For the experienced reader, Edge computing should not be too hard to comprehend. In July 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon, in large part due to its innovative guidance system powered by its onboard computer with its 2048-word memory. Three months later, on the 29th of October, computers at Stanford and UCLA connected using the US Military’s ARPANET packet switching network. The subsequent half-century saw exponential increases in the transfer of memory, processing, and storage of devices into data servers which themselves metamorphosed into the cloud and related cloud services.
The last few years have seen a reversal of this process, bringing the work of computing back closer to the ‘computers,’ be they a PC, a smartwatch, a fridge, or indeed a spacecraft. However, this Internet of Things (IoT) still needs to communicate with the broader world and to do so in an IT environment full of malevolent actors, exceptionally securely. So what has driven this significant development? How can all the benefits of cloud computing be maintained, and why do enterprises benefit from Edge computing?
As the name implies, Edge works as close as practical to the machines that do the actual computing. The two most important advantages of this are:
- the reduction in latency that is inherent in cloud or centralized networks and is vital to real-time applications
- the reduction in required bandwidth and thus the overall cost of systems
IoT drove the development of Edge computing. A single device can easily transmit data across a centralized network, but when the number of devices transferring vast amounts of data multiplies, processing slows considerably and can impede mission-critical applications. When the hardware and related services are located within the device or, more commonly, on the Edge of a network of devices, processing can be accelerated to real-time. For example, consider the algorithm that allows your phone to open with facial recognition. In its infancy, this would potentially have been processed by servers in the cloud that could be many thousands of miles away. The processing power now available allows your phone to process and snap open instantaneously. Now imagine the need of smart cars!
Many enterprises work based on distributed computing, thus dividing processing tasks amongst a network of computers, enabling them to operate as a single machine. This maximizes processing power using the most cost-effective and efficient way of connecting users and the IT infrastructure of the enterprise. Using an Edge computing infrastructure on a distributed computing network increases speed and efficiency while lowering cost.
However, solving efficiency issues can lead to the creation of a new problem, namely security. Cloud or centralized systems have robust security solutions built into their architecture. On the Edge, things are more complicated.
For example, machine learning algorithms, which are now a crucial component of many networked systems, involve a vast transmission and sharing of the data of multiple machines. From the moment data moves off a machine, it is susceptible to interception. This can be solved by the Edge computing infrastructure leaving the datasets on the machines and only transmitting the AI lessons learned by individual machines to contribute to the whole.
Edge computers are also susceptible to electronic sniffing. This requires a high level of sophistication by a hacker. With the proper knowledge and equipment, typically in close proximity to the server, the radiation emitted by electronic devices at specific frequencies can reveal not the data itself but the encryption keys that secure it.
As mission-critical tasks are moving increasingly to the Edge, enhanced security is a vital necessity, especially in the protection of payment systems and protection of IP. Hub Security has developed a range of products to increase security without interfering with the very benefits Edge computing offers. Our tamper-proof boxes sit atop the system employing a sophisticated array of defensive tactics. These include layers of Hardware Secure Modules (HSM), firewalls, zero trust, and AI working in synchrony to keep you safe. Safe at the Edge enforcing isolation concepts and safe within the network while further protecting whatever data needs to be transmitted externally.