back to article It's time to retire 'edge' from our IT vocabulary

What exactly is the edge? What makes something an edge appliance? These are trickier questions than you might think, and depending on who you ask — and honestly, what they’re trying to sell you — the answers can vary wildly. Yet, the edge is often talked about as if it’s one place or thing. It’s not. At best, it’s a catchall …

  1. chivo243 Silver badge

    What exactly is the edge?

    An Irish guitarist?

    To be honest, it was never in my IT vocabulary...

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: What exactly is the edge?

      In my experience, it's a piece of kit with vastly overblown resources that is being repurposed for things it was never initially supposed to take care of but, because it has all this CPU and RAM, it now can.

      I find it curious that, now that fiberoptic connections are almost everywhere in the business arena, stuff with more resources that they ever should have are also popping up everwhere.

      It would have been vastly more efficient to have those "edge" resources back when a 1Mbps line was considered the height of tech, but here we are.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What exactly is the edge?

        Fiber connections may provide gonzo bandwidth but they can't solve latency issues. The speed of light (or 70% in a waveguide/transmission line) is a hard lower limit, and then add in switches, routers, and congestion.

        1. NoneSuch Silver badge

          Re: What exactly is the edge?

          There's only three areas in a network.




          Anyone using "Edge" in an IT conversation has a piece of paper from a university and zero practical experience.

          - Speaking as someone who has done this job since before the phrase "IT" existed.

          1. Triggerfish

            Re: What exactly is the edge?

            I disagree, I see a lot of edge processing IOT sensors and there are practical uses for the data being processed on the device to do with latency but also privacy.

          2. sreynolds

            Re: What exactly is the edge?

            So if there are DMZs does this mean that we have borders? And if we do do those borders have any sharp corners (points) and/or segments bounded by an edge?

            And is all of this obscured by some water droplets suspended in the air.

      2. bpfh

        Re: What exactly is the edge?

        A verbose explanation about what Microsoft Internet Explorer evolved into, but pretty accurate. Thank you!

    2. DButch

      Re: What exactly is the edge?

      When I was working at DEC, we were supplying systems that could, I guess, be considered a very early "edge" device in the 1980s. They were intended to collect data from a local store, do some aggregation and compression, and send the compressed data to HQ. The stores were not designed for computer installation - so any storage space with electrical power and reasonable air-flow would do. At least one of our computers was installed in a cabinet over the toilet in the (unisex) bathroom. Service required closing the bathroom and the tech standing on the toilet seat to work on the computer. There were some embarrassing incidents if a too, um, burly tech was sent to that job.

      At DECUS (DEC User Symposium) conferences there was usually a midnight session where all the good stories were discussed. It was very hilarious and well worth staying up till near dawn.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: What exactly is the edge?

        That's Digital Equipment Computer Users Society.

        Yes, DECUS had symposiums. Yes, the late-night back rooms were where the action was. (Where do you think CES attendees got the idea?) I was one of the guys babbling about BSD on PDP-11 to anyone who was interested. Still am, come to think of it ...

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: What exactly is the edge?

      I came here expecting an article about the browser used to download Firefox on a clean Windows install :-)

  2. The Original Steve

    I suspect like many on here, "Edge" has never been a term I've used.

    It's cloud or I need tin.

    If tin then what's the requirements.


  3. steviebuk Silver badge


    Due to a shitty browser being called it.

    1. stiine Silver badge

      Re: Can't

      Can, even though, or perhaps because, there is a browser by that name.

  4. Spoonsinger

    Glad the big brained issues are finally being addressed.

    (body) - full bodied, with a good head.

  5. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    List of marketing terms designed to segment the market and boost sales

    Edge, SaaS, Big Data, AI, servers that from afar look like flies…

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: List of marketing terms designed to segment the market and boost sales

      Are you me? You sound write like me!

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: List of marketing terms designed to segment the market and boost sales

        I somehow doubt it, Borges' quote is now well-known, but what do you think of the first animal that dreamed of another animal?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But you need Edge to manage your IoT

    Otherwise your Blockchain will never Machine Learn

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Re: But you need Edge to manage your IoT

      Excellent - it sounds like it must have come from the mouth of Dilbert's PHB!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But you need Edge to manage your IoT

        "Excellent - it sounds like it must have come from the mouth of Dilbert's PHB!"

