Edge cloud is cloud computing that happens at the edge of the network. Cloud resources are moved closer to where data is generated and end-users are located, rather than sending data back to a central data center or private cloud for processing. The goal of edge cloud is to reduce data latency and maintain high availability by using cloud services in strategic locations.
The “edge” of the network refers to the elements of a network infrastructure that are furthest from the core. It is the point where data is exchanged between computers, smartphones, sensors, IoT devices, etc. and cloud services. Specifically, the edge refers to places where data is generated or consumed. Edge computing describes the process of bringing compute and storage elements closer to the network edge. And edge cloud goes a step further and uses a cloud architecture for that same process.
The idea of edge cloud emerged as a natural extension of cloud computing. It addresses specific challenges posed by the growing Internet of Things (IoT), as well as other edge computing applications.
Edge cloud is often an extension of hybrid or multi-cloud infrastructure. It is used in low-latency situations that require high availability or real-time processing. Edge cloud services are crucial for systems that generate sensitive information due to their enhanced security approach where data is processed and stored locally. By keeping data away from the public network, you reduce the risk of unauthorized individuals accessing critical information.
In addition to safety from cyber threats, edge cloud reduces the distance data needs to travel, leading to high-speed responses. With an edge cloud, organizations can fulfill their commitment to customers of fast, reliable access to apps and data.Instead of edge cloud, which is sometimes also referred to as a distributed environment, some organizations choose more traditional cloud-based solutions, sticking with a centralized cloud. In a centralized cloud solution, computing resources, data storage and services are provided by a single cloud service provider or from a centralized data center. Centralized cloud is best used in environments with stable workloads and predictable performance.
The concept of the edge is pivotal in modern computing, especially as the number of IoT devices and real-time applications grows. By pushing data processing and analytics closer to the source of data, organizations can achieve faster response times and improved user experiences.
Additional benefits of edge cloud include:
- Bandwidth optimization: By processing data locally at the edge, edge cloud minimizes the need for constant data transmission to centralized cloud servers, reducing network usage and data transfer costs.
- Security and data privacy: Edge cloud allows sensitive data to be processed locally, minimizing the amount of data transmitted in the cloud and lowering exposure to threats.
- Flexibility and scalability: Organizations can run modern apps built on containers, or existing apps using virtual machines, all on a single platform. With edge cloud, you can scale applications horizontally with ease.
- Open platform: Some edge clouds allow for integration with multiple clouds and ISVs, delivering customer choice for both hardware and applications and reducing vendor lock-in.
The use of edge cloud for a variety of use cases has been steadily increasing over the past decade and is expected to continue in coming years. The edge computing market is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 21.6 percent until 2028, according to a 2022 report from ReportLinker.
Additional industries and applications for edge cloud include:
- IoT applications and deployments: As IoT expands and smart devices generate massive amounts of data, edge cloud allows for this data to be processed locally, enabling real-time insights.
- 5G network rollout: Edge cloud enables higher data transfer speeds and lower latency, making it more feasible to process data at the edge. Edge and 5G are complementary. Both improve application performance and allow large amounts of data to be processed in real time. 5G has the potential to reach network speeds more than 20 times faster than 4G, but to reach these targets, 5G may have to rely on edge to store data locally. This would improve bandwidth by avoiding interaction with centralized clouds.
- Real-time services and near-real-time processing: When even milliseconds of delay can significantly impact the user experience, edge cloud is more reliable. Autonomous vehicles use edge cloud to process sensor data and make split-second decisions—essential for keeping passengers and pedestrians safe. Augmented reality and telemedicine also rely on edge cloud for real-time interactions and feedback.
- Smart cities: Edge cloud is critical for smart cities, which aim to enhance the functionality of urban environments. A smart city is a city where hundreds to thousands of sensors are deployed to collect data which can be analyzed to improve quality of life. Smart cities rely on low latency and connectivity. Connecting a smart environment to a handful of central cloud systems can cause delays in data processing. Edge deployment solves this challenge by keeping data processing local, improving uptime. Edge cloud also boosts a smart environment by making 5G and IoT more efficient.
As a complex and critical system within IT infrastructure, edge cloud presents some challenges:
- Edge device management: Managing many edge devices across multiple locations can be resource intensive. Ensuring proper configuration, security updates, and maintenance of servers poses a challenge.
- Network connectivity and reliability: Edge cloud relies on a stable connection between the servers at the edge of the network and a centralized cloud. In remote environments, maintaining consistent network connectivity may be difficult, leading to unreliable access to cloud services.
- Scalability and resource management: Scaling resources at the edge to handle fluctuations in demand can be difficult. Achieving seamless resource orchestration and load balancing in a distributed environment requires careful coordination.
Edge to cloud is what enables data to flow seamlessly between the edge and the rest of the cloud environment. Data is collected in edge nodes, which transmit the relevant material to the centralized cloud. While edge cloud refers to an extension of cloud architecture, edge to cloud describes the seamless integration between nodes and the centralized cloud.
With VMware Edge Compute Stack, you can build, run, manage, connect and protect your industry-specific applications at the edge while maintaining consistent infrastructure and operations across your data centers and cloud. Access multi-cloud operational management, unified and context-centric security, AIOps for real-time diagnosis, and optional private 5G connectivity with VMware.