Insight by Akamai

How edge computing can enhance the online experience, securely

Dr. Robert Blumofe, the executive vice president and chief technology officer at Akamai Technologies, cited performance acceleration, Transport Layer Security (...

In the age of cloud computing, agency IT planners will overlook some important advantages if they think of infrastructure only as data centers and commercial clouds. By including edge computing as a third component, CIO shops can improve both application performance and cybersecurity.

Dr. Robert Blumofe, the executive vice president and chief technology officer at Akamai, cited performance acceleration, Transport Layer Security (TLS) connection offloading, caching, and hosting the security stack itself, as candidates for edge computing.

“We’ve now got a new deployment model where we can put our applications in the cloud,” Blumofe said. “And we can deploy a lot of the capabilities that I just described as virtual appliances in the cloud. And I think what we’re seeing now is augmentation of that model, with the edge.”

The edge, by definition, is the computing resource closest to the user. Blumofe argues that the edge can perform many functions that otherwise take place in the data center or the cloud. It’s a potent approach for reducing the potency of cyberattacks.

“We want to block that attack at the edge, near the source of the attack, before it can ever get anywhere near the data center or the virtual data center to do the damage,” Blumofe said.

On the performance improvement side, Blumofe said caching of data and application logic might be the classic case for using edge computing. But he cautions IT practitioners to think of edge as more than simply about caching. App acceleration at the edge can take other forms, depending on “chattiness” of a given application. Some have “a lot of communication that has to go back and forth, much of which is not cashable. So app acceleration involves actually accelerating that traffic back and forth,” Blumofe said.

In such cases, edge-hosted services may include TLS termination, use of optimized protocols between the edge and the application, and use of optimized routing. “App acceleration,” Blumofe said, “really can be thought of as a whole suite of technologies from protocol optimization, routing, optimization, pre- positioning, caching, reuse of connections, connection multiplexing – a whole suite of technologies that all combine to accelerate dynamic and secure applications.”

Blumofe said edge computing, in augmenting core data center computing and cloud computing, helps organizations reduce data movement and traffic back-hauling by “moving the compute to the data, and not the other way around.” This enables not only optimized performance for users but also greater cybersecurity by not back-hauling attack traffic.



A traditional model which uses say, only a data center, or only a virtual data center a la cloud, is actually missing out on an opportunity to be more performant, more scalable, more cost effective and more secure, if they're not taking also advantage of the capabilities that are now offered at the edge.”



Zero trust is essentially a very strong form of the ages old principle of least privilege. Few concepts are more important in cybersecurity than least privileged – never give anybody, or any device, or any entity, any more privilege than it absolutely needs to get its job done. And the edge can actually be the place where you implement that decision.

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