What is Edge Virtualization?

A network can be broken down into two elements: the central core, where data is processed, and the edges of the network, where users operate peripheral devices to access the network.

Edge Virtualization is the utilization of virtual software versions of physical hardware at the edge of a network, thus the software, including the Operating System, is separated from the hardware. By allocating virtual resources to the devices (such as cash registers, self-serve checkouts, mobile tablets, etc.), edge virtualization provides each endpoint with its own instance or portion of the network’s resources. As a result, the distance that a resource request must travel is much shorter in a virtualized infrastructure, as opposed to a traditional network – in which all requests are sent to the central core, namely the data center. Edge Virtualization extends networking, storage and computing capabilities to local edge devices, enabling the processing of a wide array of workloads with little to no delay in computing time.

How does Edge Virtualization differ from Data Center Virtualization?

Conceptually, Edge Virtualization contrasts with Data Center Virtualization in that individual instances of Edge Virtualization are on a much smaller scale, are located far from the Edge’s control point without local support, may have limited communications bandwidth which may also suffer significant latency and are required to support a wide range of workload types that interface with real-world peripherals using a wide-range of technologies, many of which may be legacy or non-standard. Edge Virtualization by its very nature is a combination of software defined compute, storage and networking much as you would find in the cloud but where these resources are remote and in most cases of modest scale. Edge Virtualization has a different scale to the cloud.  Where the cloud has massive compute, storage and networking resources that are tightly geographically associated, usually in one or two very large data centers, Edge Virtualization is utilized across large numbers of locations, each with a modest complement of resources.

Why is Edge Virtualization important?

Edge Virtualization is important because it extends the software defined capabilities of retailers, allowing them to remotely monitor, manage and maintain edge devices across large geographical footprints, without the time and cost for sending site technicians to stores. In a rapidly changing world where new technologies are raising the bar for customer fulfillment every day and more workloads are required at the Edge, retailers need the ability to move fast with as much flexibility as possible.

How does Edge Virtualization work?

Technically, the virtualization part of Edge Virtualization is not that different from traditional network virtualization.  Where it does differ is that it assumes that the software stack underneath is a fully hyperconverged virtualization solution where compute, storage and network are software defined. Clearly this software defined capability is remotely controllable. The compute challenges at the edge often includes integrations not found in the data centre, to IoT systems, to retail systems, to specialized client devices and peripherals. Where there is a significant difference is the ability to integrate peripherals. Edge Virtualization is required to integrate old and new peripherals regardless of heritage. For example, in a retail environment a virtualized POS will require seamless integration to peripherals such as the barcode scanner, magnetic stripe reader, cash drawer, receipt printer and more.

Store IT infrastructures today are complex and expensive to maintain. By shifting our store infrastructure from a hardware centric to a software focused approach, we will be able to increase our speed-of-service, quickly deploy upgrades across our network of stores and add new features and innovations including cloud-enabled services across our chain.

Mike Rodgers
Chief Strategy and Information Officer
Pilot Flying J
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