Edge computing has become increasingly critical as more endpoints — from autonomous cars to Internet of Things (IoT) to millions of new streaming-enabled devices — are added across the internet and on corporate and home networks. Some experts have predicted fundamental disruptions to the structure of the internet, and even prophesied the “end of cloud computing.”

The reality, however, is much more complex and requires intelligent decisions about storage technology at each tier of storage and transmission.

The How and Why of Edge Computing

Edge computing is intended to optimize networked systems by processing data near the device generating the data.

For instance, a networked camera might perform facial recognition internally or at least initiate preliminary processing, rather than transmitting a large stream of data across Wi-Fi, corporate, internet and cloud networks to a system that then does the processing. Or, a biometric scanner might render a fingerprint as a digital file, rather than sending the whole scan of the finger back to a central point.

This can save anywhere from 80 percent to 99 percent of the bandwidth that might otherwise be consumed, and since processing power is increasing steadily, many small devices can perform the necessary processing without straining. Unlike data center and cloud servers that use enterprise SSDs, edge devices can work well with lower-cost SSDs.

Ideal Endpoint Storage

For edge computing to work well, developers need to add storage locally: since data is being processed locally on the device before being transmitted, that data must be stored locally as well. In many cases, like cameras mounted in vehicles, the connection may not always be available, so data needs to be cached until it can be transmitted.

Given that edge devices in production may number in the billions, controlling costs is critical. Inexpensive storage with good performance is a critical part of this, creating a niche for devices like the Samsung 860 DCT, which combines the reliability and performance of the enterprise SSD with the low cost associated with consumer SSDs.

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There are several attributes needed for storage on endpoints, including the ability to run on stored power, tolerance of higher and lower temperatures than typical computing devices, and tolerance of vibration and shock in mobile devices. NAND flash storage is ideal for many edge devices, since it includes a wider thermal range than hard disk storage and has lower power requirements. In addition, NAND flash does not contain any moving parts and has a better ability to withstand vibration and shock.

Storage devices like the Samsung 860 DCT offer improved ability to handle thermal loads without data loss. The 860 DCT can throttle speeds on the interface when temperatures on the device exceed normal parameters, enabling the device to function without data loss even when temperatures spike above the normal operating range.

Edge devices will continue to proliferate. Whereas cars had one backup camera in early models, some cars now have five or six, including specialized infrared cameras for night vision, dash cameras, backup and low-view front cameras for parking — and in the case of autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles, more for navigation, lane position monitoring, pedestrian and cross-traffic monitoring, and so on.

In addition to cars, cameras are finding their way into more and more other devices, and other types of devices, such as smart refrigerators, are reading temperature, using voice recognition, and capturing many other types of data that need to be stored and processed. Flash storage built on a client PC foundation but using enterprise-level firmware are ideal for this.

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Logan Harbaugh

Logan Harbaugh is an IT consultant and reviewer. He has worked in IT for over 20 years, and was a senior contributing editor with InfoWorld Labs as well as a senior technology editor at Information Week Labs. He has written reviews of enterprise IT products including storage, network switches, operating systems, and more for many publications and websites, including Storage Magazine, TechTarget.com, StateTech, Information Week, PC Magazine and Internet.com. He is the author of two books on network troubleshooting.

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