        Or the BOFH in the process of switching the Boss into Dummy Mode.

        1. DJV Silver badge

          Re: switching the Boss into Dummy Mode

          Shirley, there's no need for a switch as dummy mode is the one and only default.

          1. Toe Knee

            Re: switching the Boss into Dummy Mode

            It’s like a crosswalk activation button or elevator “close doors” button: cosmetic addition for placebo effect.

  7. Diogenes8080

    Leaving Chiba

    But edge is the essential commodity of our profession! You have to have it; St William of Vancouver said so.

  8. mmonroe

    Egde firewall

    The edge firewall sits between your network and the internet. In my experience, this does a better job of protecting your data than the firewall on your PC.With a decent edge firewall you don't really need a PC firewall and the PC will run quicker.

    As somebody else said, edge is also a rubbish web browser, which I call that tool Microsoft supply so you can download Chrome/Brave/Vivaldi or whatever takes your fancy.

    1. Giles C Silver badge

      Re: Egde firewall

      Have to agree with you. As far as I am concerned an edge device is a firewall / vpn concentrator. That device is an “edge” between stuff I can control and stuff I can’t.

      Anything on the clean side is a lan component anything on the other side is a wan system.

      I know the definition gets a bit fuzzy with cloud solutions but the same should apply the lan has just got busier with direct connect links they are in essence part of the lan these days anyway.

      Ps you might have guessed I am a firewall network security person

    2. cleminan

      Re: Egde firewall

      Ironically Chrome/Brave/Vivaldi & Edge are the same browser. Its just the icon & a few options being juggled around to differentiate them.

      1. 43300 Silver badge

        Re: Egde firewall

        Vivaldi and (especially) Brave remove much of the telemetry. The other two of course collect as much lovely data as possible for their respective owners to use!

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Egde firewall

      I always thought this, but now I feel I still don’t know what edge is.

      Having thought about it I decided that I don’t give a shit.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Egde firewall

        I don't really give a shit either ... but when you think about it, "edge" suggests a physical location somewhere. And yet "edge" is rather nebulous, although not as much so as "cloud". I rather suspect this lack of spacial location makes the word fucking useless in this context.

        I propose a better word for the same products: STUFF.

        Marketing would love it "Here's our new line of STUFF!"

        Management would love it "I don't know what STUFF is or does, but it's selling!"

        Sales would love it "People are stupid, look at all the STUFF they are buying!"

        ElReg would love it, they wouldn't have to change acronyms "Junk Widget Co. Has released a new line of IoS!"

        ElReg Commentards would love it "Don't you wish all these idiots would STUFF it?"

    4. stiine Silver badge

      Re: Egde firewall

      Yes, and no. If you ignore attacks from within, then yes, your edge network firewall is all that you need. You'd be incrrect and I would suggest that you NOT ignore the possibility of attacks from within.

  9. Tom Womack

    I'd always thought of 'edge' as 'can we run this chunky calculation on the nice fast ARM core that the user has already paid for in their smartphone, rather than on a no-better ARM core that AWS is charging us four cents an hour for' - if you're procuring new hardware for edge then you're doing it wrong.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      For me, that would be called "locally". But maybe calling it edge makes it sound... Edgier? *badum-tish*

      The first use of edge I've seen was for machines YouTube provides to ISPs that cache the top 0.1% of videos which create 50% of traffic. Which doesn't stop ISPs from whining YouTube should reimburse their bandwidth costs.

  10. Roland6 Silver badge

    What the heck is an edge appliance?

    I thought that was obvious:

    "Today, the term usually refers to compute resources located in close proximity to a data source. The approach allows information to be processed closer to the end users"

    All we've done is invent a new term for the PC...

    Interestingly, MS seem to have understood this with their idea of on-prem within the MS cloud subscription model.

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: What the heck is an edge appliance?

      "All we've done is invent a new term for the PC..."

      You seem to have overlooked the genius behind "close proximity". Close proximity has the precise meaning of tantalizingly just out of reach. If the cloud is "someone else's computer" as a server, the edge is "someone else's computer" as a PC! In both cases, the point is you _don't_ control it. Because if you control it, that's such a hassle. Let us control it, and you can sit back counting all your beans. Yes, edge been commandeered by marketing and divorced from any technical meaning. But that's okay, the intended target audience for the buzzy word is the same visionaries queuing up for the cloud.

