Microsoft has recently announced its new Azure Edge Zones, and it’s being heralded as a large step forward for edge and cloud computing, with experts saying that it represents an extremely important part of our progress toward a faster, more cohesive global network. Azure Edge Zones are cloud native software applications that are being run on edge-based devices that can be found within a network infrastructure, and are able to broadcast on a 5G service. 5G is only now coming into the world of wireless tech, and it’s offering speeds as high as 20Gbps, meaning that we’re starting to see wireless speeds matching even the best hard ethernet available in an office.

How It Works

Edge is the latest buzzword in the tech industry, but it also might just be the most important, as it represents an amalgamation of all the developments of the last few years into a single solution. Edge-powered devices are IoT devices that are part of a network, but that are able to use specialised hardware and software to perform processes that would otherwise only be able to be processed within the cloud. This represents a problem, as it means that any new data that a non-edge device collects needs to first be sent to the cloud for processing before the processed data can be properly utilised, which adds a fair amount of latency per online transaction. This increases the latency of a network, uses up bandwidth, and adds extra costs to a workplace.

By removing the need for the processing to be sent to the cloud, latency is vastly improved, bandwidth is freed, and processes can be completed on-site. Edge computing is often done through specialised accelerator processors that are able to use neural networks and AI-based applications to perform the tasks at hand, and we might even see it in our daily driver tech, whether it’s watching a YouTube video, playing online bingo for real money, or doing heavier graphical processing.

What To Expect

Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and AWS are all using their cloud as a centralised tool, meaning that all IoT devices need to take the extra time, which can often be tens of milliseconds, to communicate with the cloud they’re connected to. Edge computing would see cloud computing resources dispersed down into hardware instead, meaning that the hardware would be given the burden of dealing with on-site processing.

This technology has been pushed to the cutting edge of development thanks mainly to the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as big companies like Google and Apple team up to make use of contact tracing. The deployment of 5G, while not quite at optimal levels just yet, may provide the core network necessary for edge computing to expand its reach on a wider, more global scale.

Only The Beginning

It’s worth noting that Microsoft’s Azure Edge Zones are only the first foray into edge computing, and it will undoubtedly see their main competitors double their efforts to catch up and even surpass the capabilities of Microsoft at this time. And despite the progress that has been made, it will require some tweaks to 5G and further implementation before we begin to see edge computing become a part of the workplace or home.

Anna Jones
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