What is Edge Computing Hardware, and Why Is it Important?

Edge Computing

What is Edge Computing Hardware, and Why Is it Important?

Shandra Earney / March 9, 2023

The essential role of Edge computing hardware

Edge computing hardware is a technology that allows data processing to occur close to the devices and sensors generating the data, rather than transmitting it to a centralized cloud or data center for processing.

Edge computing hardware has become increasingly popular in recent years due to enabling wider Edge computing benefits such as improved latency, privacy, security, scalability, and cost savings.

Resource-intensive Edge computing applications require powerful hardware to meet workload demands. Therefore, hardware designed for use at the Edge is critical.

This article explores the importance of Edge computing hardware to help businesses make informed choices when considering hardware for their Edge computing strategy.

What is Edge computing hardware?

Edge computing hardware refers to a specialized set of physical components designed to run applications at the Edge. 

These components include servers, processors, switches, and routers, which are essential for enabling effective Edge computing. 

Without Edge computing hardware, Edge computing could not deliver on its promise of improved performance and efficiency. 

The alternative would be continued reliance on central data centers and cloud services, limiting the capacity for processing and analyzing data at the source (and limiting the impressive benefits and use cases this enables). 

The power of Edge computing comes from distributing specific parts of an application across small, interconnected devices. This approach reduces the load on central cloud services, enabling faster processing and improving the system’s overall performance and efficiency.

Edge hardware must have low latency and sufficient storage capacity to handle updates and data transactions quickly and reliably. At the same time, switches and routers are essential to facilitate connectivity between devices and ensure smooth communication across different nodes. 

Endpoints also require specific modifications and optimizations, such as low power consumption and shock-resistant features, to work effectively in an Edge system.

Fortunately, advancements in Edge computing technology are rapidly improving its speed, affordability, and accessibility.

The 4 main Edge computing hardware components explained

As mentioned, at the heart of every Edge computing system are specialized hardware components designed to run applications at the Edge.

This section explores four different types of Edge computing hardware components and how they contribute to the efficiency and effectiveness of Edge computing systems.

1. CPUs and GPUs are critical for Edge computing systems

Processors are a crucial component of Edge computing systems, providing the computing power and flexibility needed for various tasks and applications.

The central processing unit (CPU) is the most essential component, as it determines the overall performance and capabilities of the system.

A higher number of CPU cores allows for faster processing, making CPUs optimal for IoT devices that require quick data handling.

Graphics processing units (GPUs) can also significantly enhance performance when used with an Edge processor. They provide hardware acceleration, allowing intensive calculations or applications, like AI, to run without latency issues. Additionally, most modern GPUs enable large volumes of data to be stored in a small amount of space, which is essential in Edge environments where space is limited.

Processors have been recently re-engineered with Edge computing in mind, making them purpose-built with added features like AI accelerators and 5G network support.

This makes them ideal for IoT devices requiring high throughput without relying on cloud computing. Moreover, many new processors offer low power, making them highly desirable from a monetary and environmental standpoint.

2. Field-Programmable Gate Arrays offer flexibility and high performance

Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) are a type of hardware accelerator used in Edge computing that can be programmed to perform specific tasks.

FPGAs provide flexibility and high performance for applications such as image recognition, Face Recognition, and machine learning.

They are also well-suited for applications that require real-time data analysis and low power consumption.

Because they can be programmed to perform specific tasks, they offer flexibility not found in other types of computing hardware. For example, FPGAs can be programmed to perform encryption, compression, and decompression tasks.

FPGAs are used in various industries, including telecommunications, defense, and aerospace, where excellent performance and low power consumption are critical. 

FPGAs are an important component of Edge computing systems due to their flexibility and high-performance capabilities. 

They are well-suited for applications that require real-time data analysis and low power consumption, making them an ideal choice for many Edge computing use cases.

3. Memory is an essential consideration for Edge computing applications

Memory is another critical component of an Edge computing system.

In Edge computing, memory typically enables applications and data to be stored on the device, reducing latency and improving overall system performance. 

The type and capacity of memory used in an Edge device should be selected based on the application’s specific needs.

For instance, RAM (Random Access Memory) is temporary storage that can quickly process large volumes of information but cannot be used to store data permanently. It’s ideal for applications that require fast data processing and analysis. 

On the other hand, flash memory can be used for short-term and long-term storage, but it is more expensive than RAM.

It’s important to note that different applications will require different memory capacities, and selecting the right amount of memory is essential to avoid performance issues.

4. Storage is a critical Edge computing component

While memory is responsible for temporarily storing data and applications currently in use by the Edge device, storage is a crucial component of Edge computing systems responsible for holding data long-term. 

Solid-state drives (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HDDs) are the two primary types of storage used in Edge computing systems. 

SSDs are more expensive than HDDs but offer faster speeds and higher durability, making them ideal for mission-critical applications that require high performance.

Companies need to choose the right type of storage for their Edge computing system. For example, if the application requires high-speed data access and transfer rates, an SSD may be the better choice. Conversely, an HDD may be more appropriate if cost is a primary concern and the use case has lower performance requirements.

The 5 main types of Edge computing hardware

Edge computing relies on Edge devices, servers, routers, switches, and nodes.

