Home IIoT Edge Computing vs. Cloud Computing: Comparisons, Advantages, and Disadvantages

Edge Computing vs. Cloud Computing: Comparisons, Advantages, and Disadvantages

Edge Computing is becoming an indispensable technology for IoT, but it is by no means an all-purpose technology, and there are still some occasional challenges to be solved at present. In this blog, we’ll consider the advantages and disadvantages of Edge Computing, as well as how it compares to cloud computing.

Edge Computing and cloud computing

Edge Computing is an important technology in information utilization, where real-time performance is emphasized. Although there are many excellent benefits to leveraging an Edge Computing platform, there are occasional challenges that should be addressed depending on how the platform is used.
Before making a comparison between Edge Computing and Cloud Computing – including the use cases for each – let’s look at what Edge Computing and cloud computing are.

What is Edge Computing?

Edge Computing is often defined as a distributed open IT architecture in which processing is performed by IoT devices at the edge of a network. While the “edge” of Edge Computing means the edge of the network, the cloud – for example, a data center – is located at the center of the network.
Edge Computing and cloud computing can be considered opposites, but they are not mutually exclusive. Edge Computing is a mechanism that improves processing efficiency by distinguishing between the data that must be processed at the edge and data that can be processed in the cloud side.
By processing data at the edge, an Edge Computing platform prevents load concentration on network paths and data centers, and achieves high-speed processing, minimizing delays.
For more information on Edge Computing, please read the following blog:
Why is Edge Computing attracting attention – What are the differences compared to the cloud and on-premises?

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing leverages computer resources such as storage, applications, services, and databases that can be accessed from multiple remote servers. The cloud enables access from multiple locations and processing of data as needed.
Having computer resources in different locations eliminates the need for companies and individuals to build their own computing environments when using them. With cloud computing, it’s possible to analyze large amounts of data, provide support for multiple users, and develop applications that require advanced processing.
In addition to being able to share information via the Internet, it is also characterized by being able to use systems and applications that are not owned by the company.

Benefits of cloud computing

In the past, organizations typically owned, managed, and operated information systems in-house. With cloud computing, a company doesn’t have its own system, but can use the system via the Internet. Users can leverage these services and applications from anywhere.
The cloud has become popular due to its low initial cost, ease of system expansion according to needs, and high convenience. Below we’ll take a closer look at the benefits of cloud computing.

No time or place restrictions

With cloud computing, services and applications can be used from anywhere as long as there is a terminal – with sufficient performance – that is connected to the Internet. As there are no restrictions on time or place, the range of usage patterns expands and the degree of freedom in providing services increases.

Highly scalable

A major advantage of cloud computing is the ability to expand the system as needed. Even if a company needs more resources than they currently have, they don’t have to set up an in-house computing environment. An organization can expand resources as needed. It can also be scaled down if demand declines.

Effective utilization of hardware resources

Cloud computing also benefits service providers. Multiple users share the same hardware, maximizing resource utilization and making the most of the computing environment they provide.

Improved cost efficiency

Without overspending, users can leverage the resources they need, when they need them. Costs can be changed in response to demand fluctuations and companies can reduce fixed costs, improving financial stability. Essentially, the initial investment can be suppressed because there is no hardware purchase cost.

Easy access to latest technology

Cloud service providers have large data centers and can rapidly deploy the latest hardware and software. Cloud providers are more likely to adopt the latest technology, which means consumers can stay on top of the latest technology as well.

Challenges with using cloud computing

Amid the benefits listed above, the use of cloud computing also poses new challenges, including:

Network connection requirement

To use resources on the cloud, you must be connected to the Internet. If there is a problem or trouble with the network, there is a risk that the entire system will not be available and business operations will stop.

Security risks depend on cloud servers

As critical data is stored on cloud servers, countermeasures against external cyberattacks will depend on the security of those cloud servers. If there is a security breach, all the data could be leaked.

Delays due to increased traffic

Cloud computing often involves frequent client-side communication. In addition, the amount of data to be sent and received is enormous because various processes are performed on the cloud server. When such data transmission and reception are concentrated, data congestion – or delay due to increased communication traffic – occurs. For systems that require continuous operations or real-time processing, the impact is even greater.

Advantages of Edge Computing

Edge Computing produces a variety of benefits through distributed processing. Among them, there are many elements that solve the challenges of cloud computing. Let’s take a look at the benefits Edge Computing brings:

Less delay and improved real-time performance

In cloud computing, a time lag of several hundred milliseconds to several seconds occurs due to sending and receiving data to and from distant cloud servers. With Edge Computing, processing that needs to avoid delays can be managed on a nearby computer, making it possible to process data without delay. This ensures the real-time nature of data utilization.

Improved security through distributed storage of data

Security risks, information leaks, and external attacks are always a concern when storing corporate and personal information in the cloud. However, with Edge Computing, the risk of a data breach is reduced because data is processed on the edge side and stored in a distributed manner at the edge and in the cloud.

Communication traffic optimization

Edge Computing processes all data at the edge without aggregating it to the cloud. This can reduce communication volume and optimize communication traffic. Traffic is less likely to be delayed when it needs to be sent to or received from the cloud. Additionally, organizations can cut communication costs by reducing the amount of data sent to the cloud and the amount of communication.

