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Edge Computing: Explained (theverge.com) 159

An anonymous reader shares a report from The Verge, written by Paul Miller: In the beginning, there was One Big Computer. Then, in the Unix era, we learned how to connect to that computer using dumb (not a pejorative) terminals. Next we had personal computers, which was the first time regular people really owned the hardware that did the work. Right now, in 2018, we're firmly in the cloud computing era. Many of us still own personal computers, but we mostly use them to access centralized services like Dropbox, Gmail, Office 365, and Slack. Additionally, devices like Amazon Echo, Google Chromecast, and the Apple TV are powered by content and intelligence that's in the cloud -- as opposed to the DVD box set of Little House on the Prairie or CD-ROM copy of Encarta you might've enjoyed in the personal computing era. As centralized as this all sounds, the truly amazing thing about cloud computing is that a seriously large percentage of all companies in the world now rely on the infrastructure, hosting, machine learning, and compute power of a very select few cloud providers: Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and IBM.

The advent of edge computing as a buzzword you should perhaps pay attention to is the realization by these companies that there isn't much growth left in the cloud space. Almost everything that can be centralized has been centralized. Most of the new opportunities for the "cloud" lie at the "edge." The word edge in this context means literal geographic distribution. Edge computing is computing that's done at or near the source of the data, instead of relying on the cloud at one of a dozen data centers to do all the work. It doesn't mean the cloud will disappear. It means the cloud is coming to you.
Miller goes on to "examine what people mean practically when they extoll edge computing," focusing on latency, privacy and security, and bandwidth.
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Edge Computing: Explained

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2018 @11:43PM (#56571442)

    It is inevitable that as computers get more capable, these cloud services will become less attractive. Things I want private: Information Search, speech recognition, personal assistance, geographical services, etc.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It is inevitable that as computers get more capable, these cloud services will become less attractive. Things I want private: Information Search, speech recognition, personal assistance, geographical services, etc.

      Don't forget the underwater bathtub camera.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        In Japan, we have had toilets with inspection camera so that physicians may inspect stool remotely. They never see the subject's face and are able to inspect fecal matters without having to handle them.

    • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2018 @12:02AM (#56571534) Journal
      That's not going to happen.

      Basically what it means is that Google will manage the software that is running on your devices. They will run whatever software they want on your devices without telling you what is going on. Besides "managed OS for IoT devices" this also means things like Google docs that can work in offline mode, that do most of their work on your device, but also sync with the cloud (as opposed to doing everything on the server thrrough rest APIs).

      There is nothing new about this at all, but now there is a name for it, and people are building frameworks so even the dumbest programmers around can do it.
      • Google is has nothing on Amazon.

      • Basically what it means is that Google will manage the software that is running on your devices.

        Yep, does that for my Android phone. I manually update software packages though, automatically backing them up as they're installed. If something suddenly doesn't meet my needs but the previous version did, then I force downgrade and (manually :-( ) hold that one in place.

        Currently, that's Google News and Weather (so it launched my preferred browser, not the embedded Chrome one) and Back Button, which doesn't have a noisy full-screen ad every 15 minutes.

        And you do know on an Android phone (and I susp

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Information Search, speech recognition, personal assistance, geographical services, etc.
      10 years from now, some company is going to make a killing selling me a device that can do those things and not have to connect. This is how Google falls.
                             

      • 10 years from now, some company is going to make a killing selling me a device that can do those things and not have to connect

        You aren't a market. People like you (such as myself) who value that, aren't a big enough market for anyone to make a killing from us. Between first-to-market advantages and lower costs because of centralising those tasks, I'm not seeing how a new competitor is going to be cheaper or offer more, and absent those you don't have a competitor.

        This is how Google falls

        Perhaps. Established players become complacent and can be outcompeted by changes in the market. I'm just not sure that 'not connected' is going to be that watershed.

        • companies like google, MS, amazon will leverage their data harvesting bullshit to subsidize devices. Privacy oriented devices will not have that monetization to cushion the up-front cost.

