Edge, on the other hand, is designed to cope with conditions that cloud infrastructure was not intended to accommodate. Unlike data centers, edge infrastructure manages unreliable networking, where latency, jitter or availability issues are common, particularly in large, distributed store estates. Store systems typically don’t operate in people-free, highly secure, air-conditioned server environments. Quite the opposite. Edge systems must process and control high volumes of checkout and payment data, weigh scales and kitchen systems, manage camera feeds with AI/ML operating in real time, and above all deliver high performance at peak hours, often running 24/7.
Ultimately, infrastructure designed for the cloud is a poor fit for the edge and vice versa. Cloud systems are typically designed to run a handful of large, universally available locations – sometimes referred to as “operating at cloud scale.” Conversely, edge systems are designed to run as many as tens of thousands of small, often poorly connected locations – considered “operating at edge scale.” At a high level, both require scalability and automation, but under the covers one is highly concentrated while the other is highly distributed.
For example, retail requires real-time processing, whether for video recognition at frictionless stores, shrink detection, product scanning or generating the latest personalized in-store promotional offers. Latency or costs imposed by high bandwidth demands cause friction, impacting both customer experience and the bottom line. Edge systems process data in real time. However, analyzing this data over a longer period requires serious offline data center/cloud horsepower that is best enabled by cloud systems.
With so many moving parts and a distributed store estate, edge infrastructure must be responsive, scalable and reliable. “Edge In” is the best approach for stores. In contrast, systems in the headquarters, above store data centers or eCommerce are more cloud-like and lend themselves better to a “Cloud Out” strategy.
Related: Gain an edge or get edged out