Business continuity when network trouble occurs

When all data is operated on the cloud, it can be difficult to reliably carry out business that requires data amid cloud service failures or network troubles. If the necessary data is processed on the edge side by an Edge Computing platform, it is possible to continue business even if network trouble occurs. Edge Computing is therefore also a measure for business continuity planning (BCP).

Challenges with using Edge Computing

While there are various benefits, there are some challenges in optimizing the use of Edge Computing, such as:

System complexity and cost

Edge Computing requires as many edge servers as there are lines and bases. Therefore, the number of hardware increases and the system can become complicated. As hardware is required for the number of lines and bases, the initial cost and system development cost will increase.

Securing human resources and training costs

As Edge Computing is often distributed in each location, it is sometimes not possible for one person to centrally manage many multiple terminals, especially if something goes wrong on a manufacturing plant floor, for example, and there is limited IT expertise. As a result, the cost of training personnel tends to increase. Securing on-site personnel can be the biggest issue in Edge Computing operations, which is why selecting a simple, protected, and autonomous Edge Computing platform is essential.

Data storage capacity

Typically, edge computers, such as industrial PCs, do not have a large memory capacity. Because of this, it’s not possible to store all data forever. The data used for analysis is often deleted after a certain period of time or after the analysis results have been sent to the cloud server. It is necessary to select which data to keep and which data to store at the edge and in the cloud.

Edge Computing and cloud computing use cases

As we have seen so far, there are advantages and disadvantages to both using cloud computing alone and using it in combination with Edge Computing. Depending on the situation and environment, organizations must look at different use cases and decide which is best for them.

Suitable use cases for cloud computing

Back-office operations are required to improve work efficiency and reduce costs – but speed in milliseconds is generally not required. For example, clerical work that supports sales is important, but does not require real-time performance in milliseconds for a single task. In the same environment, it’s essential to improve demand forecasting accuracy by analyzing accumulated data. In both cases, cloud computing – which can store large amounts of data and is more cost effective – is a practical choice.

Suitable use cases for Edge Computing

At production sites, there is a growing demand for data processing in milliseconds due to the sophistication of machinery and the shortening of manufacturing cycles. Latency has a greater impact when processing in milliseconds is desired. It is extremely difficult to eliminate delays with cloud computing, and the required level of processing speed and real-time performance will not be achieved.
Edge Computing is suitable for situations where such precise real-time performance is required. By meeting the required speed, it becomes possible to automate the production line and improve the manufacturing cycle, and there are cost benefits by combining the use of IoT with high-speed data processing.
Additionally, Edge Computing is essential when managing confidential data as it can separate which data needs to be communicated externally and which data must be processed internally – such as that confidential data – improving cybersecurity and preventing data breaches.

Future Trends in Edge Computing

Edge Computing and cloud computing are often compared as contrasting technologies. However, Edge Computing divides processing between both the edge side and the cloud side. Therefore, the benefits of cloud computing are also the benefits of Edge Computing.
Edge Computing is predicted to become increasingly important as the real-time nature of data becomes more important. The following points can be considered as reasons for the increasing importance of Edge Computing.

Relevance to IoT/AI/5G

IoT is already widespread in various fields. With many devices sending and receiving large amounts of data, the load on network routes and cloud servers is also increasing.
For example, real-time data processing is extremely important in fields such as autonomous driving technology where even a small delay can lead to a large risk. Additionally, with the practical application of AI (artificial intelligence), it is increasingly possible to omit the work process of “human judgment”. As high-speed processing by AI becomes possible, maintaining that speed will also become a challenge.
Furthermore, 5G has enabled high-speed, large-capacity, low-delay communication. However, even if the speed of communication improves, if there is a delay in data processing, the characteristics of 5G cannot be fully utilized. The combination of 5G and Edge Computing is expected to enable even lower latency processing.

Promotion of Society 5.0

Society 5.0 has been proposed as the fifth new society, following Society 1.0 to Society 4.0, which encompass hunting society, agricultural society, industrial society, and information society. It was also launched as a policy of the Cabinet Office and represents the social model that we should aim for in the future.
Society 5.0 is defined as a society that fuses and utilizes cyberspace (virtual space) and physical space (real space). Through the fusion of cyberspace and physical space, IoT will enable all people and things to be connected, and knowledge and information can easily be shared. Through this, we aim to create unprecedented new value and achieve both economic development and the resolution of social issues.
To achieve Society 5.0, all IT utilization such as IoT, robot technology, AI, and big data is necessary. Edge Computing, which enables high-speed processing and real-time performance, is also important for utilizing these technologies at a higher level.
The government is promoting smart cities as a way to bring Society 5.0 to the forefront. Data management becomes even more important in projects that are deeply involved in people’s lives. Under these circumstances, the importance of Edge Computing, which ensures real-time data, improves operational continuity, and reduces security risks, is expected to grow even more.

The best choice in an era when real-time data is essential

In this blog we covered the challenges of both Edge Computing and cloud computing. Cost is unfortunately a challenge when it comes to Edge Computing, but as system development methods evolve and hardware prices drop, this is expected to take a turn and improve.
It’s critical to determine where and for what purpose an organization will leverage either Edge Computing or cloud computing. Whether its in a manufacturing plant or a small office, leaders have that decision to make.

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