Who invented edge computing?

  • Edge computing evolved through contributions from various companies and individuals, rather than being invented by a single person.
  • Companies like Cisco, IBM, AWS, Microsoft, and Intel have significantly advanced edge computing by integrating it into their technologies and services.
  • The rapid growth of IoT devices highlighted the need for local data processing, making edge computing essential for real-time applications like autonomous vehicles and smart cities.

Edge computing is a transformative technology that has redefined how data is processed and managed. Unlike traditional cloud computing, where data is sent to a centralised data center for processing, edge computing brings computation and data storage closer to the data sources. This reduces latency, enhances performance, and supports real-time decision-making. But who exactly invented edge computing?

The roots of distributed computing

To appreciate the invention of edge computing, we need to look back at the evolution of distributed computing. The concept of distributing computing resources across multiple locations dates back to the 1960s and 1970s. During this era, researchers began exploring the potential of decentralised networks and distributed systems. The ARPANET, a precursor to the modern internet, demonstrated the feasibility of connecting remote computers and set the stage for future advancements.

The rise of cloud computing

In the 2000s, cloud computing emerged as a dominant paradigm, centralising data processing and storage in large data centers. Companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft led this movement, offering scalable and cost-effective solutions for businesses and consumers alike. However, the exponential growth of data generated by IoT devices and other sources soon highlighted the limitations of centralised cloud computing, particularly in terms of latency and bandwidth constraints.

Also read: Comcast uses edge computing and AI to detect and locate outages

The advent of edge computing

The term “edge computing” began gaining traction around the mid-2010s, but its foundational concepts were explored even earlier. Edge computing builds on distributed computing principles, aiming to process data closer to its source, at the “edge” of the network. This approach minimises latency, reduces bandwidth usage, and enhances data security and privacy.

Key contributors and milestones

Cisco Systems

Cisco is often credited with popularising the term “fog computing,” which is closely related to edge computing. In 2012, Cisco introduced the concept of fog computing to address the need for distributed computing resources in IoT applications. Fog computing extends cloud computing to the edge of the network, facilitating localised processing and storage.

Akamai Technologies

As early as the late 1990s, Akamai Technologies was developing content delivery networks (CDNs) that positioned servers closer to end-users to improve web performance. While not exactly edge computing as we know it today, Akamai’s work laid the groundwork for the idea of processing data nearer to the user.

Researchers and academics

Various researchers and academic institutions have significantly contributed to the development of edge computing. In the early 2000s, numerous papers and studies explored decentralised computing models and the potential benefits of local data processing. These academic efforts provided a theoretical foundation for the practical implementations that followed.

The role of the OpenFog Consortium

In 2015, several industry leaders, including Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, Dell, and Princeton University, formed the OpenFog Consortium. This consortium aimed to develop a common framework and set of standards for fog and edge computing. The OpenFog Reference Architecture, published in 2017, played a crucial role in shaping the edge computing landscape and accelerating its adoption across various industries.

Also read: Telin and Zenlayer team up to deliver edge computing solutions

While it is challenging to attribute the invention of edge computing to a single individual or organisation, it is clear that edge computing is the result of decades of evolution in distributed computing and cloud technologies. Key contributions from companies like Cisco and Akamai, along with the collaborative efforts of the OpenFog Consortium and academic researchers, have all played pivotal roles in bringing edge computing to the forefront of modern technology.


Coco Zhang

Coco Zhang, an intern reporter at BTW media dedicated in Products and AI. She graduated from Tiangong University. Send tips to k.zhang@btw.media.

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