• Edge Computing

Edge Experience: What Is Edge Computing?

Andy Kaiser
Andy Kaiser
November 9, 2020 · 4 min read
Edge Experience: What Is Edge Computing?

What Is a CDN?

A Content Delivery Network or CDN is a geographically distributed network of servers that delivers cached static content based on the geographic location of the user. The content served by a CDN includes HTML pages, javascript files, stylesheets, images, or videos.

The first wave of CDNs started with Akamai more than two decades ago in 1998. CDNs were designed to accelerate web content in a world of constrained bandwidth. Amazon launched its own CDN, CloudFront, in 2008, and one year late Cloudflare was born.

Over time, websites became more dynamic and the web shifted to the cloud. But as mobile consumption increases the websites are motivated to drive for speed and extensive use of CDNs. Therefore the digital economy requires great web performance and CDNs are a critical part of this.

CDN can also improve security, as CDNs aim for improved security with  DDoS protection and other security features.

The Edge

CDN servers can be defined as edge servers. An edge server is a computer that exists at the logical extreme or “edge” of a network. The primary purpose of a CDN edge server is to store the content as close as possible to a user, thereby reducing latency and improving page load times.

In the last years processing, data, and business logic has started to move to the edge. In 2016 Amazon launched a preview of AWS Lambda@Edge. This service is a Functions as a Service (FaaS) on the edge. As FaaS are essential parts of a “serverless” architecture these enable performance-critical services like website personalization or A/B Testing to happen on the edge. In 2017 Cloudflare introduced their Cloudflare Workers which allows JavaScript Service Workers at the Edge.

Since 2019 the amount of CDNs with serverless functionality on the edge has exploded. In a timeframe of 18 months from February 2019 big players like Akamai, Limelight, or IBM and challenger and niche players like Fastly, Netlify, EDJX or Stackpath have launched their own serverless functionality on the edge.

Related to the functionality on the edge in the last years, many companies, like Stackpath, Section, Fly, or MobiledgeX have launched edge orchestration solutions to host or deploy services on the edge.

Use Cases for the Serverless Edge

As with any new technology the use cases of serverless functionality on the edge will grow with more knowledge and experience.

For serverless functionality on the edge, there are for instance use cases like:

  • Dynamic web applications

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)

  • Personalization

  • Website security and privacy

  • Bot mitigation

  • Real-time image transformation

  • User tracking and analytics

  • A/B testing

Especially in JAMstack, which is a way of building websites and apps that deliver better performance, higher security, lower cost of scaling, and better developer experience, serverless functionality on the edge is a game-changer.

Unlocking the Future of Personalization

Modern marketing and customer experience management rely on instantaneous data. At Ninetailed we have the mantra that “A great digital experience relies on great web performance” and this is why we use serverless functionality on the edge since 2019.

In 2020 we launched our SmartProxy, the core of our personalization platform, which optimizes the load and data latency around three tiers: the near edge (the browser and source of the data),  the edge (our geographic distributed computing layer), and the origin (the source and original website).

We reimagine the relationship between the customer, marketers, and developers. And our platform allows non-developers to use all the benefits of the edge for personalization and dynamic content.

Conclusion

Regardless of the fact that edge computing includes serverless functionality on the edge and edge orchestration solutions, moving processing, data, and business logic to the edge is a need to reduce latency.

Serverless functionality on the edge is interesting for a variety of use cases from dynamic web applications and personalization to search engine optimization.

From a development perspective, serverless functionality on the edge is the next big thing. From a sysops perspective, edge orchestration services are the next trend.

Finally, leveraging the edge is also important for solution providers like Ninetailed to help non-coders provide the benefits of the edge to their customers and users. 

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