          To the average consumer things like "we don't harvest your information, your privacy is *actually* important to us" are completely opaque, and don't enter into the equation -- and as such, do not win out over large price differences.

          FB and the Cambridge debacle result in minor, temporary outrage, and then it's back to the

        • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

          Sadly I agree with you I don't see a 'return' to personal computing. I don't edge computing to be much more than hype and buzz either frankly. If anything its going to be edge data-acquisition and ship it back to the cloud. We are mostly already there.

          There is to much advantage in 'the network' for Joe Average. Sure you and I can setup DNS and firewall rules and maybe a reverse proxy / dmz, setting up the certificate authorization etc so we can unlock the doors to our smart home or change the hvac setti

          • As others have noted, 'Edge' looks like the latest round of hype now that 'cloud' has pretty much settled down. It's an attempt to create a difference where there really isn't one.

            As you say, for most people who have neither the inclination or skills to set a lot of this up for themselves, the convenience of having someone manage this for them trumps privacy, security or the sort of control that I/we might value.

            Cloud is here to stay and better serves most people. There are probably more people, now, who ca

      • I'm afraid that "The edge" won't have the collected data from all the other devices used to tune systems such as speech recognition and geographical services. That data is bulky, and is constantly being tuned with the data from the _other_ devices. Constantly updating the edge devices for entirely local processing would be prohibitively expensive in terms of data storage and data transmitted for "edge" devices.

    • If you want your privacy back then demand your data back. Ask where your data is going with each transaction. Now, for the type of data I have, I trust encryption to protect my data going over the internet, but we've learned that any time we turn our data over to someone else that it's not a matter of "if" but "when" that data will find itself somewhere we would rather it not be.

      In today's environment of easy access to home internet with speeds that rival a LAN of not too long ago, it's not hard to contro

    • It is inevitable that as computers get more capable, these cloud services will become less attractive.

      What leap of logic led you to that conclusion? Computers are far more than capable to do the things we currently rely on the cloud for, and have been for MANY years.

    • Free floating hydron comes together to form stars, and in the process creates all kinds of new things, such as carbon. Carbon comes together to form molecules, and in the process creates all kinds of new things, such as humans. Humans come together to form communities, and in the process create all kinds of new things, such as computers and data. Computers and data comes together to form the cloud, and in the process all kinds of new things are created, such as <insert future stuff>.

      Why fight so hard

    • The point in Edge Computing, like it was with the old school system with dumb terminals and mainframes, a.k.a "Big Iron", is to make the user-facing part of the system less cumbersome (can you imagine a company deploying PDP-11s like personal computers?) and cut down on total system costs by concentrating the expensive parts of the system in a few places shares by hordes of users. It was and is essentially all about utilizing computing resources better, reducing overall redundancies and offering end users l
      • by kenh ( 9056 )

        (can you imagine a company deploying PDP-11s like personal computers?)

        In the Fall of 1983 Stevens Institute of Technology did just that [divched.org] - I was in that freshman class.

    • i have a vocore that speaks, runs on aa-batteries and is wi-fi connected , hm ... no tracking there but it can tell me when my cat came in or out if i have at least two cams connected to other pc's but so basically after the mainframe it went to the attic, back to the mainframe called the cloud, back to the attic called edge its like fashion in a fashion then, only shinier with more fools gold
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2018 @11:56PM (#56571492)

    I thought the only thing people used Edge for was to download Chrome.

  • Reading the article, all I see being described is the idea of going back to local processing and computation. Which, by definition, is not new. And definitely not edgy. Then again, how will I promote myself as an expert unless I make shit up?
  • Poe's Law (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday May 07, 2018 @11:57PM (#56571504) Journal
    These are the first two lines from the article:

    Companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have proven to us that we can trust them with our personal data. Now it’s time to reward that trust by giving them complete control over our computers, toasters, and cars.

