The Advantages and Challenges of Going ‘Edge Native’
As the internet fills every nook and cranny of our lives, it runs into greater complexity for developers, operations engineers, and the organizations that employ them. How do you reduce latency? How do you comply with the regulations of each region or country where you have a virtual presence? How do you keep data near where it’s actually used?
For a growing number of organizations, the answer is to use the edge.
In this episode of the New Stack Makers podcast, Ron Lev, general manager of Cox Edge, and Sheraline Barthelmy, head of product, marketing and customer success for Cox Edge, were joined by Chetan Venkatesh, founder and CEO of Macrometa. The trio discussed the best use cases for edge computing, the advantages it can bring, and the challenges that remain.
The podcast was hosted by Heather Joslyn, features editor of The New Stack.
The edge is composed of servers that are physically located close to the customers who will use them — the “last mile” served by local internet service providers like Cox and its rivals.
For developers, noted Venkatesh in this podcast episode, it presents “an additional and very interesting new avant-garde infrastructure to build and run their apps on.”
The advantages of the edge include a potential reduction in latency, because the data has a shorter distance to travel to reach users. “You can move a lot of product using cloud, the way ships can move a lot of product — but it’s slow,” said Venkatesh.
“To get from Point A to Point B takes days, weeks, months. Especially in intercontinental distances, networks are kind of like that. Except we’re talking about timing in seconds and milliseconds.”
Edge computing, he said, is much like the introduction of air travel to the shipping industry — cutting the travel time to serve users much faster. He called it “the Amazon Prime of cloud computing.”
Macrometa provides a developer platform that helps devs create “edge native” applications and APIs. To ensure that apps built for the edge comply with the regulations of the places they may run in, appropriate rules and policies are bound to data.
The adoption of edge computing is helping to spur innovation in new technologies, which will help solve problems for developers, Barthelmy said.
Two use cases in particular, she said, offer promise: in retail and financial services. “In retail, it opens up tremendous opportunities,” Barthelmy said. For example, “They can now use real-time contextual recommendations for in-store shoppers, just like we do online.”
In financial services, edge computing can also help personalize the customer experience, she said, using data from customers’ online activity to find out what interests them and tailor their offerings accordingly.
The era of commercial edge computing is new, Lev acknowledged, and some challenges are still being addressed. So far, he said, “the edge is a scarce resource.” For companies that operate edge data centers — like Cox, which brings internet service to 10 million households — there’s the question of scaling.
“Can we unlock additional locations?” he asked, posing the questions that all edge providers grapple with. “How can we expand across different footprints [where] we do not operate the network?”
For developers and their organizations, said Venkatesh, “the challenge is that it’s not well known yet, what those amazing problems are that can be solved by edge computing.”