Edge Computing vs. Cloud Computing: Do They Work Together?

Edge Computing vs. Cloud Computing: Do They Work Together?

Cloud computing has been the talk of the town for years, but now there’s a new kid on the block that everyone is interested in. 

This new kid is called edge computing, and it’s taking the technology world by a storm. 

Some people are even wondering if edge computing is going to overtake cloud computing in the near future. In this blog, we explore why we don’t think edge computing will replace cloud computing. Instead, we think that the two technologies will be used in conjunction with each other, allowing companies to maximize each computing model’s best components. 

Keep reading to learn how the two computing technologies are related and how you can use both of them to upgrade and enhance your operations. 

What is Edge Computing?

First things first, you might be wondering what edge computing even is. Many of us have at least a basic understanding of cloud computing because of its growth and adoption over the last decade (if you need a refresher, check out this blog on cloud computing). Still, edge computing may not be so familiar. So, what exactly is it, and how is it different from cloud computing?

Edge computing is computing that’s done at or near the source of the data. It’s garnered the name “edge” because the processing is completed close to the edge of a network, or in plain English, where things and people produce or consume information. 

Compare that to cloud computing, which is processed in the various data centers housed by cloud providers. These centers are often thousands of miles away, increasing the latency and costs of data processing.

Edge computing, on the other hand, brings this processing power to you, decreasing latency and bringing with it a whole new wave of technical solutions never before thought possible. 

For example, a current technology solution that is implementing edge computing is autonomous vehicles. The processing power needed to automate a vehicle is almost unimaginable. Data needs to be transmitted in less than a second, and the amount of bandwidth needed is massive. 

With edge computing, autonomous vehicles can exchange real-time sensory data right then and there. This likely wouldn’t be possible if all of the data from every autonomous car needed to be transmitted and processed at cloud data centers extremely far away from the actual vehicle. 

Why Is Edge Computing Gaining Popularity?

Edge computing came to the forefront because of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT devices are technical devices that use sensors, software, and other technologies to gather and exchange data over the Internet. 

You likely use multiple IoT devices every day—common ones are home assistants such as Google Home or Amazon Echo, automated and self-learning thermostats such as Nest, and smart light switches and smart doorbells. 

These daily devices often collect large amounts of data that then needs to be transmitted and processed. When this data needs to run through cloud-based services, it takes more time and money to process because it has to travel to and from data centers. 

Edge computing allows for decreased latency because data isn’t traveling thousands of miles to data centers, being processed, and then being returned to the device. In turn, this shorter trip reduces the time and costs of data transmission and is a large driver of companies embracing edge computing. Further, edge computing provides the ability to process and store data faster, which enhances efficiency for real-time applications that many organizations use and find critical to operations. 

So, basically, edge computing offers a whole bunch of benefits that make things faster and cheaper for companies. So, where does cloud computing continue to fit in all of this? 

If companies can improve latency and decrease costs by switching to edge computing, why would they still want to use the cloud? 

The Relationship between Cloud Computing and Edge Computing

Just as many companies have embraced a hybrid cloud model, using both public cloud, private clouds, and on-site data centers to secure each solution’s benefits, we think that companies will find that a combination of cloud computing and edge computing is a natural fit. Edge computing is a natural extension of the cloud. 

Although some analysts claim that edge computing will replace cloud computing, the truth is that each technology meets different goals for companies. Edge computing devices will become the go-to for operations that need to quickly gather and process on-site data and analyze this data in real-time. The focus will be on improved latency for large amounts of data that need to be processed right then and there (think IoT devices or autonomous cars). 

However, cloud computing will still be the solution for less time-sensitive operations, data storage, and disaster recovery. The two technologies will complement each other, with the cloud being the centralized, general piece of your technology environment and edge computing extending from there, featuring more specialized, quick-reacting devices. 

In Conclusion

Edge computing is a trending technology that’s only going to get bigger. Many companies haven’t even implemented a long-term, strategic edge computing environment, and the technology is still being developed (similar to the evolution of cloud computing). And although we definitely see most companies adopting edge computing on a large scale in the next few years, it’s still relatively new. 

And before you begin to make plans to scrap your cloud computing system and move on to “the next big thing,” we think the real solution will be using the two technologies in tandem and balancing the natural connection (no pun intended) they share to create a hybrid environment that supports the different needs and goals of each of your operations.