    There is no way anyone is crazy enough to write those lines in all seriousness.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      These are the first two lines from the article:

      Companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have proven to us that we can trust them with our personal data. Now it’s time to reward that trust by giving them complete control over our computers, toasters, and cars.

      There is no way anyone is crazy enough to write those lines in all seriousness.

      Read the top - theverge.com

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's possible this article was planted/written by the coalition of those companies, who are trying to convince that "we don't need privacy any more"

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by thegarbz ( 1787294 )

      There is no way anyone is crazy enough to write those lines in all seriousness.

      So as a matter of interest, why? Can you show a deliberate act where those 3 parties have abused or failed to secure your data? From the big three data leaks have ultimately resulted from users misconfiguring the services and nothing more. In the mean time there are Fortune 500 companies lining up to put secret and critical data on these services, and by that I mean shareprice moving data.

      What makes your toaster so important?

      • Re:Poe's Law (Score:4, Informative)

        by StormReaver ( 59959 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2018 @08:03AM (#56572866)

        Can you show a deliberate act where those 3 parties have abused or failed to secure your data?

        Each of those companies have abused and failed to secure people's data many thousands of times a year, and those are just the ones they are legally allowed to tell us about. Microsoft just fought and lost a years-long battle over this very thing, as Congress now mandates that those companies abuse and fail to secure our data as a matter of law.

        What makes your toaster so important?

        Because we in the U.S. have a right to protect our toasters from unreasonable searches and seizures. Putting all of your stuff onto someone else's computers is being interpreted by our Judicial branch as voluntarily waiving those rights.

        So thanks, but no thanks.

        • Each of those companies have abused and failed to secure people's data many thousands of times a year

          Saying it is, doesn't make it so.

          Microsoft just fought and lost a years-long battle over this very thing, as Congress now mandates that those companies abuse and fail to secure our data as a matter of law.

          Oh so putting yourself in a position where your data may be discovered by a legal process is bad, I get it now. In the business we call this outsourcing. I mean it's not like you get to keep this data when the feds come knocking on *your* door right?

          But seriously if all you have to go on is legal compliance then I consider this an incredible positive result.

          • by Jerry ( 6400 )

            Each of those companies have abused and failed to secure people's data many thousands of times a year

            Saying it is, doesn't make it so.

            Microsoft just fought and lost a years-long battle over this very thing, as Congress now mandates that those companies abuse and fail to secure our data as a matter of law.

            Oh so putting yourself in a position where your data may be discovered by a legal process is bad, I get it now. In the business we call this outsourcing. I mean it's not like you get to keep this data when the feds come knocking on *your* door right?

            But seriously if all you have to go on is legal compliance then I consider this an incredible positive result.

            Are you trolling, or are you able to understand what he is saying? When you troll saying " ... I get it now", you actually have no clue. Watch and learn:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

            • Nope, I asked him to come up with examples and he provided examples of submitting to a legal process. That isn't "failing to secure data" by any stupid stretch of the phrase.

          • Saying it is, doesn't make it so.

            These companies are served thousands of National Security Letters every year, because they are a one-stop shop for Law Enforcement. It's much, much easier for the Feds to abuse a few enormous data stores than it is to pursue each of them individually. As such, those data stores are ripe for abuse. You are FAR more likely to be the victim of collateral damage when you take part in those huge data stores than you are as an individual.

            Oh so putting yourself in a position where your data may be discovered by a legal process is bad...

            Absolutely. Even if, or especially if, you're sure you've done nothing i

            • No, you don't.

              No YOU don't. I asked for examples where companies failed to secure data, and you provided examples where companies handed over information they were legally required to, an great example of companies following laws and handling data correctly.

      • Can you show a deliberate act where those 3 parties have abused or failed to secure your data?

        I have never failed to secure any data you sent me, or abused it. I assume you then trust me with your data - actually, that I've proven that you can trust me.

        Accidental data leaks are just as bad as deliberate security failures, so strike "deliberate" from your list. As far as "abuse" goes, how would I detect if Microsoft or Google or Amazon was abusing my data?

