing include:

  • Greater Processing Speed – speed is the single biggest advantage of edge computing; by moving workloads closer to devices and their users, data has to travel less far and cross fewer networks, and this can result in better response times and reduced latency. 
  • Increased Reliability – by having fewer network hops, there is less risk of internet congestion, leading to network problems that could impact application performance. As a result, applications that process on the edge are more reliable.
  • Data Sovereignty and Privacy – with data on location, it can be easier to comply with localised security regulations. Meanwhile, privacy-minded customers who want to own their own data are given greater control. 
  • Improved Security Practices – leading edge providers offer security infrastructure that can help to mitigate cyber attacks at the edge and reduce the possibility of business disruptions, ensuring applications are protected. At the edge, only data generated there is vulnerable, so other parts of the system can function. In addition, sensitive data is processed at the edge instead of being sent across networks. 
  • Scalability – with edge computing, developers are able to spin up workloads dynamically and scale them up or down based on demand. This keeps costs under control and also keeps latency low. 
  • Reduced costs – there is less need to transfer data to the cloud when using edge computers, meaning that businesses have fewer operational expenses. In addition, the bandwidth required to handle the data transfer is reduced as the data is analysed, classified and composed in situ before it is sent. 

Edge computing is growing rapidly to meet the demands of developing applications in remote locations and enabling localised computing capabilities. As such, businesses need to make plans to meet the opportunities and challenges of managing data in edge environments. There is the chance to improve efficiency and data security, but businesses need developers who are able to capture the opportunities of the edge. 

How Can Your Business Take Advantage of Edge Computing?

Most software applications could benefit from edge computing, especially when latency is important. Ultimately, moving the computing power as close as possible to the application can make it feel faster and more enjoyable to use. Some of the many services that edge computing can enable include remote surgery, augmented reality, the Internet of Things and more. With edge computing, developers can maximise the customer experience without sacrificing security or increasing costs, delivering fast, reliable and secure apps that can lead to an increased return on investment.

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