Edge computing types: 4 edge types defined

What are the different types of edge?

There are four main types of edge computing, as laid out in the diagram below. Each type of edge computing refers to a different physical location (indicated at the bottom of the diagram) as well as existing in a logically different place within a network (indicated at the top of the diagram).

See how STL can help you capitalise on the edge computing opportunity

Develop a rich understanding of the edge computing opportunity with our research service. Book your demo today

Book a demo

Device edge computing refers to workloads running directly on physical hardware (e.g. IoT sensors, smart cameras) connected to an edge computing platform, allowing for minimal latency and reduced backhaul. This type of edge is generally applicable for workloads that are not very compute-intensive or in circumstances where there is unlikely to be network connectivity at the customer site.

On-premise edge computing refers to computing resources that reside at the customer side, e.g. on an IoT gateway physically on-site, an on-premises data centre, etc. On-premise edge is important when customers want all of their data to remain on their premises (e.g. because it is highly sensitive or proprietary data detailing specific company practices or blueprints) but they also wish to enjoy the flexibility and elasticity benefits brought by cloud computing.

• Network edge refers to edge compute locations that are at sites or points of presence (PoPs) owned by a telecom’s operator, for example at a central office in the mobile network or at an ISP’s node. This type of edge is required for use cases where there is no one fixed premise (e.g. within smart city applications) or for many consumer use cases (because it is unlikely that a normal consumer will invest in their own dedicated on-premise infrastructure). Some people use the term MEC (multi-access edge computing) to refer to the network edge.

• Regional edge refers to small carrier-neutral data centres or internet exchanges, often located nearby to tier two and tier three cities. Many different customers can dynamically rent servers here, to run their workloads on, which is referred to as co-location.

STL Partners refers to the combination of regional and network edge under the umbrella term “distributed edge computing”. This essentially refers to any edge computing workloads that are not hosted on premises owned by the customer but instead by a third party such as a data centre provider or a telecoms operator.

Kuba Smolorz


Kuba Smolorz


Kuba Smolorz is a consultant at STL Partners.

Download this article as a PDF

Are you looking for advisory services in edge computing?

Read more about edge computing

Edge computing market overview

This 33-page document will provide you with a summary of our insights from our edge computing research and consulting work:

When will edge private cloud supplant colocation?

This article will outline the core differences between edge colocation and edge private cloud, explore the merits and demerits of each.

Edge computing in universal CPE (uCPE)

Enterprise networking has evolved in the last decade, moving away from proprietary appliances, to universal platforms that allow for flexibility and choice for how to manage enterprise network services and functions. Question is – can these be extended to provide edge computing for non-network services? This article evaluates the opportunity and provides examples for companies innovating in the edge uCPE space.

Understanding Edge Computing Devices: A Comprehensive Guide

There are five main types of edge computing devices: IoT sensors, smart cameras, uCPE equipment, servers and processors.