        It may be that those companies have excellent

        • I have never failed to secure any data you sent me, or abused it. I assume you then trust me with your data

          Yes that's the nature of trust, except I don't trust you. I have no evidence to backup that trust.

          Accidental data leaks are just as bad as deliberate security failures

          You are perfectly right.

          As far as "abuse" goes, how would I detect if Microsoft or Google or Amazon was abusing my data?

          It may be that those companies have excellent security (although no security is perfect) and have never abused data. That doesn't mean they've been proven trustworthy.

          And that last part of your sentence doesn't agree with the rest of your post. You see the untrustworthy act doesn't need to be on *your* data. With these companies handling the likes of Fortune 500 companies, along with many zetabytes worth of customer data mistrust and abuse on any scale would have come to light by now.

          If I show you a google search of my name and say "see I've never bee

    • There is no way anyone is crazy enough to write those lines in all seriousness.

      I mean there is always the possibility of astroturfing and considering how the media industry has on the whole done nothing but lost money for the last few years it's probably to be expected for them to utilize every revenue stream available regardless of morality. Damn well wouldn't be first time a U.S based outlet, respected or not, lets their platform be used for astrotufing in return for compensation.

      Then again we are talking about consumer electronics press here and consumer electronics press has pr

    • Re:Poe's Law (Score:4, Informative)

      by gaspyy ( 514539 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2018 @09:24AM (#56573254)

      Of course not. Read the conclusion of the article:

      When the devices in your home and garage are managed by Google Amazon Microsoft Apple, you don’t have to worry about security. You don’t have to worry about updates. You don’t have to worry about functionality. You don’t have to worry about capabilities. You’ll just take what you’re given and use it the best you can. In this worst-case world, you wake up in the morning and ask Alexa Siri Cortana Assistant what features your corporate overlords have pushed to your toaster, dishwasher, car, and phone overnight. In the personal computer era you would “install” software. In the edge computing era, you’ll only use it.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      There is no way anyone is crazy enough to write those lines in all seriousness.

      Unless they are in the back pockets of one or more of those 4 companies. Greed is rational if your main goal is to gain money.

    • Companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have proven to us that we can trust them with our personal data. Now it’s time to reward that trust by giving them complete control over our computers, toasters, and cars.

      I'm having a great deal of trouble nailing down exactly what genre of comedy that this falls into. Is it surreal? Is it deadpan? Is it insult? Cringe? Anti-humor? Black?

    • They are a thing in PR and CIA/NSA-like agencies, and likey have been at least since the world wars.

      I recently even saw a lecture, teaching it to the newest version of corporate sleazebags.

      The main trick that makes it work, just like with any good con, is that nobody (normal) can believe anyone woule be *that* deceitful and manipulative. (And that it would be that big and that old.)

  • Because "Client side processing" is soooo 90s and early 2000s!!

    (rolls eyes)

    • by lucm ( 889690 )

      Because "Client side processing" is soooo 90s and early 2000s!!

      (rolls eyes)

      Edge computing doesn't mean client-side computing. It means that The Big Cloud has a lot ot Tiny Clouds spread all over the globe to store your browsing history (and emails if you use gmail) closer to regional advertisers.

  • A lot of people have swallowed the "container in the cloud" kool-aid by the gallons. Espousing it has the cure-all for all your computing needs. I'm far less enthusiastic about it. I can see it being very useful for many things, but is not the final answer. Unfortunately, I'm dealing with the zealots on a daily basis.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Many of us still own personal computers, but we mostly use them to access centralized services like Dropbox, Gmail, Office 365, and Slack"

    No we don't, lol.