Together, these elements form a distributed computing infrastructure that can provide faster response times, lower latency, and reduced bandwidth requirements. 

Let’s explore different types of Edge computing hardware.

1. Edge devices

Edge devices are physical hardware components that are part of an edge computing system. They can include sensors, cameras, and IoT devices.

2. Edge servers

Servers are computers used to store, manage and distribute data. 

Edge servers provide quick response times by hosting content locally, which allows it to be nearer to customers. 

Setting up Edge servers on-site can provide dedicated services tailored to a company’s needs, and various types of servers are available to meet the requirements of both small and large businesses.

3. Edge routers

Routers are essential equipment used to connect and route data between networked devices. 

An Edge router is a specialized type of router positioned at the periphery of a network, serving as the primary gateway between the local area network (LAN) and the internet or Wide Area Network (WAN). 

Edge routers allow for effective flow control between networks by ensuring that data sent through the network reaches its intended destination at optimum speed.

Edge routers often come equipped with additional features, such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems, providing an extra layer of security on the network.

4. Edge switches

Edge switches are networking components located at the meeting point of two separate networks. 

These switches allow devices within a Local Area Network (LAN) to communicate with each other by managing traffic flow across the network and providing end-users with internet service providers’ networks. 

They create dedicated links from designated sending and receiving ports within their switching infrastructure, ensuring better performance and improved security compared to hubs and broadcast networks.

5. Edge nodes

Edge nodes are computer systems located at the edge of a network that provides low-latency, high-speed data processing. 

They can be used for various tasks, including data storage, analytics, machine learning, and AI applications. 

Edge Nodes enable real-time processing of large volumes of data by being closer to the source, reducing latency, and improving performance compared to a centralized cloud.

What are the benefits of Edge computing hardware?

Edge computing hardware, which enables data processing at the edge, has numerous benefits for businesses, including reduced latency, increased security and privacy, improved reliability, and lower bandwidth costs. 

This section further explores these benefits and discusses why Edge computing hardware is a valuable investment. 

Edge computing hardware reduces latency

Edge computing hardware is purpose-built to process data at or near its source rather than transmitting it to a remote location or cloud service provider. 

By enabling data processing to occur closer to where data is generated, Edge computing reduces the latency of transmitting data over long distances. This results in faster response times and improved performance, making it an ideal solution for real-time applications. 

With Edge computing hardware, data is processed in real-time, enabling organizations to make faster, more informed decisions based on the data they collect.

Edge computing hardware increases security and privacy

Edge computing hardware enhances security and privacy by ensuring that sensitive data is not transmitted over the internet or sent to a third-party cloud service provider. 

With data processed on-site, businesses can maintain complete control of their data, reducing the risks of data breaches or unauthorized access. 

Furthermore, Edge computing hardware provides an additional layer of security by enabling businesses to implement real-time threat detection and response mechanisms at the edge of their networks. 

This means potential security threats can be identified and addressed before they move deeper into the network.

Edge computing hardware can also be used to implement data anonymization techniques, which can further enhance privacy by removing personally identifiable information from data sets. 

This is particularly useful in scenarios where businesses need to share data with external parties for collaborative purposes while ensuring that the privacy of individuals is protected.

Edge computing hardware reduces bandwidth

One of the key benefits of Edge computing hardware is that it reduces the amount of data that needs to be transmitted over the internet, thus lowering bandwidth costs. 

By limiting the amount of data that needs to be transferred between networks, Edge computing hardware also improves performance. 

With Edge computing hardware, businesses can save money on their internet and hosting costs while benefiting from faster, more efficient data processing.

Edge computing hardware trends and future outlook

Looking toward the future, Edge computing technology will become increasingly dispersed across various applications and environments. 

Edge technology embedded in everyday devices such as home appliances, factory floors, autonomous cars, and infrastructure management systems will provide faster access to data at the point of need with less latency and higher security. 

This distributed computing model opens up opportunities for improved operational efficiency and accuracy, and Edge computing hardware is the technology behind it all. 

As Edge computing hardware becomes more prevalent, tech companies will have the opportunity to shift their focus onto creating solutions tailored for unique use cases instead of developing generic products. 

This shift towards more customized solutions will enable businesses to optimize their operations and gain valuable insights from data that would otherwise be too costly or time-consuming to process. 

By processing data at the Edge, businesses can get real-time insights and make faster, more informed decisions, ultimately leading to improved performance and greater competitive advantage.

Edge computing hardware is expected to become more powerful and efficient in the future. It will be able to process larger volumes of data faster, making it suitable for more complex applications.

As businesses continue to rely on technology to improve their operations, Edge computing hardware will play a vital role in enabling these advancements.

The importance of Edge computing hardware for businesses

Edge computing hardware is a specialized set of physical components that enable data processing near the devices and sensors that initially generate data, leading to improved latency, privacy, security, scalability, and cost savings.

Overall, Edge computing hardware is critical to enabling the benefits and use cases of Edge computing, making it an essential consideration for businesses looking to adopt Edge computing technology.

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About the Author

    Shandra is a writer and content marketer working in the B2B space. She enjoys learning about new concepts and ideas surrounding cutting-edge technologies and brings a passion for researching and writing about how the digital world influences society.

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