“There have never been more cloud applications in German companies than today,” says Jerome Evans, founder and managing director of firstcolo and diva-e Cloud GmbH based in Frankfurt. Numbers support his statement: According to this year’s Cloud Monitor 2021 by bitkom research and KPMG, 82 percent of the 556 companies surveyed use cloud computing and 15 percent plan to do so in the near future.
But for a long time it will no longer be the only option in the data processing market. Other computing systems, such as Edge, have been emerging for a few years. Experts blame the recent increase in Internet of Things (IoT) devices as the main reason for this boom. IoT refers to a network of sensor-equipped, connected devices exchanging data over the internet. But what does edge computing mean, what are the differences to cloud data processing and will it replace it in the future?
Local instead of central
As the cloud becomes more of a standard in information technology, edge computing is an area in which many companies have recently focused their investment interest. This is decentralized computing at the edge of a network, with possible or limited connectivity to a large data center. “It consists of a network of many micro data centers that process the locally generated data directly at the point of origin,” explains Evans. This usually happens directly in the end device. A distinction can be made between thick edge and thin edge devices. The former offer little storage capacity or low computing power and can therefore only perform tasks with limited IT resources. In contrast, thick edge devices have extensive IT capacity at their disposal and use it to take on cloud tasks.
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Low latency versus security concerns
The low latency clearly speaks for the processing of the data at the edge. “This is a crucial factor for many IoT devices, such as self-driving cars, which require real-time data transmission,” says the expert. It offers an efficient and cost-effective solution for processing large amounts of data locally and not forwarding sensitive company data. At the same time, however, there are some serious disadvantages compared to cloud computing. This usually results in higher costs and greater effort for the installation. In addition, if a single device fails, the reliability of the connection can vary greatly. Ensuring security at the edge of the network remains particularly difficult. “Cloud computing systems provide a protective central structure where the operators process the data in a data center safe from cyber attacks,” explains Evans. With edge devices, ensuring security is more difficult due to the spatial distribution and number of devices. Specially trained personnel must protect the devices through regular maintenance, updates and limited accessibility. These tasks are often taken on by external colocation service providers.
data processing in the future
Many companies today are responsible for controlling an ever-growing stream of data, which they must process and at the same time store securely. In the near future at the latest, they will be faced with the task of finding the right strategy for themselves from the various options. “In this context, the edge alternative is of course not ousting cloud computing from the data processing market. Both offer different approaches to solving different challenges of modern society,” says Evans. Edge computing is particularly important for companies that need real-time processing of their data, and thus offers a very important tool for IoT devices. “For all other companies, the cloud is usually the most reliable partner, as it scores with its security, global scalability and lower costs,” the expert sums up.