While pretty much everybody knows that Microsoft is one of the main cloud providers with Azure, not everyone knows that Microsoft is also offering hardware-based edge computing devices. One of the newer hybrid cloud computing technologies, the edge, is essentially a distributed computing model that brings compute power and data storage closer to the location where it is needed. This typically is done using one or more on-premise devices on the frontend that connect to various cloud services on the backend. The goals of edge computing are to improve local response times by providing local processing power and to save bandwidth by preprocessing the data locally and then only sending a curated subset of that data across the Internet to the target cloud services.
Typical Edge Computing Scenarios
Today edge devices are often deployed to support Internet of Things (IoT), Businesses Intelligence (BI) and Big Data applications. With IoT, BI and Big Data applications data can be collected from various intelligent devices and then the edge device can aggregate and/or modify the data doing things like removing invalid and duplicate data as well as possibility removing personal data. This enables the device to subset data, optimizing storage and bandwidth utilization. Using the edge can enable businesses to use local processing power to get quick results that can be acted on before the data is sent to the cloud and then reduce the overall data transmitted to the cloud.
Microsoft’s Azure Stack Edge
Microsoft’s latest offering in the edge computing space is Azure Stack Edge. Azure Stack Edge is an AI-enabled edge computing device that connects to Azure services. Microsoft terms Azure Stack Edge as a Hardware-as-a-Service that is managed from the cloud. Azure Stack Edge is comprised of three components:
- Azure Stack Edge Device — A 1U rack-mounted server supplied by Microsoft that contains a 2 X 10 core CPU with 128 GB RAM and 9 1.6 TB NVMe SSDs. One SSD is for the operating system and the other 8 are data disks. The edge device itself is limited to 24 shares with a maximum of 5 TB per share and a total of 100 million files. AI is enabled using built-in Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs).
- Azure Stack Edge Resource – The Azure Stack Edge Resource is an Azure portal that lets you manage Azure Stack Edge devices.
- Azure Stack Edge local web UI — The local web UI is used for basic Azure Stack Edge device management. It is used to shut down and restart the device as well as run diagnostics, manage logs and contact Microsoft Support.
Azure Stack Edge supports VMs and Kubernetes clusters. Network clients can also connect to the Azure Stack Edge device using the SMB or NFS file sharing protocols. To reduce latency, Microsoft recommends that the Azure storage account should be physically closest to the region where the device is deployed.
Using the Edge to Optimize the Hybrid Cloud
Microsoft has definitely continued to grow its cloud offerings and Azure Stack Edge extends the hybrid cloud to the edge of your business. Edge computing can optimize your hybrid cloud connections by combining local processing and storage with an optimized connection to cloud resources. Since Microsoft sells Azure Stack Edge as a service it should be no surprise that it is purchased using a monthly subscription fee of $695.95 per Azure Stack Edge device. You can find more information about Azure Stack Edge at Azure Stack Edge.