  11. jake Silver badge

    I can't retire it if I never used it.

    On the other hand, edge, like the term cyber, is useful filter terminology when deciding who actually knows something about technology and who can be safely ignored on the subject.

  12. Jonah DU

    Time is an issue

    In IoT, we need Edge when time is an issue.

    It's out of context if my app doesn't.

    Just my short definition.

  13. navarac Bronze badge


    "Edge" = a Nadella-type-ism. Words usually made up, or twisted in meaning, by marketing idiots to try and impress people as a means to baffle their audience, which doesn't understand what the hell they are talking about. In other words, gobbledegook!

    A lot of these words/expressions/meaning are made up by techie types so far up their own arse that they hardly know the proper meaning of language in the first place.

  14. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    More candidates

    * core (when used as an adjective) or, even worse, Core

    * native (haven't seen Native yet)

  15. Jamesit

    "What exactly is the edge?"

    It's what you make sure you are nowhere near when talking to the BOFH!

    1. aerogems Silver badge

      Let me show you the edge of my government disapproved cattle prod! Or the nice edge of the building roof.

  16. aerogems Silver badge


    El Reg is playing at being an edgelord, eh? As in, lord of the edge, not some twat who thinks they're edgy. Now, what to do about edge cases with edge devices?

  17. Old Man Ted

    Edge a B/S term to baffle brains invented by a Accounting/ Marketing depart by some Idiot who has an MBA (Master of Bugger All) and is in the accounting side where Creative Accounting is a no no so be creative in a non illegal way.

  18. nintendoeats Silver badge

    We have a product which is basically a camera and a passively cooled computer in one box.

    Previous version: smart camera.

    New version, just updated specs: Deep learning edge IoT device.

    No comment

  19. MacGuffin

    Retire "Compute" as a Noun

    Restore "compute" to its place as a verb

    1. 43300 Silver badge

      Re: Retire "Compute" as a Noun

      Can we also get rid of "performant"? I realise that technically it's a valid word, but nobody ever used it until markteters in the IT world discovered it a few years back. It doesn't actually mean anything measurable (which is no doubt why marketers like it!).

  20. avileidner

    Is IT Time to retire 'edge' from our IT vocabulary?

    There may be a good reason to not do so, which presents immediately following the header/title:

    "The term [edge] has become so ambiguous it's verging on irrelevance."

    What is it to be "verging?" It's to be on the verge of.

    So to be on the "edge" of, (if not just synonymous with to be on the "verge" of), doesn't need to be "retired" so much that IT just needs a new "job description."

    A major reason "edge" may have become so overused is out of a desire for an alternative to "verge."

    (I may be wrong on that point, to a greater or lesser extent. I could just be "going out on a limb," as the idiom goes.)

    But let's look at things from the perspective of where the "verge" is coming from, so to speak.

    We could take just plain literally, and do a "quick dip," (which would be like jumping off the "edge" to do a "deep dive," but at the shallow end of the pool), into the etymology of "verge."


    verge (n.)

    "edge, rim," mid-15c.,

    from Old French verge "twig, branch; measuring rod; penis; rod or wand of office" (12c.),

    hence, from the last sense, "scope, territory dominated" (as in estre suz la verge de "be under the authority of"), from Latin virga "shoot, rod, stick, slender green branch," of unknown origin.

    Hmm ... "verge" actually comes off as being much more ambiguous a word, (all-around), than "edge."

    "Verge" is virtually leaning on either "edge" or "rim" to establish its meaning.

    But if "edge" needs a "job" that "verge" is not doing, why not give it a mirrored position in the adjoining office?

    If the term "edge" has become so ambiguous that it's on the verge of being irrelevant,

    then we can say the term "verge" has become so concise that it's on the "edge" of being relevant.

    To demonstrate that concept being applied, let's use the question posed as an example (in the article) for an example (in this context):

    "What the heck is an 'edge appliance'?"

    It's an appliance that is on the "verge" of being either relevant or irrelevant, but is neither, so long as it remains an "edge" appliance.

    All we are doing with that is just "going all the way" on "edge." Rather than going through the (likely fruitless) effort of trying to expunge "edge" for its unfathomably shallow ambiguity, simply identify "edge" as being undecidable. Rather than irrelevant, it becomes absolutely necessary to the vocabulary, while it has no value to anything which the vocabulary represents.

