How to keep up with the evolution of computing at the edge

Editor's note: Today we are featuring a guest post from PubNub, a company featured at our 2nd Annual Startup Day at our Silicon Valley Experience Center. By Todd Greene and James Riseman There are two mega-trends driving the need for new computing infrastructure beyond the centralized datacenter, commonly referred to as “edge computing”. The first is the explosion of data stream-based applications - applications and experiences relying on huge amounts of data points being sent and received by devices. This broad category consists of everything from mobile games like Pokemon Go to IoT sensors, and everything in between.

How to keep up with the evolution of computing at the edge

The second mega-trend is the expectation of realtime experiences from end users.  Users expect to see realtime updates on their screens, mirroring what’s happening in the real world.  Like a Hollywood sci-fi movie, we now expect to control devices instantly around the world, and see our screens flash when something happens on another continent.

These two mega-trends have strained, and now broken, the “traditional” web infrastructure we’ve used over the past two decades.  REST-based architecture (commonly referred to as “request/response” design) is the most common way that application developers build their products, with frameworks like LAMP, MEAN, Ruby/Rails, .NET, and others.  Behind the firewall, IT developers have traditionally used more loosely coupled message-based architecture like SOA (Service Oriented Architecture).

While REST and SOA architectures can scale well for “traditional” applications, they don’t serve the needs of low-latency applications that are globally distributed, with devices and end users constantly emitting and consuming large streams of data.  They also don’t serve the security needs of these applications.  By now, we’ve seen well publicized failures here, from Twitter’s notorious fail whale to common security breaches in IoT devices, from Wi-Fi routers to connected baby monitors.

Edge computing promises to deal with many of these challenges, with the ability for business logic to be executed closer to the devices, that is, closer to the “edge” of the network.  While these concepts make sense, the initial edge computing technologies that have been proposed appeal to infrastructure and network architects, but have not been accessible to application and IoT development.  At PubNub, we’ve been working to bridge edge computing with application development, so application and IoT developers can access the concepts and power of edge computing.

PubNub offers accessible edge computing through something called a Data Stream Network (DSN).  Think of a DSN as a combination of a network specifically designed for data streams (like a two-way, low-latency Akamai).  Once an application’s data streams are routed through our DSN, it’s easy to add business logic using a new PubNub offering called PubNub Functions.  PubNub Functions gives developers the ability to add business logic into the network, close to the edge, with programming languages they already know, like JavaScript.

PubNub Functions Image

 

There is a broad trend of “serverless” technologies being launched, like Amazon Lambda and many more.  PubNub Functions, and more broadly, PubNub’s Data Stream Network, are more specialized, designed for the needs of the “next-generation” applications described above (i.e. real-time, data stream-based apps, devices, and experiences). Developers can realize many benefits from a “programmable network”:

  • automatic distribution of business logic across global regions, without operations or network concerns
  • replication of data points across many local copies of databases
  • low latency computing in every region of the world, to all devices
  • no need for the developer to know where (globally) the compute is happening
  • gateways to all cloud environments, so systems are cloud agnostic/ portable.

Edge computing is evolving rapidly, and PubNub is helping developers keep up with users’ changing expectations. For real-time user experiences, developers need to look beyond REST-based architectures.

Todd Greene


Todd Greene

Todd Greene is the CEO and co-founder of PubNub.  As an entrepreneur who has founded and scaled companies across the software spectrum (consumer, enterprise, and infrastructure), Todd helps shape the PubNub vision of revolutionizing the way people and machines interact online.

Prior to PubNub, Todd was CEO of Loyalize, an Audience Participation company where he designed the first-ever massively multi-user Social TV mobile and web applications licensed to companies like Viacom and Yahoo.  Loyalize was acquired by Function(X) (NASDAQ:FNCX) in 2011.  Todd was co-founder and CTO/VP Products of CascadeWorks, a SaaS company providing Services Procurement solutions to Texas Instruments, Charles Schwab, and ABN Amro, and acquired by Elance in 2003.   In the mid-90s, Todd became an early employee of NetDynamics, a company that built the first scalable app server for the Internet, acquired by Sun Microsystems in 1998.  Todd started his career as a management consultant and member of the Technology Services Group at Price Waterhouse.

James Riseman


James Riseman

James Riseman is the Director of Product Marketing at PubNub. James is a software industry veteran with 20 years of leadership experience in marketing and products, with New Relic, Cisco WebEx, Nuance Communications, Rocket Fuel, and MicroStrategy. James has a passion for explaining complex technical products to diverse audiences. He has a Masters Degree from the University of Michigan.

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