What Is an "Edge Cloud?" The Wild Card That Could Upend the Cloud
The edge of a network, as you may know, is the furthest extent of its reach. A cloud platform is a kind of network overlay that makes multiple network locations part of a single network domain. It should therefore stand to reason that an edge cloud is a single addressable, logical network at the furthest extent of a physical network. And an edge cloud on a global scale should be a way to make multiple, remote data centers accessible as a single pool of resources—of processors, storage, and bandwidth.
The keyword in the above paragraph is "should." Many IT producers stand to benefit from the type of technology from which an edge cloud is built. Theoretically, every user of distributed applications should stand to gain from such a concept coming to fruition. But the world, as evidenced by the recent pandemic, is huge and, perhaps in the social sense, growing larger. The edge of a network run by the operators of hyperscale data centers would, it would seem, be nearer to their customers. The edge of a telecommunications network, you might think, would be at or near their most distant transmitters and base stations. And the edge of a network of colocation facilities might be in small buildings, remote campuses, and even a few closets and basements.
At least that's what you'd think. But none of these locations necessarily intersect with one another. And these locations are not necessarily where it makes the most sense, from a business perspective, to stand up a cluster of servers. So, as it turns out, an edge cloud may turn out to be the set of all locations distributed away from its operator's core, which may be collectively addressable from the same virtual network.
"Edge doesn't exist unto its own," explained Matt Baker, senior vice president of strategy and planning at Dell Technologies, during a press conference earlier this year. "Edge is a part of broader environment: Edge to core to cloud."
The edge cloud your organization may end up using, therefore, may depend on a number of variable factors:
- The availability of fiber-optic cable to link edge data centers to the core of the network, as well as to public cloud data center providers
- The eagerness for states and provinces, cities, and municipalities to motivate and invigorate the investment process in edge facility construction, including with tax incentives
- The willingness of electric power providers to make purchasing deals with edge facility operators
- The availability of sustainable or renewable, three-phase power sources in the area of edge facilities
- The bargaining clout of facilities' operators, especially with regard to hiring and contracting with local resources, and offering low- or no-cost services to city and municipal services
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