    Otherwise, the only other candidate for the position of "edge" would be "verge," and we'd REALLY hate to have to give that term "the axe," after it gets split down the middle and has to do the work of ambiguity for both sides of, (where we like and don't like), the way it's being used.

  21. stevebp

    Definitely the most mis-used term in the industry right now and the least understood!

    I sat watching a panel once where four dignitaries of the Data Centre Industry all described what they thought of as "the edge" and it turns out none of them could agree - one even described it, not unsurprisingly as he owns data centres there, as the edge of the civilised world, such as Russia and Africa! Needless to say, the panel was a bit of a joke - they should have talked together beforehand, instead of talking at cross-purposes.

    I now divide the various layers up into Compute Edge (anything from IoT, automated factories/cars/planes, etc. to the mobile phone in your hand), Near Edge (an aggregator and filtering of Compute Edge data) and cloud/colocation (where the remaining edge data is passed back to the centre to be processed further and stored)

    1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

      Re: Definitely the most mis-used term in the industry right now and the least understood!

      you need to rename the last one as the "Far Edge" before being deemed irrelevant...

  22. Mike 137 Silver badge

    From a security perspective

    The definition is really simple. It's the most remote device from your core over which you exercise control. Anything beyond that device is outside your control and therefore suspect. That of course presupposes that you actually exercise control where you can.

    1. stiine Silver badge

      Re: From a security perspective

      Of if you excercise it at all...

    2. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

      Re: From a security perspective

      any device in the hands of end-users is suspect...

  23. sketharaman

    "...we describe servers by their function — storage, compute, GPU,..."

    I've never heard a storage device being described as server. SAN comprising hard disks is called storage but hard disks integrated with the server are not - although both perform the same function of storing programs and data. SAP India website says RISE for SAP includes only the Public Edition of SAP S/4HANA where SAP India instructors giving training to RISE with SAP partners say RISE for SAP includes both Public Edition and Private Edition of SAP S/4HANA.

    I could go on and on but this shows that there's a lot of ambiguity in terminology even inside the datacenter. But nobody is suggesting that we retire the terms storage or ERP from our vocabulary.

    Likewise, just because there's ambiguity in edge devices doesn't mean that the term should be retired.

    Besides, sensors, zigbee "transmitters", and barcode scanners are just a few examples of devices for which the term "edge" is clearly applicable.

  24. Binraider Silver badge

    The article missed a major advantage of 'edge'.

    Having a high performance device of my specification away from the control of corporate IT management means I can run what I want, where I need to.

    The moment I am forced the road of moving my niche applications into the overhead and delay-ridden hell that is the helldesk, the time it will take to do many specialised jobs will rise threefold.

    I don't refer to it as edge, but by the definition given, my use case clearly fits.

  25. Nostriluu

    Graph theory

    I guess it's not "IT" but it's from graph theory. If you squint hard enough and aren't trying to still profit off decades old tech using FUD, you can see it.

  26. im.thatoneguy

    Specific definition

    It's worth pointing out that The full term is: **Cloud** Edge. What makes it "Edge" vs an Industrial computer is that it's software to offer almost-on-prem hardware that then connects to a cloud service.

    Technically hybrid cloud hardware is also just "hardware" but what makes Azure Stack different is the fact that from a software perspective it's cloud API.

    Cloud Edge is perfectly clear. It's a device that exposes on prem data to the cloud and vice versa. Someone mentioned Edge Firewall to be snarky but actually that is a perfect analogy. An edge firewall filters WAN/LAN. A Cloud Edge Compute device works with the cloud to ingest on prem data, pre process it and safely upload it to WAN.

  27. TheBadja

    Edge is OK

    The IT industry uses vocabulary that is more marketing blitz than technical all the time. Fuzzy marketing terms are the norm, not the exception. Edge just means non-centralised. Not putting everything in the same cloud data centre or two. Spread it about. No need to be more specific than that.

  28. Blackjack Silver badge

    Hear that Microsoft? Your Edge is a mere buzzword!

  29. Grunchy Silver badge

    If the blade server doesn’t have the edge then I don’t know. Is it like the AMD sl-edge hammer? Or maybe when you go rumm-edge for like some obscure usb cord or what-all.


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