What Is the Network Edge?

The network edge is the connection point between your private network and the Internet, strategically placed to minimize user wait times when accessing cloud-based network resources. It is a connection or interface made between geographically disparate devices. It is used to reduce latency and improve efficiency by presenting interfaces at locations typically closer to the user.

If you are unfamiliar with IT and the cloud, it can be challenging to understand the concept of the Network Edge. Remember that edge networking will determine your applications’ overall performance, which impacts the user experience.

For example, if a user is based in South America and consumes an application hosted on servers in Europe, the geographical location of the provider and the user would introduce a certain amount of latency. When the user sends a request to the application, that request travels 6000 miles to the European servers, which then responds with an answer that has to travel 6000 miles back to the user. This happens thousands of times per second, so you can see how this can introduce lag or latency.

Network edge infrastructure introduces a cached copy of the application at another edge computing location, also based in South America. Now, the user’s requests only have to travel a short distance to content delivery networks located close by. Creating this physically distributed computing paradigm introduces lots of extra benefits, such as cost savings, such as allowing the provider to configure robust security, and it saves the end user money on expensive egress network costs.

What other benefits are introduced by processing data at the network edge?

#1: Reduced Latency:

By processing data locally across more devices, the network edge minimizes the distance information needs to travel, resulting in lower latency and faster response times. This is crucial for real-time data analysis in applications like IoT devices, autonomous vehicles, or industrial automation.

#2: Enhanced Security:

Less data travels across the network, minimizing the vulnerability to breaches during data transmission itself. Additionally, security measures like encryption can be implemented directly on edge devices to improve data protection. Edge computing can also give you more granular control allowing improved data privacy and security policies for different devices and locations.

#3: Improved Reliability:

Edge computing lessens dependence on constant cloud connectivity for data generation. Local processing ensures operations continue even if there’s a wider network disruption.

#4: Cost-Effectiveness:

Localized data processing, often enabled by network functions virtualization, reduces reliance on expensive, dedicated hardware, potentially leading to even lower operational costs. Processing data with edge computing will help you save on your egress traffic costs simply because the network traffic is processed locally and stays on the local network.

#5: Better Performance:

Instead of overloading the network by sending massive amounts of raw data to the cloud, edge devices can pre-process and filter process data, reducing latency by transmitting only the most important requests. This reduces bandwidth requirements and costs. A good example is having a database read replica at an edge location; local users read directly from that database instead of querying the master database.

The network edge is a designated area of a broader core network closer to your customers or employees. When using a core network-to-edge network design, the world gets much smaller. Users experience faster speeds, services are highly secured, and even the costs are lower!

What Is the Difference Between Network Edge and Perimeter?

The terms network edge and network perimeter are often used interchangeably, and despite sharing many similar traits, they are very different concepts. We already know that the network edge is where individual devices, users, and applications directly connect to the Internet or a distributed network. Alternatively, the network perimeter is a defined line of separation between an organization’s private, internal network and the uncontrolled, public Internet.

Key Differences

Network Perimeter

  • Single, well-defined boundary
  • Protects the internal network
  • Centralized security model, defended by firewalls
  • Works well with traditional cloud computing

Network Edge

  • Vast, ever-changing environment
  • Designed to protect devices, users, and data
  • Decentralized, device-level security
  • Great for IoT devices

What Is the Difference Between the Edge and the Core in an Access Network?

An access network is the part of the telecommunications network that bridges the gap between end-users physical devices (homes, businesses, data centers, mobile devices) and a service provider’s core network. It’s the connection that gets internet traffic to and from your devices. Your ISP is an access network.

The Edge (Front Line)

The edge of the access network is the point where end-user devices physically connect to other devices and networks. Customer premises equipment (CPE) includes routers, modems, and optical network terminals (ONTs) in your home, as well as cell phones and business connections.

The purpose of the edge is to collect traffic from individual users and devices. It is a centralized data center that aggregates the data (clusters the data together) and sends it to its destination. IoT devices use the edge to send data to a target.

The edge can handle routing, quality of service (QoS), and security functions.

The Core (Backbone)

The core is centralized within the service provider’s network, away from the user. It acts as the high-speed backbone or virtual network that carries large volumes of aggregated traffic from the data center to multiple edge locations. The network core uses powerful routers and switches to manage significant volumes of data.