    • I think the article refers to the hundreds of millions of appliance users who have a mobile phone or tablet. Not the traditional slashdot user who might be compiling their own software, tinkering with software defined radio or cranking up bleeding edge graphics for a first person shooter. There is a distinction between the two use cases which means that "edge" or personal computing has never gone away. It may also be the case that people may be reconsidering their trust in cloud services and want to keep th

  • by Stomper_Stoddard ( 930896 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2018 @12:05AM (#56571540) Journal
    examine what people mean practically when they extoll edge computing," focusing on latency, privacy and security, and bandwidth."
    This sounds suspiciously like returning data from the cloud to my personal computer and the pendulum is swinging back again. In the 80's we had dumb terminals, in the 90's we had thin clients and then in the 2000's we got the cloud, all of these things were more or less the same thing. Dumb terminals and thin clients failed because of latency and bandwidth, the cloud will fail because of privacy and security.
    • by rapjr ( 732628 )
      In part edge computing is driven by advances in the speed and low power cost of MCU's, which just now are capable of running some types of machine learning. There are several advantages to local computing, see our paper: NoCloud: Exploring Network Disconnection through On-Device Data Analysis https://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~... [dartmouth.edu]
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      This sounds like a re-launch of fog computing. Push the load on to the clients. Use it as an excuse to control the clients.

    • The old mainframe/dumb terminal solution was still owned by the corporation you worked for. Thus, they owned the presentation and the processing, storage, etc.

      The cloud, by comparison means someone else owns the processing and storage ("BYOD" on a global scale, if you prefer to think of it like that). This is the key difference, which will (I suspect) end as you say due to privacy and security issues.

    • by lazarus ( 2879 )

      Actually we haven't been here before. Although you bring up some good points, what is different this time is that a mature set of virtualization and orchestration tools combined with much more rigorous design around data centers gives us capability on-demand. The ability to be agile without a big up-front outlay of capital. Access to tons of APIs to help us get to EOJ faster. Why would you build your own shopping cart, streaming service, deep learning platform? You could (maybe), but you just don't nee

    • Not necessarily back to your computer, but back to something more important perhaps. Your automobile, a traffic light, a power plant, and so forth. That is, you rely on reflex actions rather than waiting for the brain to respond.

  • Next, everyone will discover that local computing actually has its benefits and the cycle will start again. Personally, I have zero hot vapor ("cloud") needs at this time and I will just continue to ignore this insanity. It does affect my work negatively though.

    • by lucm ( 889690 )

      The Cloud can be useful. For instance I pay $5/month for Office365, where I have a big inbox for +50 domains, and I have a TB of OneDrive storage, and once in a blue moon when I need to use Excel or Word I can use the web version. If it was $100/month I'd probably put together my own box and stash it somewhere in a closet, but for $5 it's totally worth letting Microsoft deal with the hassle.

      Virtual machines are a different beast. It's very expensive to get anything semi-reliable in the cloud (no SLA unless

    • by swb ( 14022 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2018 @08:29AM (#56572968)

      I read an interesting comment the other day where it was theorized that once the cloud gets past some tipping point, on-premise hardware will lose its economies of scale due to less adoption and few organizations will be able to go back on premise because the equipment will be too expensive. OEMs will be mostly producing parts for custom cloud provider designs and they won't be useful for on-prem purposes.

      I don't know that I buy it completely, but found it thought provoking. You would think that virtualization would have also had this effect -- even small companies I work for used to have 3-4 physical servers and now only have 1-2 for their workloads, yet server prices haven't gone though the roof, although it may just be that aggregate growth is so good that it covers up for it or even reduces demand-side inflation.

      It does kind of make me wonder what economies of scale would have done for physical server prices if virtualization hadn't been widely adopted and organizations that buy 4 servers for their 100 VMs were still buying a nearly equivalent number of physical servers. We'd probably be doing what we used to do, cramming a bunch of unrelated services onto the same OS box wherever there wasn't a service/port/utilization conflict rather than splitting out services into single-service VMs.

      Every once in a while I still run into a random client with a shitload of physical servers and it's kind of staggering. The last one was a company that had the same CFO and IT director for 20 years and an AS/400 shop with a really old-school IBM commitment.

