The Network Finally Gets Its Due as the Enabler of Edge Computing

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Click to learn more about author Destiny Bertucci.

Imagine connecting billions of things or running autonomous vehicles at dial-up network speed. The cacophony of the connection process (remember that noise?) would be bad enough, but the latency would be even worse. To handle the digital world, Edge Computing is on the rise, and the network is a critical enabler. The network edge will have to be fast and secure. That will take the proper network infrastructure, shaping traffic, and keeping patches up-to-date.

This is Not Your Mother’s Internet

The growth of Edge Computing demonstrates a better understanding of the value of the internet, and thereby the network. Think about this in terms of your own personal data plan. While many plans are so-called unlimited now, there are situations when high usage is penalized with lower speeds.

That’s because there must be room for not only emergency traffic, but also multi-million dollar customers. If the end-users of those big customers experience connectivity issues, the consequences would be big business problems.

The problems become exponential at the edge, so a robust network infrastructure has to be in place to handle the demand. Traditional network carriers and new non-traditional players are ramping up globally to make sure it’s there, putting in new fiber to deliver on the value and ensure ROI.

Outside of the major markets, there’s challenge and opportunity in more rural areas where fiber is not as easily attained. Cellular communications come into play here, and there’s a huge market for telecommunications companies. The distributed nature of Edge Computing aligns well with the spread of cell towers, and many IoT devices use cellular data.

Such effort to make a bigger and better network is not exactly new, but increasing bandwidth also involves shaping traffic. Traffic must be shaped to ensure pertinent and urgent data always has an access path to allow it to come through.

Security at the Edge is Better

The edge gateway involves new security via encryption or the X.509 certificates that act like a protocol translator converting multiple devices into a single protocol. Think of the edge network like a little private network of sorts with individual authentications versus going back to the Cloud or back to the enterprise. This communication level takes out a lot of the man-in-the-middle attacks since encryption takes place at the edge.

With long-range communication, the edge gateways communicate to each other or to a central cloud platform using an orchestration layer.

 We’re Not Talking About Quilts

There’s no edge without a secure network and there’s no secure network without patching. Firmware on edge devices and sensors must always be upgraded to the latest version. Practically each day there’s a new, sophisticated attack, and systems must be readily protected.

Having remote capability to update all endpoints at regular intervals is particularly important for patching at the edge. This wasn’t always possible with certain IoT devices. Security was not at the forefront and you would have to plug in to update. With edge, there’s more consideration of security now and businesses must stay ahead to prevent breaches.

A Network with a View

Visual dashboards help manage more complex network environments, and complexity in edge networks comes from their convoluted infrastructures and distributed nature. Visualization of network monitoring is simplified with an at-a-glance look at status.

You can quickly answer the questions: Are the load balancers in effect? What’s the user base at that moment in time? What does the stack in my application look like? Those answers help you to visualize what you’re implementing and design and orchestrate a better network infrastructure.

Take Cisco® ASA; it’s very easy and visual to see if IPSec tunnels are up or down. You don’t need to rely on creating a VPN connection and knowing when it drops. With a comprehensive monitoring dashboard, you can visualize your remote-to-site and your site-to-site connections, see the tunnels, and make sure they’re there.

With capabilities like network tracing, for instance, you’re able to see what routes it can go through and how it’s communicating. You can see if there’s latency and from which part, so that you know which device to go against. If you have several devices out there, you need to know what’s sending the traffic through to make sure that it’s to the policies and the protocols that you’re using.

Visual dashboards are very important for information around stacks, which we know should be fully redundant, but if that information isn’t visualized, it’s quite a challenge to go through hundreds of cables to verify they are actually attached.

Rules for the Edge

It’s also critical to be able to identify an anomaly at the edge. Always think about security and take into account network usage. Network usage is vital for shaping traffic, creating a different protocol, and adding more devices or more redundancy.

If you’re not monitoring your edge network, you’re not seeing it until it’s too late.


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