Edge computing: What is it? At the end of this article, we hope you’ll be able to answer that question. This was written to provide an understanding of the concept, how it underpins 5G, and how it will influence both mobile operators and enterprises.

Today, enterprises and internet providers use edge computing as a building block to improve performance. Before we explore 5G and edge computing, let’s look at a few of the existing examples to help us understand why it is used.

  • Enterprise email systems deploy edge computers to insulate their employees from the wait time of uploading/downloading large files from a distant mail server as the perceived slowness of the system can trigger performance complaints. If the “edge” of the email system is local, any large files are immediately sent-to or received-from the email system and this hides the potentially long wait times to transmit or receive large files across the network.
  • Internet content distribution networks (CDN) have edge computing nodes installed across the world in wired and cellular networks. Web properties arrange to store digital objects in the distributed nodes as “CDN enabled content.” When they are requested, the CDN determines the nearest edge node to the requestor and serves the content to them from that edge node. The CDN, by delivering content from the edge, assures that the web page loads as fast as possible, no matter where the user is located.

From the examples above, it is clear that edge computing reduces the latency between a device and service where latency is the roundtrip time between two systems over a network. While reducing latency is one of its main benefits, edge computing has other benefits that will be exposed as 5G use cases are discussed.

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