Empowering Developers to Build at the Edge

March 12, 2020

As a larger, diverse set of stakeholders join forces to build the Edge, there remains a strong focus on edge infrastructure - edge data centers, hardware and networks. However, of equal importance is the focus on developing software that can run at scale across a massively distributed global network of edge infrastructure.

As Ihab Tarazi, CTO of Dell Technologies (formerly of Packet/Equinix) pointed out in a blog last year on architecting for success at the edge, its development is “a complex undertaking that requires an enormous number of changes to occur.” He is right in saying, “This will be an evolution”; one in which we believe developers will take a front-row seat.

”[Development of the edge] is a complex undertaking that requires an enormous number of changes to occur. This will be an evolution.” Ihab Tarazi, CTO of Dell Technologies

Helping developers embrace distributed systems

For the average developer, there is often a disconnect between writing code and running code, particularly when it comes to optimizing the distribution of that code. Most developers will have some level of experience with DevOps and agile these days, but few have experience building highly distributed systems at the Edge.

With the advancement of edge-enabled platforms, one of our biggest challenges at Section has been to help developers understand why they should look to expand beyond simple content delivery. While basic CDN-type workload is still vital to application performance optimization, edge compute platforms, like Section, now make it possible to migrate more advanced logic out of centralized cloud infrastructure to leverage performance, security and scalability benefits along the edge continuum.

“We’ve got a ways to go in many respects” says Daniel Bartholomew, Section Co-Founder & CTO. “Firstly, we need to get the physical component of the edge built, but we also need to bring the developers - I’m talking about the entire developer community - on a journey away from their two and three tier architectural services design into microservices, and from microservices into distributed computing.”

"We need to bring the developers - I’m talking about the entire developer community - on a journey away from their two and three tier architectural services design into microservices, and from microservices into distributed computing.” - Daniel Bartholomew, Co-Founder & CTO of Section

What are the advantages of moving workloads to the Edge?

We’ve come a long way in educating developers and the larger technology community on the benefits of edge computing. But just to reiterate, some of the advantages of edge computing include:

Low Latency

By moving workloads as close as possible to the end user and removing unnecessary data exchange between the cloud and the end user, latency is reduced. Therefore, edge computing can be most effective for those microservices or applications that are latency sensitive.

Reduced Data Backhaul

Processing data at the Edge reduces the need to transmit high volumes of data back to centralized applications. This reduces the cost-of-service and the time-to-deliver results for end-users. As we head towards more IoT and IIoT, or applications delivering high volumes of telemetry and chat or high bandwidth imaging needs in-home, health and industrial use cases, processing at the Edge will be critical to delivering a better, more efficient Internet.

Innovation

Edge computing enables a myriad of never-before-possible use cases that require ultra low latency, from online multiplayer gaming to autonomous vehicles and beyond.

Security

With edge computing, sensitive data doesn’t have to be sent across the network, but can instead be processed on the end user’s device or closer to it, which can serve to reduce the potential application attack surface area. Furthermore, activities such as authentication and validation of end user identity are well suited for the Edge, and enforcement of API routing policies can help ensure that end user traffic gets to the right cloud environment.

With edge computing offering the ability to process data in near real-time, control centers receive information as it happens, giving DevOps teams the insights they need to reduce the risk of errors and incidents before they have a wide-reaching impact.

Empowering the developer

In order for developers to be able to leverage the benefits of edge computing, they need much greater flexibility and control than traditional CDNs are able to offer. At Section, our ultimate goal has always been to improve the Internet by empowering innovators with simplicity, flexibility and control at the Edge to create better digital experiences.

Instead of hard-coding Varnish Cache into the Section platform as a caching CDN or hard-coding ModSecurity in as a web application firewall (WAF), for instance, our co-founders set out from the start to allow developers to bring their own workloads into the full development lifecycle. By contrast, the incumbent CDNs, by virtue of operating in their own fixed and inflexible networks, are unable to bring the level of flexibility and control that developers need to realize the full benefits of edge computing.

Leading edge compute platforms also provide the necessary tooling to extend the same DevOps principles that underpin core application development to deployment at the edge, enabling greater flexibility, scalability and improved performance optimization.

Why Section is different

Not all edge compute platforms are the same. Section is a global network of federated Kubernetes clusters, which extends far beyond basic content delivery. By leveraging compute capacity from leading hosting providers and installing an edge fabric on top, Section makes it easy for developers to ship code that is immediately distributed across a global edge network.

Our goal is to give the developer an environment that feels familiar and integrates into their existing development pipelines. By abstracting away the reality of the edge expanding into thousands of nodes, developers are able to view the edge as a single deployment plane.

Unlike many legacy CDNs, Section provides a full development lifecycle experience based on Git-backed workflows. This enables developers to clone environments down locally for testing before pushing to staging and production, reducing the risk of introducing errors into production.

By providing developers with standard tooling and workflows, they are able to more easily interact with the Edge how and where they need, ultimately paving the way for the next generation of applications.