Cloud vs. Edge

A cloud is an IT environment that abstracts, pools, and shares IT resources across a network. An edge is a computing location at the edge of a network, along with the hardware and software at those physical locations. Cloud computing is the act of running workloads within clouds, while edge computing is the act of running workloads on edge devices.


Is an edge part of a cloud?

Kind of.

Edge devices can contribute to a cloud, if the storage and computing capabilities provided by those devices at the endpoints of a network are abstracted, pooled, and shared across a network—essentially becoming part of a larger cloud infrastructure.

Edge computing is not part of a cloud. What makes edge computing so useful is that it is purposefully separate from clouds and cloud computing.

Here’s how we see it:

  • Clouds are places where data can be stored, or applications can run. They are software-defined environments created by datacenters or server farms.
  • Edges are also places where data is collected. They are physical environments made up of hardware outside a datacenter.
  • Cloud computing is an act; the act of running workloads in a cloud.
  • Edge computing is also an act; the act of running workloads on edge devices.

An edge (location) is not the same thing as edge computing (action). Collecting data at the edge of a network and transferring it to a cloud with minimal (if any) modification is not edge computing—it’s just networking.

But, if that data is collected and processed at the edge, then it’s edge computing.

Edge computing is separate from clouds for 2 main reasons:

  1. Time sensitivity. The rate at which a decision needs to be made doesn’t allow for the lag that would normally take place as data is collected by an edge device, transferred to a central cloud without modification, and then processed before a decision is sent back to the edge device for execution.
  2. Data volume. The sheer volume of data collected is too much to send—unaltered—to a cloud.

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