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What is the network edge and how is it different from edge computing?

The network edge, also known as the WAN edge, is where an enterprise network connects to third-party network services. Edge computing, however, is something different.

Although they sound similar, an enterprise network edge is vastly different from edge computing. So what is the network edge exactly and how does it compare with edge computing? This explanation of each term should help you discern the difference between the two.

Edge computing is a modern take on data center and cloud computing architectures to help create efficiencies.

Today, applications and data are housed in one or more data processing locations -- either in private data centers or public clouds. These data centers are often geographically far from the end user. This distance between the user and the apps, data and services they interact with can create inefficiencies from a bandwidth and throughput perspective.

Edge computing seeks to alleviate these inefficiencies by moving applications and data closer to the user. This is accomplished by decentralizing traditional data centers and locating them physically closer to end users, thus placing data and apps closer to the end-user edge.

What is the network edge?

The point at which the enterprise-owned network connects to a third-party network is known as the network edge.

The network edge, on the other hand, is one or more boundaries within a network that designate who controls the underlying network infrastructure equipment. For example, an enterprise network usually consists of a corporate wired LAN, a wireless LAN, and one or more private data centers. Each of these network segments is owned and managed by the corporate IT department.

However, networks also typically include a WAN to connect remote offices, as well as connectivity to the public internet and public cloud resources. WAN connectivity usually consists of leased lines such as MPLS or Metro-Ethernet and the internet is managed by an internet service provider.

The point at which the enterprise-owned network connects to a third-party network is known as the network edge. Thus, you'll often hear network administrators talk about their WAN edge or internet edge.

This was last published in March 2019

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