What Is Network Edge Computing?

Distributed cloud computing at the edge, or network edge computing, is when service providers use distributed computation and data storage closer to the data source, typically the user. In edge computing, data processing takes place nearer to the user on devices like smartphones, IoT sensors, or edge servers – unlike cloud computing, where processing primarily takes place in the data center. Decentralized computing reduces latency, optimizes bandwidth usage, improves reliability, and enhances the network’s security and privacy.

Consider your favorite streaming services, such as Netflix or Disney Plus. These companies have powerful servers located all over the world. Before edge computing systems, when you pressed play on a movie, the request traveled halfway across the globe to a data center. The data center finds the video, processes it, and sends it back to you. When many people are watching and the data center gets overwhelmed, your video might buffer or lag.

If you remember RealPlayer in the 1990s, you’d load a media file from storage or download it from the Internet, then process and play it on your local machine. When you stream a video on your device today, companies like Netflix use local edge computing nodes to support streaming. In this model, when you click play, your request goes to a nearby server that already has a copy of the video stored, so it starts playing instantly. Even if several people are simultaneously watching, the load gets spread out among many servers, resulting in zero lag or buffering.

The Rise of Edge Computing

Data at the edge is not a new concept. Edge computing environments have been built over many years as the Internet has grown, and there has been a greater demand for reliable network performance.

There has been a proliferation of IoT devices, industrial sensors, and other connected technologies that generate unprecedented amounts of data. Sending all this data to a central data center is becoming increasingly impractical due to bandwidth limitations, latency concerns, and cloud provider egress costs.

Many emerging technologies and data-intensive applications, such as self-driving cars, augmented reality, and remote enterprise applications, require near real-time data processing and adequate network bandwidth to function effectively. One of the benefits of edge computing is that it enables these applications to respond instantly to events without the delays caused by sending data over long distances.

A single centralized data center exacerbates bandwidth constraints and bottlenecks, causing complications. Networks struggle to cope with the ever-increasing volumes of data. Edge computing alternatively reduces the amount of data transmitted over a wide area network, easing congestion and saving bandwidth and computing resources.

Sending sensitive data over long distances can also increase the risk of security exposure. Edge computing improves operational efficiency and addresses these concerns by processing and storing data locally, minimizing the risk of interception or unauthorized access. Perhaps you have a fleet of medical devices bound by HIPAA compliance—when using an edge deployment, having a point of presence geographically near the source reduces risk and satisfies compliance.

Remember, edge services can reduce the cost of transmission, computation, and data storage by processing data locally and only sending relevant insights or aggregated data to a central data center. This can create serious cost savings, especially when handling large egress data volumes.

The Architecture of Edge Computing

Edge computing is not a single technology but rather a distributed computing architecture that manages connected devices within a software-defined networking architecture. It protects client devices from threats based on the global internet.

Let’s take a moment to understand what components make up the edge computing environment of local cloud data centers.

An Edge Device is the source of data generation. It can be anything that can process data, from simple sensors to complex medical equipment. It can be smart devices, cell phones, edge nodes, or an entire edge data center. IoT devices are most commonly found on the network edge. There is an estimated 15 billion IoT devices globally.

The volume of raw data such devices produce is difficult to comprehend, but it is easy to see how network congestion occurs and how system performance is impacted. Edge devices typically have limited processing power and storage capacity, so keeping all that data on Edge Nodes makes sense.

Another critical component of the edge network is Edge Gateways. These more powerful devices aggregate data from multiple edge devices, perform some initial processing, and filter or preprocess data before sending it to an edge server or a central data center.

Edge gateways play a crucial role on the edge “backbone.” They serve as the primary pathway for information between edge computing systems and a user’s computer. Gateways can decide how data processing flows, including filtering and prioritization. They also decide how to send the data: over the Internet or a 5G cell network infrastructure.

The next critical infrastructure of an edge strategy is Edge Servers. These are powerful servers located physically close to the data sources. They handle the bulk of data processing and storage at the edge. Edge computing nodes can be located in local data centers, on-premise data centers, or even in protected enclosures for harsh environments, such as research centers in Antarctica.

The Importance of 5G

So far, we have discussed the importance of the network edge, network capacity, and network connectivity. Alongside traditional networking concepts, the recent introduction of 5G networks has been a significant development. 5G edge computing offers a super-fast digital network that provides the necessary infrastructure and capabilities to support the growing demand for low latency and high bandwidth.