The network core directs traffic to a provider’s edge networks and broader network infrastructure, ultimately connecting it to the Internet or other destinations. Its purpose is to transmit data at scale, from any edge location. The network core handles complex routing and can enforce advanced security policies. Essentially, the network core’s purpose is to connect the edge networks and wider Internet to other service provider networks and enterprise applications.

In summary, the edge acts as the entry point for user traffic, while the network core provides the powerful infrastructure that carries and directs that traffic to its final destination.

Is a Smartphone an Edge Computing Device?

Yes, a smartphone can be called a network edge device. This is because all smartphones connect directly to the Internet and cellular networks. Logically, the cell phone is often the outermost point of an edge network, making cell phones edge devices as far as network infrastructure is concerned.

Another reason is that smartphones crunch data. They generate and consume significant amounts of data, which originates and terminates at the smartphone, making it an edge device.

Modern smartphones are substantially more powerful than their predecessors of 5 or 10 years ago. They have significant processing capabilities that can analyze data and perform image recognition; the latest generation devices even have AI built into the handset, making edge computing one of the most important functions of a smartphone.

Do I Need Network Edge Protection?

The network edge is everywhere. You probably use edge devices daily without even considering that you are using them. Whether you need the network edge for your business requires a more detailed answer. It depends on various factors such as the size of your business network, whether or not you handle sensitive data, and also your risk tolerance.

Before we discuss why you may need Network Edge protection, let’s consider who needs it. Edge protection is suitable for literally all types of businesses, from small businesses to large enterprises. Everyone needs to face up to the risk of cyberattacks. The size of your organization’s network doesn’t determine your vulnerability.

The number of people working remotely is still high, even after the Covid-19 pandemic has subsided. Since the rise of remote working, the network edge has expanded significantly. Protecting remote connections is crucial to preventing unauthorized access to corporate networks.

Also, if you rely on cloud services, your data already travels through the network edge. Ensuring its security is paramount. This is even more important if your IoT devices are often connected at the edge, making them potential entry points for attacks. Protecting them is essential for overall network security.

Now, lets consider the crucial reasons why you may need Network Edge Protection:

  • An Ever-Changing Threat Landscape: Cyberattacks are increasingly sophisticated and frequent. The network edge, being the most exposed part, is a prime target. Protecting it is essential to safeguard your entire network.
  • Data Protection: Most organizations have valuable data that needs protecting, whether it’s customer information, healthcare data, intellectual property, or financial records. A breach at the edge can compromise this data, leading to significant financial and reputational damage.
  • Business Continuity: Disruptions or attacks at the edge can severely impact business operations, leading to downtime, lost productivity, and customer dissatisfaction. Edge protection helps ensure business continuity.
  • Compliance: Many industries have regulatory requirements, such as HIPAA or PCI-DSS, regarding data protection and network security. Edge protection is often a mandatory requirement needed to meet compliant status.

Finally, let’s consider the most common types of network edge protection available. The front line of defense is the network Firewall. These are used across the network to filter incoming and outgoing traffic based on predetermined rules. They are either hardware appliances or software-based web application firewalls (WAF). Both are proven technologies that filter out unwanted and malicious traffic.

Next, Intrusion Detection/Prevention Systems (IDS/IPS) monitor network traffic for suspicious activity and automatically block potential threats. An IPS is an intelligent application that first creates a baseline security profile, which determines your security stance. Any deviations from normal activity are reported. Offenses are classified, and alerts are created that are either automatically fixed or logged for manual triage.

Another popular tool is Secure Web Gateways (SWG). These control web access and protect against web-based threats. The secure web gateway sits between users and the Internet to filter traffic and enforce acceptable use and security policies.

Living on the Edge with Atlantic.Net

Atlantic.Net is a cloud hosting and managed service provider with an expansive cloud platform with points of presence throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Far East. Atlantic.Net offers a suite of managed services designed to protect and further optimize traffic at the network edge.

Network Edge/DDoS Protection: This service safeguards against distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, which can overwhelm your network and disrupt operations. It helps ensure your network remains available and responsive, even under attack.

Firewall: Atlantic.Net offers managed web application firewall services to filter traffic and protect your network from unauthorized access and malicious activity.

Intrusion Prevention System (IPS): Our IPS service actively monitors network traffic for signs of intrusion and takes action to prevent or block attacks.

Looking to boost your network’s speed, security, and cost-efficiency? The network edge is the key. By bringing your applications and data closer to your users, you can reduce latency, enhance security, and even lower your bandwidth costs.

Contact Atlantic.Net today to learn how our managed services can help you secure and optimize your network edge.