Edge computing ― The foundation of digital-first connected operations
In This Article
Article written by Chris Hanley, SVP Commercial Operations & Global Channels at Schneider Electric
Many organizations and industries are harnessing the power of data and digital tools with edge computing to improve resiliency, efficiency, sustainability, and safety and security. The attraction of edge computing is immediately apparent. Sending all that device-generated data to a centralized data center or the cloud causes bandwidth and latency issues. Edge computing offers a more efficient alternative: data is processed and analyzed closer to the point where it is created.
Edge computing is defined as a distributed computing framework that brings enterprise applications closer to data sources such as IoT devices or local edge servers. This proximity to data at its source can deliver substantial business benefits: faster insights, improved response times, and better bandwidth availability. As a result, significant opportunities exist to improve business outcomes in operations using connected technology. In fact, due to an explosion of edge data, 65% of Global 2000 companies will embed edge-first data stewardship, security, and network practices into data protection plans to integrate edge data into relevant processes by 2024.
This shift to digitization is driven by technology such as sensors, power and connectivity, edge computing, and cloud computing. These technologies can digitize and connect operational assets and data across traditional silos. By utilizing that data, organizations can apply analytics to deliver valuable business insights using distributed remote and onsite working models. As a result, organizations can build a more dependable, connected, and resilient enterprise that monitors and forecasts outcomes to optimize processes by embracing a connected operations strategy.
Edge computing and connected operations offer competitive advantages to organizations, but some challenges need to be tackled. A recent survey conducted by IDC reveals several areas that businesses need to address in the deployment and management of edge computing sites. Some of the obstacles highlighted are maintaining uptime and connectivity, managing security, and dealing with the skills gap. Let's look at the findings and potential solutions to address these challenges.
Reliable power and connectivity are crucial to the successful operation of any connected network. Yet the nature of distributed IT environments can be problematic. For example, remote locations can often suffer from poor connectivity and be susceptible to power surges and outages. To overcome these problems, organizations should carefully develop their infrastructure to include rack enclosures, uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs), and micro data centers, and incorporate environmental considerations and mitigations into their selection and deployment of edge resources. It is vital to deploy edge computing sites with the right solutions to enable resiliency and uptime.
The distributed nature of edge sites also means remote management capabilities are also required. Many edge sites don't have a dedicated IT staff and can be more susceptible to unplanned downtime or environmental factors impacting performance and uptime. As a result, companies need to adopt a robust monitoring and management approach to gain visibility and respond quickly to issues. Innovative software exists today to offer IT professionals visibility across multiple sites of critical IT infrastructure. Organizations can proactively monitor and manage edge computing sites with real-time monitoring, assessment, instant fault notification, and data-driven recommendations powered by artificial intelligence. This monitoring can even include tracking environment conditions and issuing alarms for high temperature, humidity, and UPS battery health.
Lastly, the skills gap presents a roadblock that impacts almost all sectors as organizations grapple with the requirements of digitization. The skills shortage is no great surprise, but the scope of the challenge revealed by the survey will be. According to the IDC survey, the top obstacle preventing companies from investing in edge computing is concern about managing this infrastructure at scale. The general lack of competencies for designing, implementing, and managing these solutions creates the need to address the 'how' of edge computing before advancing too far.
So how do organizations address this skills issue? One approach involves tapping into an ecosystem of partners when businesses can leverage IT solution providers and vendors who already have a lot of the edge computing puzzle figured out. They can often provide validated solutions and resources to enable successful edge deployment and management. According to the IDC survey, organizations are also increasingly opting to procure and manage technology solutions through as-a-service models. This approach frees up businesses to focus on their core operations while IT solution providers proactively manage edge sites to improve uptime.