An edge server is a server located at the network edge to reduce latency.
Edge servers play an important role in edge computing by providing the compute resources required to achieve the objective of reducing latency. There are two distinct types of edge servers: content delivery network (CDN) edge servers and edge compute servers.
Contrary to content delivery, edge compute servers provide compute resources at the network edge. Like CDN edge servers, edge compute servers are strategically deployed to reduce latency. However, as opposed to serving static web content, edge compute servers provide functionality such as data processing for IoT (Internet of Things) applications and 5G networks.
Content caching plays a big part in how CDN edge servers work. CDN edge servers store cached versions of origin server content and serve them to clients whenever a request is made.
At a high-level, the process works as follows:
In the above scenario, there are three key benefits:
Edge compute servers also work by reducing geographic distance and, in turn, latency between producers and consumers of data. However, in the case of edge compute servers, the data producers are often IoT devices and the servers are processing the data they create. For example, an edge compute server may sit between IoT devices on a factory floor and the cloud or an enterprise data center.
In that case, data flows like this:
In this case, the benefits of the edge server include greatly reduced bandwidth to and from the cloud or corporate data center and reduced latency. Without the edge compute server, there’d be significantly more unprocessed data flowing directly to the cloud or data center, leading to slower processing times and enough latency to hamstring real-time data processing workflows.
TeamSpeak’s use of StackPath’s CDN to improve download speeds by 68% provides a prime example of how CDN edge servers work in the real world.
Initially, TeamSpeak, a company that provides chat clients for eSports, had users download installers and patches from mirrors in Germany. Given the global nature of TeamSpeak’s audience, this approach often led to performance issues that impacted user experience.
TeamSpeak realized that using a CDN would greatly increase download speeds and create a better experience for the gamers using their platform. As opposed to having a global user-base download directly from servers in Germany, the StackPath CDN provided edge servers around the globe that stored and served downloads closer to users.
As for edge compute servers, this tutorial shows edge compute servers running container workloads in Atlanta, Dallas, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt for IoT data processing purposes as opposed to a single cloud server.