As a next-generation HCI and edge computing vendor, we serve customers with a lot of unique use cases. Need to set up IT infrastructure on a cargo ship in the middle of the ocean with no server room, reliable internet, or IT person? We’ve got you covered. Need to provide highly available storage and compute functionality on-site across 500 retail stores? We’ve got you covered. However, we notice there is still some confusion about what the difference is between edge computing and cloud computing, so in this blog we’ll outline what each one is and how they address different business goals.
What is Edge Computing?
Edge computing is defined as anywhere mission-critical applications are running outside of a centralized data center (corporate / colocation site or public cloud datacenter) and often away from any dedicated IT staff.
An example of edge computing is when a business runs point of sale (POS) software or security systems across dozens or hundreds of retail stores. Those stores often don’t have room for traditional server racks, don’t have dedicated on-site IT staff, and yet still need reliable storage and compute functionality at each location.
Benefits of Edge Computing:
- Reliable in remote locations where there is limited or no connectivity
- Secure and reliable system for processing time-sensitive and/or private data
Cons of Edge Computing:
- Requires some set-up and on-going management from IT
- If you are managing an application where the users are spread around the globe, a public cloud would make more sense
What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing is defined as a system where IT infrastructure is located remotely and managed by a third party. Internet access or a dedicated wide area network is required to access systems hosted in the cloud.
An example of cloud computing is when a company purchases licenses for a data analytics provider. Those licenses allow you to access the analytics technology (often through a browser), but all of the compute and storage function for the analytics software is hosted and managed by that third party company. This type of consumption is commonly referred to Software as a Services (SaaS.)
Another common cloud consumption model is called Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) where cloud resources are consumed as virtual servers and/or virtual data storage resources. In this model, standard operating systems such as Windows and Linux can be run in the cloud and a variety of traditional applications that previously ran in large centralized data centers can be moved to public cloud resources.
Benefits of Cloud Computing:
- IT infrastructure hardware / datacenter owned and managed by a third party
- Flexible pay as you go OPEX consumption vs. large CAPEX investment
- May yield lower costs for workloads with fluctuating resource requirements
- Ideal for applications that are simultaneously accessed by users from many locations and mobile devices such as centralized web / e-commerce sites
Cons of Cloud Computing:
- Can be costly for applications with large data sets due to ingress / storage and egress charges
- End-to-end processing times impacted by round-trip network latency and congestion
- Not an option in remote locations with lack of reliable internet / WAN connectivity
- Not a good option for handling sensitive data (privacy, legal concerns)
The Difference Between Edge Computing and Cloud Computing
The main difference between edge computing and cloud computing is that while your IT infrastructure is located outside of your main data center, you still own and manage it. You can locate the infrastructure wherever your applications and data require it to maintain adequate performance and availability regardless of the state or speed of a remote network connection.
With cloud computing, your IT infrastructure is managed by a third party and accessed via the internet or wide area network. The availability of your data and responsiveness of the applications are dependent on that network connection, as well as the availability of that cloud-based infrastructure itself which is by no means a given.
It’s important to keep in mind though that edge computing and cloud computing are both necessary for organizations. Leveraging the cloud for non-mission critical applications is an important part of lowering IT costs. On the other hand, edge computing is necessary for organizations who need storage and compute power at the edge of their network. Rather than looking at the edge and the cloud as competitors, we see them as complimentary systems that IT teams need to balance according to their unique needs.
Both Types of Computing Are Growing Rapidly
Both the cloud and edge computing markets are growing rapidly side by side, though edge computing is growing at a much faster pace. By 2025, the edge computing market is poised to grow over 400% and the cloud computing market is predicted to grow by 124%.
The growth trajectories of these markets indicates that many companies have now shifted significant portions of their IT infrastructure to the cloud. However, they are just now realizing the potential that edge computing provides them in remote locations.
Deciding When You Need Edge Computing
When deciding whether you need an edge computing solution vs. cloud computing, ask yourself these questions:
- Does this location have reliable internet access?
- Are the applications I need to run mission-critical?
- Is the solution handling sensitive data?
If you are interested in learning more about our edge computing solutions, contact us today!