    • The "edge" will be a lot of things, as in Internet-of-Things. So the edge is not necessarily your PC or computing device. The description above just seems to be one vague description, but before this article all of the "edge computing" I had heard about was in regards to IoT types of applications. We've had some of this for a long time, just not called that. Ie, to prevent power blackouts there are devices that can sense problems and cut off circuits automatically. But even smarter would be if those se

  • ... that's the reality, corporations can simply force software to be bicycle chained to computers in their offices and warehouses halfway across the world because the fibre optic cables we've layed over the planet has granted them super powers to take products hostage, pre internet they had to give us the shit we were paying for. Post internet they can simply take them hostage and the tech literate adults are trapped hundreds of miles away.

    The cute little CEO's of videogame industry for instance basically

  • Definition (Score:4, Funny)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2018 @12:33AM (#56571620)

    It's when your computation is juuuuusut about done, but then you stop the processor suddenly but leave the caches full.

  • Thank you for the clarification.

    • by lucm ( 889690 )

      It's not dumb terminals, it's more like having a mini Google in semis and uhauls parked in every neighborhood in the world, for the sake of making your echo chamber as regional as possible. It's divide and conquer, pure and simple

  • by Anonymous Coward
    There's a swizzle stick in my pee hole.
  • PCs promised to give computing to the user.
    Big business couldn't let go of the power of centralised computing.
    We need to loose the server farms and have a true peer to peer computing network.

  • This feels like a cycle. The first computers only had a few users who were located nearby, then we had dumb terminals that allowed many people using the same computer, then personal PCs went back to the first model, then cloud computing was the second model, and now we are back to the first model. Maybe this all is just a marketing scheme?

  • > Then, in the Unix era, we learned how to connect to that computer using dumb (not a pejorative) terminals

    The "Unix era" started in the 1990s with Linux. Before that, even at its greatest extent, it was largely limited to universities and some vertical tasks like workstations and file servers. We're talking a few million machines on the planet, compared to several billion today.

    In any event, the period in which Unix was associated with dumb terminals was a tiny, tiny slice of its history. Dumb terminals

    • We still have mainframes.
      And they have nothing to do with punch cards.

      For the people growing up with Unix, there most definitely was a unix area before Linux.

      Linux would not exist without unix and minix, and it would not have its success if not people leaving the university would have bought cheap PCs and installed Linux on it.

      You are underestimating the synergy effects, like a kind of Kontratieff, wide spread Unix know how, relatively cheap PCs and emerging Linux.

  • Edging, eh?

    Remember to get your computer's consent first.

  • In the beginning was the One Box, with many terminals, and that's what the "cloud" is: mainframes and centralized control. Personal computing died in 2001 when all Intel/AMD chips encrypted the BIOS. "Your" computer isn't yours. It belongs to whomever rolls up the BIOS, in the end. Hacking that encryption is a DMCA crime, and a violation of some contract you "signed", though many will pop up and say it isn't.
    If you own a PC made before 2001, you may have a personal computer. After that, PCs and portable com

  • I can't believe nobody thought of edge computing before!

  • I am sure I am not alone is stating for the record that I am NOT "cloud-based" in either my computing, or my data storage.

    Let my Stand-alone PC remain unclouded!

    Personally, I still can't get behind the current push my M$ to have the OS declared a "service" and no longer a product.

    I run Office from my system, and have no ties or reliance upon the net or any cloud service.

    OneDrive has been yanked, as has been anything that ties to any form of a Could-Based system.

    And I am still functioning well enough, no mat

  • managed by you.

    As the use of personal grew corporations like Microsoft peddled software applications like Word and later Office to each PC owner, manufacturing millions of CD install discs. Piracy is impossible to control and corporations began looking for other ways. Hosting servers that offered access to office software for monthly or yearly fees solved two problems. It allowed Microsoft to upgrade their "cloud" servers and avoid previous sales or distribution methods for new sales or updates and patch

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