Last month, Fastly, a provider of an edge cloud platform, introduced a collection of resources to help developers learn the ins and outs of popular cloud solutions. The collection consists of step-by-step tutorials and ready-to-deploy code that developers can customize, and deploy to their Fastly configuration.
We had the opportunity to interview Adam Denenberg, Fastly’s SVP of Customer Solutions, to get more insight into this particular project and other initiatives Fastly is taking to empower developers. We also grabbed this opportunity to talk to Denenberg about the emergence and growth of edge computing and fog computing and what it all means for the industry.
What are the advantages of edge computing over cloud?
Cloud computing is a centralized service that provides computing resources including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence on demand. It is flexible, scalable, enables faster innovation, and has revolutionized the way people store and interact with data.
However, because it is a centralized system, it can cause issues such as higher latency, limited bandwidth, security issues, and the requirement of high-speed internet connectivity. This is where edge computing comes in – to address these limitations. In essence, it’s a decentralized cloud.
“Edge computing is the move to put compute power and logic as close to the end-user as possible. The edge cloud uses the emerging cloud computing serverless paradigm in which the cloud provider runs the server and dynamically manages the allocation of machine resources,” Denenberg explains.
When it comes to making real-time decisions edge computing, can be very effective. He adds, “The average consumer expects speedy online experiences, so when milliseconds matter, the advantage of processing at the edge is that it is an ideal way to handle highly dynamic and time-sensitive data quickly.
“In contrast, running modern applications from a central cloud poses challenges related to latency, ability to pre-scale, and cost-efficiency.”
What is the difference between fog computing and edge computing?
Fog computing and edge computing can appear very similar. They both involve pushing intelligence and processing capabilities closer to the origin of data. However, the difference lies in where the location of intelligence and compute power is placed.
Explaining the difference between the two, Denenberg said, “fog computing, a term invented by Cisco, shares some similar design goals as edge computing, such as reducing latency to the end-user request and providing access to compute resources in a decentralized model. After that, things begin to differ.”
He adds, “On the one hand, fog computing has a focus on use cases like IoT and sensors. This allows enterprises to extend their network from a central cloud closer to their devices and sensors, while maintaining a reliance on the central cloud.
“Edge computing, on the other hand, is also about moving compute closer to the end-user, but doing so in a way that removes the dependency on the central cloud as much as possible. By collocating compute and storage (cache) on Fastly’s edge cloud, our customers are able to build very complex, global-scale applications and digital experiences without any dependency on a centralized compute resources.”
Will edge computing replace cloud computing?
A short answer to this question would be “not really.”
“I don’t think anything at this moment will fully replace the central cloud,” Denenberg explains. “People said data centers were dead as soon as AWS took off, and, while we certainly saw a dramatic shift in where workloads were being run over the last decade, plenty of organizations still operate very large data centers.
“There will continue to be certain workloads such as large-scale offline data processing, data warehouses, and the building of machine learning models that are much more suited to an environment that requires high compute density and long and complex processing times that operate on extremely massive data sets with no time sensitivity.”
What is Fastly?
Fastly’s story started back in 2008 when Artur Bergman, its founder, was working at Wikia. Three years later, he founded Fastly, headquartered in San Francisco, with its branches in four cities including London, Tokyo, New York, and Denver.
Denenberg shared that Fastly’s edge cloud platform was built to address the limitations in content delivery networks (CDNs). “Fastly is an edge cloud platform built by developers, to empower developers. It came about as a result of our founder Artur Bergman’s experience leading engineering at Wikia, where his passion for delivering fast, reliable, and secure online experiences for communities around the world was born. So he saw firsthand that CDNs — which were supposed to address this problem — weren’t equipped to enable the global, real-time experiences needed in the modern era.”
He further said, “To ensure a fast, reliable, and secure online experience, Fastly developed an edge cloud platform designed to provide unprecedented, real-time control, and visibility that removes traditional barriers to innovation. Knowing that developers are at the heart of building the online experience, Fastly was built to empower other developers to write and deploy code at the edge. We did this by making the platform extremely accessible, self-service, and API-first.”
