Moving logic and intelligence to the edge is a hot topic, but people tend to talk about future edge computing use cases and overlook the value edge can provide today.
At the virtual Edge Roundtable presented by Akamai on March 25, 2021, Lelah Manz, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Web Performance, Ari Weil, Vice President of Product Marketing, and Mohammed Aboul-Magd, Senior Director of Products, shared examples of how businesses and organizations are using — or can use — edge today.
The panel began the roundtable by pointing out that “edge” is used in different ways throughout the industry. For their discussion, the panel defined edge as going beyond the cloud to provide points of presence as close as possible between the service provider and the user. When that distance is minimized, quality of service, scalability and responsiveness improve.
Although latency is often measured in milliseconds, when a service relies on multiple microservices, that time can add up, in some cases, to the point where users can get the content or performance they need. Edge computing, which works complementary to the cloud and on-premises data centers, solves those challenges.
Edge Computing Use Cases
The panel discussed a list of use cases that edge computing addresses, including:
- Online grocery ordering: Personalizing online ordering takes associating the user with a local store and displaying that customer’s favorites or previous orders to create a faster, more convenient experience. Edge improves geolocation – no flickering as the user goes to the main site and then reroutes to the local store’s site and decreases latency during the ordering process. Edge can also help grocers to scale their online ordering services so that they can fulfill and deliver orders faster.
- Tracking marketing campaign performance: Marketing campaigns often have a long string of additional characters at the end of their URLs that track interest in different advertising platforms and where leads originated. But that strategy can impact user experience by slowing down content delivery. Edge can separate what marketers need from what consumers want, improving response while still collecting campaign data.
- Scalping and fraud prevention: At sporting events or concerts, attendants at gates scan tickets, but their devices often don’t communicate bidirectionally to tell each scanner that a ticket has been used. Edge can enable devices to share that information to decrease fraud without impacting guest experiences.
- Non-fungible tokens (NFTs): Using cryptographic tokens that are not mutually interchangeable (e.g., network or utility tokens) can take minutes to process because of latency. Edge can improve transaction time and provide scalability to these marketplaces.
- Security: Edge computing can enable businesses and organizations to identify threats, differentiate non-critical alerts from true attacks, and have quick access to security intelligence. It can also decrease the latency that security solutions create — and the temptation to disable or work around them.
COVID-19 and Edge Computing
The panel also discussed edge computing use cases related to the coronavirus pandemic. For example, vaccine registration sites are experiencing high traffic. Aboul-Magd says, “Scale is a big challenge. People want a good experience. They don’t want to be faced with a page that doesn’t load. Sites need to be able to handle the number of people coming to them.”
He says an Akamai partner has developed a waiting room solution that, using edge computing, helps control traffic, minimizes latency and enables large scale.
Manz adds that since COVID-19 has driven new consumers online, edge enables strong online brand experiences, the capability to evolve quickly and create online communities and personalized service. “It’s all about how to capture the attention of new people coming online, getting them to stay on the site, convert, and come back,” she says.
The Role of Edge
In most cases, edge isn’t a silver bullet where all computing will take place. For example, in AI automation use cases, training is best handled in the cloud and execution at the edge. But, especially as 5G rolls out with faster speeds and Wi-Fi-like performance, Weil says enterprises are taking a closer look at the edge for the role it can play in IT.
“Heavy workloads will be centralized, lighter weight in the cloud, and responses that must take place immediately, at the edge,” he comments.
Edge will also play a vital role in establishing data threads, collecting data, and maximizing the value it provides. “Now, bigger players are better at planning because they see so much — they have intelligence you can only get from a distributed edge platform,” says Weil. “But we are expecting to see surges in demand.”