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When one reads about the "edge" or the "border" of a network, what does it mean?

When one reads about the "edge" or the "border" of a network, what does it mean?
The definition of the "edge" or "border" of a network depends on who is asking. It might be a little different if you are an end-user, a service provider, or an ISP/Telco.

However, in general terms, the "edge" typically denotes the point at which traffic exits the "core network". In...

analogy, it is the on/off-ramp of the highway. The core network typically offers a uniform view from edge to edge and is handled by one (or few) providers. The core may be transparent to the application traffic riding over it. The edge typically is a point where the underlying transport technologies change (say from DSL to ATM or some other long-haul protocol). The routing at the edge reflects the transition from WAN to more LAN-specific destinations (just as signage on the highway is distinguishable from signs within the city in its detail and focus).

Further, the edge is often where specific aspects of the network are implemented. These might include security, service virtualization, policy enforcement, performance optimization, and other "front-door" functionalities.

This was last published in April 2004

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