Edge Computing vs Cloud Computing | Competition or Collaboration?

May 21, 2021

Edge Computing vs Cloud Computing | Competition or Collaboration?

We’re bombarded with information every day and, as buzzwords spread through mainstream media, our info wells fill to an overwhelming level. Edge computing is one such buzzword. It has fueled numerous debates regarding whether or not it will ultimately replace the cloud, but the relationship between these two architectures turns out to be far more complex. Let’s dive deeper and take a look at whether this is a case of competition or collaboration.

What Is Edge Computing?

Edge computing is part of a distributed computing topology that brings computation and data storage closer to the user. Edge architectures allow data processing to take place at the network edge, which results in decreased latency and reduced resource demand, saving bandwidth and improving response times.  

Think of edge computing as an extension of the cloud, implemented to solve the limitations of cloud computing. The cloud centralises data storage and processing power, while edge computing decentralises them. Edge computing is thus not a replacement, but rather a response to the shortcomings of cloud computing.

Edge vs Cloud

Most forward-looking organisations realise that both edge and cloud architectures are needed to manage a modern environment – it’s simply a case of leveraging the advantages of each based on the needs of the environment at hand. Big data applications that benefit from data aggregation regardless of location, running through machine learning and analytics algorithms operating in hyperscale data centres, will stay in the cloud. Meanwhile, functions best executed by the computing between the local network resources and the end device will benefit from edge computing architecture.

Real World Example

Say you are the owner of a video conferencing application such as WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Your main cloud application is hosted in the US, but now there is a call between two users. One user is in England and the other is in Germany. Your main application (hosted in the US) will still take care of authentication and logging on to your service, but the video computing between the two users has no need to travel from England to the US and back to Germany. This is where edge computing can compliment your application and reduce latency between the two users on the call. If your edge location is hosted somewhere in the EU, then you will give your users a much better experience, while history and logs of the call can still be sent back to your origin servers in the US.

Here you can see how you can not predict all the locations that users could be making calls from, so can not host your origin application in all locations, and using edge locations and computing for certain parts of your application can give you the edge over a competitor.

Where To From Here?

To summarise, edge computing helps organisations get more out of their investment into cloud architectures. When combined, edge and cloud infrastructure provide businesses with the best of both worlds, providing the pros of cloud computing without the drawbacks usually associated with a network dependent infrastructures. Cloud computing is undoubtedly here to stay, but it will continue to evolve and inspire numerous products and services to cater to business and user needs more efficiently. What are your thoughts on edge computing?

Theo Ferreira

Senior Engineer

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