5G is important because it enables significantly higher speeds and lower latency than previous generations. 5G supports a massive number of connected devices simultaneously, which is ideal for IoT devices and helps applications that demand near real-time data processing and super-fast responsiveness.

5G also allows the creation of virtualized, independent networks (slices) within the same physical infrastructure; this optimizes performance and security, helping to meet the diverse requirements of different edge workloads.

Examples of Network Edges

Edge computing is already significantly impacting our lives across various industries. It is a transformative technology that aims to make our lives easier, safer, and more efficient.

Impact on Our Daily Lives

There is a good chance that the benefits of edge computing are already intertwined with your daily routine. Lots of people already have smart devices in their homes. Thermostats, security cameras, and voice assistants use edge computing to process data locally for faster response times and improved security.

Do you have a smart speaker like an Alexa? It is also considered a network-edge device! Newer Echo devices use the AZ1 Neural Edge processor, designed to speed up machine learning tasks on the device itself, including speech recognition and natural language processing.

Home security devices like Ring cameras process video footage locally to detect motion, recognize faces, or identify specific events. Using data at the edge allows for faster alerts and reduces the amount of data sent to the cloud, enhancing privacy.

Modern home appliances like refrigerators, washing machines, and ovens often have built-in sensors and processing capabilities. They can optimize energy usage, predict maintenance needs, and even suggest recipes based on available ingredients.

Edge computing plays a vital role in healthcare by enabling real-time analysis of medical data from wearable devices such as fitness trackers and heart rate monitors. Implanted sensors and hospital equipment within the local network often bypass the need for an on-premise data center.

Near real-time data processing can lead to faster diagnoses, personalized treatment plans, and improved patient outcomes. Edge computing also supports remote patient monitoring and telemedicine applications while ensuring data security.

Edge computing work enhances the efficiency and reliability of our energy production and power grids by enabling real-time monitoring and control of power generation, distribution, and consumption. Helping energy companies integrate renewable energy sources, demand response programs, and smart grid technologies while reducing the strain on centralized data centers.

Impact on How We Live

Have you heard of the term “Smart Cities?” Edge computing collects and analyzes data generated from various sources, such as traffic cameras, environmental sensors, and utility meters. If you travel on the highway, you may see this in action when traveling on smart motorways as signage reacts to adjust speed limits to help optimize traffic flow.

Enterprise-generated data at the edge is transforming our retail experience. Shops use real-time inventory management, personalized recommendations, and targeted advertising to drive sales and improve customer service.

You can now shop in stores that use “Just Walk Out” technology. This technology allows shoppers to enter the store using their smartphone, select their items, and simply walk out. The technology automatically tracks the items they take and charges their bank account. This technology would not work without edge network infrastructure, cloud computing, and centralized servers.

Edge computing, often using fog computing at the network edge, is transforming agriculture by enabling precision farming techniques. Sensors deployed in fields collect data on soil conditions, weather patterns, and crop health. Edge computing analyzes this data in real-time, providing farmers with actionable insights for optimizing irrigation, fertilization, pest control, and, importantly, the best time to harvest their crops.

Elsewhere, the transportation and logistics industry enables real-time tracking of vehicles and shipments, optimizing routes, and improving fleet management—all thanks to edge computing. Some logistics companies are investing in autonomous vehicles that need sensor data to make real-time decisions about navigation and safety.

What Is the Difference Between Network Edge Devices and the Cloud?

Network edge devices and the cloud are two core components of modern IT infrastructure, each offering distinct advantages. Edge computing handles local data processing and storage close to end-users or data sources. These devices, like routers, switches, firewalls, and IoT gateways, excel at reducing latency by processing data right where it is generated. This is crucial for applications that need real-time data analysis. It minimizes the distance data travels to ensure faster response times and an enhanced user experience.

On the other hand, the cloud consists of remote servers and resources accessible over the internet, provided by cloud service providers like Atlantic.Net. Cloud computing is highly scalable and flexible, offering virtually limitless resources that can be scaled up or down based on demand—making it ideal for applications requiring extensive storage and processing power, such as big data analytics, machine learning, and enterprise resource planning. While on-premise data centers have been the traditional choice for many businesses, the cloud’s pay-as-you-go model lowers upfront costs and provides robust tools for resource management, though it can introduce latency due to the physical distance from end-users.