Fastly’s new edge cloud resources
Coming to Fastly’s new edge cloud resources, Denenberg shared the motivation behind this launch. He said, “We’re here to serve the developer community and allow them to dream bigger at the edge, where we believe the future of the web will be built. This new collection of recipes and tutorials was born out of countless collaborations and problem-solving discussions with Fastly’s global community of customers. Fastly’s new collection of edge cloud resources make it faster and safer for developers to discover, test, customize, and deploy edge cloud solutions.”
Currently, Fastly has shared 66 code-based edge cloud solutions covering aspects like authentication, image optimization, logging, and more. It plans to add more solutions to the list in the near future. Denenberg shared, “Our initial launch of 66 recipes and four solution patterns were created from some of the most common and valuable solutions we’ve seen when working with our global customer base. However, this is just the beginning – many more solutions are on our radar to launch on a regular cadence. This is what has us really excited– as we expose more of these solutions to customers, the more inspiration they have to go even further in their work, which creates a remarkable flywheel of innovation on our edge cloud.”
Challenges when developing on the edge
When asked about what edge cloud solutions Denenberg thinks developers often find difficult, he said, “I think difficulty is a tricky thing to address because engineering is a lot of times about tradeoffs. Those tradeoffs are most often realized when pursuing instant scalability, being able to run edge functions everywhere, and achieving low latency and microsecond boot time.
He adds, “NoSQL saw tremendous growth because it presented the ability to achieve scale with very reasonable trade-offs based on the types of applications people were building that traditional SQL databases made very difficult, from an architectural perspective, like scaling writes linearly to a cluster easily, for example. So for me, given the wide variety of applications our customers can build, I think it’s about taking advantage of our platform in a way that improves the overall user experience, which sometimes just requires a shifting of the mindset in how those applications are architected.”
We asked Denenberg whether other developers will be able to pitch in to expand this collection of resources.
“We are already talking with customers who are excited to share what they have built on our platform that might allow others to achieve enhanced online experiences for their end users,” he told us. “Fastly has an internal team dedicated to reviewing the solutions customers are interested in sharing to ensure they have the same consistency and coding style that mirrors how we would publish them internally. We welcome the sharing of innovation from our customer base that continues to inspire us through their work on the edge.”
Other initiatives by Fastly to empower developers
Fastly is continuously contributing towards making the internet more trustworthy and safer by getting involved in projects like QUIC, Encrypted SNI, and WebAssembly. Last year, Fastly made three of its projects available on Fastly Labs: Terrarium, Fiddle, and Insights.
Denenberg shared that there are many ways Fastly is contributing to the open source community.
“Yes, empowering developers is at the forefront of what we do. As developers are familiar with the open-source caching software that we use, it makes adopting our platform easier. We give away free Fastly services to open source and nonprofit projects. We also continue to work on open source projects, which empower developers to build applications in multiple languages and run them faster and more securely at our edge.”
Fastly also constantly tries to improve its edge cloud platform to meet its customers’ needs and empower them to innovate.
“As an ongoing priority, we work to ensure that developers have the control and insight into our edge platform they need. To this end, our programmable edge provides developers with real-time visibility and control, where they can write and deploy code to push application logic to the edge. This supports modern application delivery processes and, just as importantly, frees developers to innovate without constraints,” Denenberg adds.
He concludes, “Finally, we believe our values empower our community in several ways. At Fastly, we have chosen to grow with a focus on transparency, integrity, and inclusion. To do this, we are building a kind, ethical, and inclusive team that reflects our diverse customer base and the diversity of the developers that are creating online experiences. The more diverse our workforce, the easier it is to attract diverse talent and build technology that provides true value for our developer community across the world.”
Follow Adam Denenberg on Twitter: @denen
Learn more about Fastly and its edge-cloud platform at Fastly’s official website.