Today’s enterprises understand that although their operations are increasingly global, their interactions with end users must take place locally. This is the only way to ensure the extremely low latency required by many modern digital applications. For this reason, most enterprises are investing in an edge computing strategy, with the intent of positioning IT infrastructure in close proximity to end users.
However, this effort is complicated by the fact there’s no universally accepted definition for what the digital edge is and where it resides. From the Equinix perspective, there are a hierarchy of different digital edges, defined both by the distance between end users and infrastructure (measured in terms of latency) and the volume of potential end users accessible from that location. Since different use cases have different latency and user requirements, most companies will deploy different applications at different edges—or even deploy a single application across edges by splitting it into microservices.
Leaders’ guide to digital infrastructure
Leaders build their digital infrastructure to interconnect the digital core, integrate with digital ecosystems and interact at the digital edge.Download Guide
Enterprises must recognize there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to deploying at the digital edge. They need an edge strategy that’s custom-tailored to their specific needs. Instead of asking “Where is the digital edge?”, enterprise leaders should ask “Where is my digital edge?” Only by adapting their edge strategies to the exact needs of their business can they successfully deploy the right use cases in the right locations.
The metro edge is the ideal location for many low-latency applications
Latency requirements and end-user volume may define the edge hierarchy, but there’s a third characteristic that’s equally important: access to digital ecosystems. Tapping into an ecosystem of partners and service providers is essential to help enterprises expand their reach and quickly add new capabilities. For instance, multiaccess edge computing (MEC) helps enable proximity and extremely low latency across partner ecosystems to support autonomous vehicles and other advanced use cases.
The diagram below provides a quick look at some of the different edges in the hierarchy, along with the defining characteristics of use cases that are typically deployed in those locations. As the diagram shows, the metro edge may represent the “sweet spot” for many edge use cases, since it’s optimized for relatively low latency, relatively high user reach, and easy access to service providers and partners.
Edge deployment use case examples
The metro edge is especially well suited for use cases that require roundtrip latency between 10 and 20 milliseconds. This includes those where enterprises need easy access to cloud-on ramps on demand, but where the cloud locations themselves are too far away from end users or not suitable due to hybrid multicloud requirements. It also helps ensure access to many users across multiple networks; this is in contrast to telco edge locations, where enterprises may find it difficult to interconnect with more than one network service provider.
In this blog, we’ll provide a quick look at a few of the many low-latency use cases that are particularly well suited to run in metro edge locations.
Increasing efficiency and resilience in agricultural operations
The goal of the agriculture sector is to maximize production and efficiency, while also minimizing crop losses caused by extreme weather and natural disasters. Today’s farmers pursue these goals with the help of vast networks of IoT devices used to monitor animal movement, pest control, fertilization, water management and more. These monitoring devices are relatively inexpensive, meaning they can easily be deployed in large numbers everywhere they’re needed.
However, to get the full value of the monitoring data they capture, those devices need to be integrated into an edge strategy that also includes data aggregation and analytics applications. One reason the adoption of smart agriculture has been relatively slow is that farmers have traditionally relied on the internet to move their data, and rural areas have suffered from a lack of fast, reliable internet access.
Deploying applications at the metro edge helps solve this problem, essentially establishing a bridge between the IoT devices at the far edge and the cloud and network services needed to turn monitoring data into actionable insights. Rather than relying on the internet like they have in the past, farmers can now take advantage of the transformative power of 5G connectivity to unlock the full potential of smart agriculture.
Breaking through data silos in smart cities
The dream of smart cities technology is to make our urban areas work better. This means gathering insights from traffic and transportation systems, water and power grids, city services and even the buildings themselves to support a better quality of life for citizens. However, there are significant challenges involved with realizing that dream. First, the smart infrastructure must gather data in a secure, reliable and cost-effective manner. Recent developments in IoT and AI technology have helped make this possible.
Next, cities must also aggregate that data quickly to support timely analysis and informed decision-making. This is where the process has traditionally broken down. Moving data from sensors to core processing sites was time-consuming and latency-intensive, and data typically ended up in fragmented silos once it got there.
Today, the advent of 5G and MEC are redefining what’s possible with smart cities. Data can now be processed quickly at the edge, reducing latency and enabling data-driven insights in near-real time. In addition, running MEC systems at the metro edge can help ingest data from many different sources into a centralized repository, free from data silos. By analyzing data from many different sources simultaneously, smart cities can support centralized urban intelligence and informed decision-making.
Supporting reliable real-time cloud gaming
The buildout of 5G networks has also changed what’s possible in the media and entertainment (M&E) industry, particularly when it comes to streaming on-demand content, accessing user-generated content, and mobile gaming. Content consumers have become accustomed to getting the exceptional user experience they want, on the device they want, when and where they want it. Any content provider that can’t meet these high expectations will inevitably be surpassed by the competition.
One area of M&E that’s particularly dependent on edge infrastructure is cloud gaming. As the name suggests, cloud gaming offloads key game tasks from mobile devices to cloud services, before streaming gameplay back to the device over broadband networks. Cloud gaming enables a more realistic experience for gamers, even on mobile devices with limited built-in computational power. However, it’s also highly sensitive to network conditions.
Computation offloading is a key aspect of what makes cloud gaming attractive to so many users, but it also creates the potential for the user experience to break down if latency requirements aren’t properly met. Deploying game services at the metro edge enables the close overlap between cloud services that support game processes and network infrastructure that enables reliable gameplay streaming in real time.
Find your edge today
To truly determine where your digital edge is, you need to take a close look at the use cases you intend to support, including your latency requirements, the volume of end users you need to support, and what ecosystem partners you need to include. Once you’ve done that, there’s a very good chance you’ll determine the metro edge is the right location to support that use case.
In this blog, we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible at the metro edge. There’s truly no limit to what you can achieve at the metro edge—especially if you have the right digital infrastructure partner to help you.
The Equinix global colocation footprint makes us particularly well-suited to support metro edge use cases. In fact, about 80% of the metropolitan population of the U.S. lives within 10 milliseconds roundtrip latency of an Equinix data center location, with similar levels of coverage in the E.U. and parts of the Asia-Pacific region.
Add in the fact that Equinix facilities are home to thousands of network and IT service providers and on-ramps to all top cloud service providers, and it becomes clear there’s no reason to consider deploying metro edge use cases anywhere else.
To learn more, read the Leaders’ Guide to Digital Infrastructure. You’ll learn how businesses are thriving in the modern digital economy by optimizing their infrastructure across edge, core and ecosystem locations.
You may also be interested in
View the webinar “Enabling your organization’s edge journey” below. In the webinar, a panel of experts—including Matt George, Director of Enterprise Transformation at Equinix—shares their insights on how different industries are deploying practical applications at the edge.