Confused by “the Edge?” 5 Ways to Define Edge Data Centers

edge computing and the Internet of Things

Edge computing and edge data centers are buzzwords popping up in IT publications all over the Internet, but what do they really mean? Edge computing is more straightforward, and has been simply defined as “data processing power at the edge of a network instead of in a cloud or a central data warehouse.” However, edge data centers are being defined in a variety of ways followed by outrageous claims that this new data center concept will “blow away the cloud.” Your preferred definition will likely depend on your industry. Here are 5 widely communicated ones to broaden your perspective.

1. Retail Outlets, Factories & Distribution Centers

In a Data Center Knowledge article, editor Yevgeniy Sverdlik writes that edge data centers can exist within retail outlets as retailers try to close the gap between selling online and selling at brick and mortar locations. He also mentions edge data centers developing in distribution warehouses to manage growing inventory and shipping data as well as within factories to manage data generated from sensors and communications between equipment, contributing to a growing industrial Internet of Things (IoT).

2. The Edge of the Telco Cloud

Sverdlik also mentions that the central offices of telco companies are being converted to computing rooms and used as edge data centers to make their networks more dynamic. “As telcos transform their networks to support virtual network services and automate network management using software, a telco network becomes a cloud, while the central office becomes a cloud edge node.”

3. Office Data Centers

In a Data Center Dynamics article, David Chernicoff writes that edge data centers can include “micro data centers” deployed within small offices in edge locations (i.e. not in a major city). He mentions these “data centers” can be as small as something that fits under a desk.

4. Tier 3 Data Center – Tier 2 City

In a Network World article, Zeus Kerravala defines an edge data center as serving “more than 50% of broadband eyeballs locally” and handles at least “75% of local Internet usage.” He also adds that it must be a Tier 3, N+1 data center in order to be defined as an edge data center.

5. General Definition

With everyone trying to define edge data centers in their own way as it pertains to their industry, it’s no wonder we’re all confused. Keeping all the above in mind, here is a simplified definition: an edge data center is a data center housing edge computing equipment.

The Future of edge computing

One thing everyone can agree on is edge computing is in its infancy, and the need for it will continue to grow. Our changing economy and way of life drives this growth, from increased adoption of wearable tech, remote education, food delivery services, driver-less vehicles, virtual assistants and so on. The equipment that communicates with these devices needs to live closer to users to be most effective.

The bottom line is that the streaming of content and generation of data within the Internet of things is driving the need for edge computing, and so is the need to house that equipment. This expansion will likely take place in both enterprise and colocation data centers. In spite of the development and expansion of edge data centers, central clouds will continue to serve a purpose, and will likely not be “blown away” by edge computing. Additionally, major cloud providers will utilize colocation data centers to more effectively deliver their services to the edge.