Edge computing moves computing and processing power closer to the end user to improve latency, save bandwidth, and potentially improve privacy and security.
At its core, edge computing is a decentralized, distributed computing system as opposed to a centralized one. Decentralized, distributed computing allows more computers to process information at a faster rate and communicate with each other much more efficiently.
When shifting IT operations to the cloud, organizations can offload computing power to edge devices — like laptops or mobile phones — to reduce the stress on their main systems, “lag” time for the end user and bandwidth.
The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) defines edge computing as a way for mobile devices with limited hardware capabilities to access data and computing power via the cloud.
Multinational software company Red Hat defines edge computing as “computing that takes place at or near the physical location of either the user or the source of the data. By placing computing services closer to these locations, users benefit from faster, more reliable services while companies benefit from the flexibility of hybrid cloud computing.”
At Customs and Border Protection (CBP), former CISO Alma Cole said edge computing has the potential to be a “massive game changer.”
“We have these really widespread outposts sometimes, the bandwidth isn't what we would like,” he said. "Instead of feeding all that video, hey wouldn't it be great if you could have the logic out there on the edge looking for anomalies or vehicles or smugglers or drones? And then as they get those signals, notify them and send only the relevant data back over those networks and the ability to preserve your bandwidth in doing that is massive, but importantly the ability to focus your resources and alert those resources to what they actually need to see instead of tying people up looking at screens all day.”
Edge computing is a critical capability for deploying 5G. To take advantage of 5G networks, federal agencies will need edge computing capabilities.
What is the industry perspective on edge computing?
Edge computing is a norm within the world of cloud computing, especially in the past year as most U.S. organizations shifted to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most major software and cloud service providers offer some sort of edge-computing capability.
Which federal agencies are edge computing?
Federal agencies are still getting on board with edge-computing capabilities because not all agencies are finished migrating their IT operations to the cloud. The General Services Administration (GSA), the Defense Department (DOD), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are working on edge-computing capabilities in some capacity.
See below for additional information on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts in this area.