Integrating edge devices with the cloud creates a hybrid approach that leverages the strengths of both. Edge computing focuses on handling immediate data processing, ensuring low latency and real-time responsiveness, while the cloud takes care of complex computations and long-term storage. This synergy, a key part of modern edge strategies, allows businesses to optimize performance, manage costs, and maintain flexibility. We will discuss how Atlantic.Net does this a little later in this article.

Edge Servers and Computing Examples

Now, let’s dig deeper and look at real-world examples involving the use of edge servers, which are transforming various industries by enabling real-time data processing and reducing latency.


Remote Patient Monitoring

Hospitals and healthcare practices heavily use remote patient monitoring tools. Edge medical devices store and process information locally, and the information is then synced to a centralized data center if needed. Patients wearing biosensors like smartwatches, fitness trackers, and specialized medical wearables can continuously monitor vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, movement, and even biomarkers in sweat.

Local edge servers allow doctors and physicians to analyze this data in real time, which improves patient care because the appropriate physicians can be immediately alerted and intervene if abnormal conditions are detected.

Medical Imaging

Edge computing processes large volumes of imaging data (like X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs) locally, speeding up analysis and diagnosis. The goal is to reduce the time patients wait for results and enable quicker treatment decisions.

Edge computing helps in four key ways:

  • Automating Tasks: Such as simultaneous large-scale image processing
  • Detecting Abnormalities: thousands of images can be scanned simultaneously, and when using AI, computers can identify medical images that deviate from “normal.”
  • Personalized Treatment: treatment options can be recommended based on the patient’s personal medical imaging data.
  • Clinical Decision Support: Edge computers can help make diagnoses. For example, radiologists can gain additional insights using X-ray image analysis data.

You may have seen portable ultrasound devices parked outside your nearest hospital. Edge computing enables real-time image analysis and guidance during ultrasound procedures, even in remote or resource-constrained settings.

Elsewhere, specialized ambulances equipped with CT scanners use edge computing to quickly diagnose strokes and initiate treatment en route to the hospital. Healthcare is a significant area that makes edge computing important!


Predictive Maintenance

Manufacturing plants use edge servers to monitor machinery and robotic equipment in real time, and numerous sensors make this possible.

  • Computer Vision – Thermal sensors can identify temperature anomalies that could indicate unsafe or abnormal conditions.
  • Sound – Sonic and ultrasonic technology can listen and identify whether machinery is operating outside of the norm.
  • Touch – Specifically vibration – machinery that is developing faults will often abnormally vibrate; delicate sensors can identify even minute vibrations.
  • Smell – Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOC) sensors can detect chemical leaks such as gas.
  • All Data – Edge computers can fuse all sensor information together to get an overall picture of the machinery.

By analyzing sensor data, these systems can predict when maintenance is needed, preventing costly downtime and improving operational efficiency.

Quality Control

Edge computing enhances quality control by processing data from cameras and sensors on the production line. This allows for immediate detection of defects, ensuring high standards and reducing waste.

Car manufacturers such as Audi use edge computing to analyze images from cameras on their production lines in real-time. This enables them to quickly identify defects and take corrective action, ensuring the highest quality standards for their vehicles.

Atlantic.Net and Network Edge Computing

We hope you have enjoyed reading about edge computing. The technology has taken off in recent years, and its success is a testament to its integration into our lives. It’s so seamless that many people have not even noticed. However, if the edge did not exist, you would certainly feel the impact in your daily life.

Atlantic.Net is celebrating its 30th year in business. We provide cloud computing and hosting solutions for businesses around the globe and offer a selection of network-edge solutions.

Atlantic.Net’s Network Edge Protection Services help safeguard your important data and keep your business running smoothly.

What we offer:

  • DDoS Protection: Our advanced system shields your website or online service from cyberattacks that aim to disrupt it. We block even the most sophisticated attacks to keep your business online.
  • Web Application Firewall: This acts as a smart filter for your website’s traffic, blocking malicious activity like hacking attempts and spam. You get solid protection without needing to change your website’s code.
  • Website Optimization: We make your website load faster on any device, improving user experience and helping you rank better in search engines.
  • Content Delivery Network (CDN): Our global network ensures your website’s content reaches your audience quickly and reliably, wherever they are in the world.

Why choose us:

  • Expertise: We’re experts in network security and web performance.
  • Flexibility: Our services can be tailored to your specific needs.
  • Scalability: Our solutions can grow with your business.
  • Reliability: We’re committed to providing the highest level of service.

Focus on your business, and we’ll handle the tech. Contact us to learn more about how our Network Edge Protection Services can benefit your business.