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The Basics of Edge Computing and Data Center Networks

The data center network is transforming, absorbing both the cloud and the edge.

We call it “the edge” partly because it sounds cool and partly because it evokes the idea of a wild frontier where the rules are not yet established. But in the context of the data center network, the edge has a definite meaning: those addressable points along the periphery where data is either entering or exiting. Transporting data from the edge to the core, transforming and processing that data at the core, and then transporting the results to the customer back through the edge are all expensive processes.

Are they needless processes? Do they only serve the purposes of the architecture for which they’re designed rather than re-architecting the network to serve the needs of the users more directly and effectively? These are the questions network engineers are still asking. Yet if they look around, they may notice some competitors have already come up with some persuasive answers.

Customers at the Edge

“If you have one data center, and you put all of your efforts and technology into optimizing that for performance and reliability, sure, that’s a good thing to do,” says Steven Carlini, VP for innovation and data center with Schneider Electric. “But the applications that we’re dealing with, from the big box stores like Home Depot — they’re competing with Amazon, and they need to raise the experience of their customers to the point where people are still going to want to shop there.”

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