The Benefits of Edge Networking
When it comes to data speeds on business networks, sometimes fast is just not fast enough. In addition to speed, some businesses need low latency networking setups that stretch beyond a single metropolitan area. One of the best solutions to both problems, is a well-planned, specialized, network topology that involves servers and routers quite close to the demarcation point. This is commonly referred to as edge networking, or edge of network design.
This article will examine the ways a company can set up and benefit from an ultra low latency edge network, and some of the expectations businesses should realistically have regarding their edge of network service provider.
What is Edge Networking?
Edge networking is a way to decentralize a datacenter. By physically moving critical traffic away from congested datacenters, businesses who need low latency network performance don’t have to pass through unnecessary hops. Instead, their data is passed through high-speed branch routers right at their demarcation point. It is then routed to an adjacent server or pushed out to a similar edge networking setup in a different metropolitan area, containing one of the company’s branch offices, as an example.
By offloading this data before it hits a datacenter’s main architecture, there are several benefits:
- Other users at the datacenter don’t need to contend with the strain put on shared resources, and they don’t need to deal with the network congestion generated by a high-volume client.
- The client gets to avoid extra internal hops in the form of routers, load balancers, firewalls, and the like.
- The client has direct access to the backbone for traffic to or from other metropolitan areas that host their latency sensitive applications.
Servers located right near the demarcation point provide a type of hosting that is virtually on-premises, but without the need for a client to build out a server room themselves. They do not have to deal with the hardware, environmental controls, electricity requirements, security, maintenance, or the sheer space commitment that on premise hosting demands. They can also grant high speed data access to other venues without needing to open their internal network.
The business might also want lightning-fast access to other assets connected to their edge network. For example, if a healthcare provider decides to remotely take on highly latency sensitive tasks, like remote laparoscopic surgery, they will want to use edge of network technology. Their provider would have to find hosting facilities for the hardware and apps that are as close to the demarcation point as possible. Or they can find a facility that is somewhere in the logical ‘mid-point’ between the organization’s headquarters and their metropolitan target.
Either way, this often requires the provider to negotiate subletting server and network space as part of such geographic expansion on behalf of the client. If the client is big enough, it can spark an expansion of the hosting service across multiple cities, or even countries, to build a massive series of interconnected edge networks. An example would be financial services companies who are very willing to spend tens or hundreds of millions to improve their network response time to the major stock exchanges by mere milliseconds.
Most big hosting services offer edge network facilities. Contacting them to find out if they have a presence in all the metropolitan areas relevant to a project is perfectly normal, and in fact encouraged. There is nothing worse than planning around a particular provider and price point, only to find out that they do not cover all of the areas necessary for a networking project.
What are the Most Common Edge of Network Applications?
No list is going to be comprehensive, but here are some of the more common uses of modern edge computing resources:
Financial Sector: When the tiniest fraction of a second can mean a shift in stock prices or a change in currency exchange rates, it is critical that bankers and traders have the lowest possible latency when accessing common market resources and internal client data.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT): Remotely controlling and maintaining industrial operations requires a steady hand and a low Ping. Increasingly, the IIoT is making use of edge computing resources for manually controlled production procedures, real time monitoring of hundreds of thousands of sensors, and critical supply chain management operations.
Robotics: Any remote applications of robotics ‘in the wild’ benefits from near-real-time sensor feedback and data analysis. Factoring in latency is fine in predictable lab conditions, but when interacting with remote assets out in the real world, reliable high speed connectivity is a must.
Remote Medical Procedures: The kind of precision and reaction time required to perform surgery remotely can only be delivered by a direct point-to-point connection or edge networking. When lives are at stake, instantaneous feedback (from sensors connected to the patient as well as optics) is vital. Technologies such as 5G wireless backup also become essential in critical real-time applications to ensure five-nines availability (99.999%).
Telco: Provisioning close to users gives telecommunications companies a distinct advantage. On a two-way video call, for example, every tiny bit of latency is essentially doubled. It can lead to inorganic interactions and forced call-and-response type conversations. By making the parties feel like they are in the same room, communications become more organic.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (ML/AI): ML/AI applications might require ingesting literally millions of real time data streams. To provide meaningful and timely results, a low ping environment is essential.
The Future of Edge Computing
It is likely that a couple of emerging technologies will be able to drive the expansion of the ‘edge’ quite a bit over the next few years. Ubiquitous high-speed Internet, particularly wireless Internet, can decrease the cost and exclusivity of edge computing while expanding its potential range beyond well connected metropolitan areas.
5G will be important. That kind of speed combined with the capability to interconnect hundreds of ingestion or processing nodes wirelessly will allow for an exponential increase in edge computing use cases. Low latency wireless signals with a huge amount of bandwidth attached, opens a lot of doors. Particularly when every mobile device can potentially opt in to become a new data source.
However, the opposite is true as well. The kind of speed that edge networks provide means that the relatively small processors on mobile devices need not be taxed. In a full 5G environment, data from a mobile device can be sent out to a powerful edge server, analyzed, and the results fed back to the smartphone in close to real-time. It could open the door for thin client behavior, providing amazing experiences ranging from Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR) to instantaneous analytics results in the wild.
Finally, the world of autonomous cars becomes much safer and much more realistic if wireless edge computing becomes a reality. Currently, the life-or-death calculations that they make are largely handled onboard. With the availability of split-second edge server analysis and scenario sharing with other autonomous cars and roadside monitoring resources, everything changes. An extra hundred or thousand data points and ‘around the corner’ factors can be pulled in, analyzed by a far more powerful system, and the results fed back to the imperiled car in the blink of an eye. The number of lives saved by such edge computing technology might be one of the most powerful arguments for building towards that kind of infrastructure.
Is your business organization looking to take advantage of the latest networking technology? Look no further than Outsource IT. We have been providing effective IT solutions to businesses in southern Ontario and across Canada for almost 20 years. Contact an Outsource IT account manager to learn more.