Edge Data Center: What it is and What it’s Used For
A New Data Center Trend
In the data center industry, there was a long trend of building massive facilities to house huge amounts of hardware. This was, of course, in addition to the small facilities that individual companies would use only for their own equipment. Large-scale data centers allowed Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and other companies to provide powerful services to people around the world. Today, however, the trend is shifting toward smaller, local facilities, which people refer to as edge data centers.
What is an Edge Data Center?
There isn’t one true definition of an edge data center since it isn’t one uniform type of facility. For example, some facilities will serve both edge computing as well as larger-scale cloud services. One general definition that is widely used in the IT field is any data center that serves edge computing services. Edge computing is data processing at the edge of a network rather than in a cloud or centralized data warehouse.
What are Edge Data Centers Used for?
The easiest way to understand what an edge data center is would be to look at what it’s used for. The following are some of the many services that rely on edge computing:
- Internet of Things – In terms of numbers, IoT devices make up the vast majority of what uses edge computing. Internet of things devices typically require low latency and reliable connections to the data center to operate properly.
- Streaming Content – Users today expect to be able to click and immediately begin watching movies, listen to their favorite songs, or access other content. Edge facilities can help to virtually eliminate delays for end users.
- Self-Driving Vehicles – Autonomous driving vehicles need near-instant communication with data centers to keep up on traffic conditions, weather, maps, and much more.
- Drones – As drones continue to grow in popularity, their features are getting far more advanced. Using edge computing, a drone can be controlled from a remote location without any trouble.
- Virtual Reality – Virtual reality needs to be able to get updates extremely quickly to build an immersive world for users. While mostly associated with gaming, VR is growing in popularity for communication, education, and many other important uses.
- Artificial Intelligence – AI is an area of technology that is advancing very rapidly. In order for an AI system to really be beneficial, it must be able to access data, process it, and communicate with the end-users extremely quickly, which an edge data center allows for.
What all of these things have in common is that they rely on fast response times to operate properly. Edge data centers can meet these needs in a way that more centralized facilities simply can’t offer.
Benefits of Edge Data Centers
Edge facilities offer several important advantages over larger-scale centralized facilities. First, they are spread out in many locations so you are likely to be geographically nearby one. This cuts down on the physical distance that data needs to travel to reach a data facility. While Internet speeds are amazingly fast, having a shorter distance to travel can reduce latency. In areas where microseconds matter, this is a big benefit.
Another advantage of having a larger number of smaller facilities is redundancy. If one edge data center goes offline for some reason, surrounding facilities can pick up its services. This is important for services that require near 100% uptime such as medical services, electrical facilities, defense, and banking. Even if a facility isn’t entirely down, having multiple locations will allow for traffic routing to overcome latency.
Edge Data Centers vs Other Types of Data Center
Due to the continued growth in demand for data storage, data processing, and other technical needs, it is clear that the data center industry as a whole will continue to expand in the coming years. Edge data centers are certainly going to be one aspect of this, but it won’t necessarily come at the expense of either local company facilities or hyperscale locations.
While there is a trend of companies moving away from operating their own-dedicated data centers, there will likely always be a need for this in some industries. There is simply no way for a company to be able to guarantee the same level of security (both physical and technical security) than running the facility themselves. In addition, owning a data center allows a company to control exactly how it is used, which isn’t possible in other setups. Many companies today will offload some of their technical needs to edge data centers, some of it to larger-scale cloud facilities, and keep a portion of it in-house at their own location.
Hyperscale data centers are also going to continue to be in demand. These facilities are able to house an incredible number of devices, which gives them the efficiency of size. They can also be located in places that allow them to use inexpensive power, better cooling options, and more. Edge data centers will often use the larger-scale facilities to perform services that aren’t time-sensitive, such as data backup.
Building the Ideal Data Center Ecosystem
While edge data centers have been getting a lot of attention over the past several years, and will likely continue to be a major focus for years to come, they aren’t going to be the only game in town. Global tech demands will almost certainly continue to grow in such a way as to build a need for small localized data centers, edge data centers, and hyperscale facilities long into the future. When working together, these types of data centers can meet the current and future needs of users throughout the world.