GuidesEdge Cache: What Is Edge Caching? How Does it Work?

Edge Cache: What Is Edge Caching? How Does it Work?

Data administrators must adopt effective management practices like edge caching to ensure the availability of digital resources such as files, systems, and applications.

A picture taken from space of Earth, specifically the Italian peninsula at night, representing the distributed network that comes with edge computing and edge caching which load balances duplicative requests of static web content.

Caching and edge computing play a critical role in enabling modern content delivery networks (CDN) and telecommunications providers that offer web services to billions of users. Edge caching refers to the practice of using intermediate storage between traditional or hyperscale data centers and end users accessing the resource.

Advancing connectivity is partly thanks to the development of edge computing infrastructure, where edge servers (or nodes) sit at the edge of networks or systems. Edge caches store frequently utilized resources closer to the end user within device or server memory for quick retrieval.

This article looks at what edge computing and caching are, the role of edge servers, and how edge caching works.

What Is Edge Caching?

Caching has long been the mechanism for storing temporary data or files for quick retrieval by users. With digital resources growing in demand globally from urban centers to disparate locations, edge computing leads the way in connecting developers and service providers with web clients where they are.

Read more: Server Optimization: How to Increase Server Speed & Performance

Edge caching is the integration of traditional caching methods and mechanisms into edge computing infrastructure. By moving memory storage closer to end users, edge caching reduces stress on extensive networks and improves content delivery.

What Is Edge Computing?

Edge computing is a distributed network framework where data and application service providers shift server processing as close to end users as possible. High-capacity remote data centers have long been vital to the digital ecosystem, but distance makes all the difference and can present more network disruptions, bandwidth limitations, and latency issues.

Read more: Data Center Survey 2021: Outages Less Common, More Expensive

Though edge computing is a decades-old network concept aligned to remote computing, only in the new millennium has its value been realized. The proliferation of mobile and IoT devices and their capabilities has only been possible thanks to more storage and processing resources on the network edge. 

As a commercial industry, edge computing vendors offer solutions for building distributed networks that enable localized computing power and enrich connectivity with end users.

Read more at CIO Insight: Edge Computing Trends in 2021 

What Is an Edge Server?

Traditional servers can reside anywhere, and most often run in an organization’s server room or remote data center. Edge servers, by definition, are physically or logically set on the edge of infrastructure and systems. Examples of edge server use cases include an enterprise application serving a new region, or a small business extending its local network capacity.

Deploying edge computing remains a work in progress; in the meantime, there is a spectrum of edge server functionality. Edge servers physically close to end users are optimal, but retrieving resources from the device’s SSD or hard drive completes the request even faster. 

Types of Edge Servers

  • Device Edge: Components or attachments of an end-user device
  • On-Premises Edge: Nodes physically located in the network or facility
  • Network Edge: Network-specific nodes like base stations and telco data centers 
  • Regional Edge: Traditional data centers serving the largest geographic regions

Read more: Best Server Management Software & Tools 2021

How Does Edge Caching Work?

Caching is the process of storing data for later access via software or hardware memory components. By keeping resources closer to the end user, edge caching mitigates deductive traffic when users access the same resource regularly.

The Memory Supply Chain

To accomplish this, data centers, edge servers, and local memory components work together to create a memory hierarchy. Though traditional data centers may have the largest capacity, their resources in the edge computing landscape are the least used by network end users. 

Similarly, edge servers have less capacity, but store resources used more often. Finally, local storage has the least storage space, but contains the contents and resources needed the most often. When deployed effectively, edge caching enhances endpoint performance while relieving remote data centers of added stress with load balancing.

Read more: Top Rack Servers of 2021

Caching in Action: Web Browsers

Most end users have heard the term cache and associate it with their web history. Though an elementary understanding, it’s an accurate depiction. Web browsers are the most visible example of caches in action. Caches for web browsing, including edge caching, typically follow these steps:

  1. End user navigates to a specific website or application.
  2. The web browser downloads web content to display to the user.
  3. The user visits the same website at a later time or date.
  4. From cache memory, the browser retrieves the original content from the website.
  5. The browser scans the webpage for new content and updates the resource.

Through caching, web browsers can reduce the digital effort it takes to service end-user requests. Instead of reloading the static contents of a webpage every time the user visits, caches allow for adaptive updating of new, dynamic content. 

The most common challenge with caches is they are not infinite storage. Administrators or users typically need to clear space or reconfigure the cache to restore functionality after a malfunction.

Read more: Web Server vs. Application Server

What Mechanisms Contain Cache Functionality?

Software Caches

Hardware Caches

  • CPU or GPU
  • Hard drives
  • SSDs

Read more on TechRepublic: How to flush the DNS cache to improve network performance in Windows 10

Edge Caching Enriches Availability

Edge computing presents new opportunities and challenges, but the benefits are evident, and an increasingly digital ecosystem calls for it. The emergence of 5G connectivity will expand mobile and IoT device usage, and a world of users expect around-the-clock access to digital resources. Location is everything, and the expansion of edge infrastructures will expand caching capabilities, thus enabling faster delivery of web content and resources.

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