Moving Government Agencies Closer to The Edge
For over a decade, the federal government has made strides in consolidating and optimizing federal data centers. Agencies have achieved significant cost savings by adopting energy efficiency technologies and moving to cloud-based and hybrid IT environments. As a result, the data center is becoming part of a larger distributed ecosystem that includes cloud resources and edge computing.
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Even with the rapid growth and adoption of cloud, it cannot always meet the required response times and mission requirements for availability, connectivity, and lower transport costs agencies need for the efficient performance of critical applications. Moreover, federal agencies must comply with government regulations stipulating where data is stored, and in some cases that might mean installing a more local storage set-up than a cloud environment offers.
Enter edge computing. Edge computing allows agencies to store and process data near the source of data ingestion in real-time, which reduces the need to send streams of data over telecommunications networks. From civilian agencies to the military services, government agencies are looking to apply edge-based technologies to process data closer to the point of collection.
To meet the demands of edge computing, agencies will have to update and transform their data center infrastructure. That will require careful planning and a phased approach that might involve a multi-vendor strategy. Here are some steps recommended by Bob Olwig, Vice President of Corporate Business Development & Marketing with WWT, that data center managers can implement to build a more modular infrastructure for edge computing:
Step 1: Design and validate
Designing and validating your agency infrastructure plans prior to making any purchases is essential because it enables the sourcing of hardware and software in a commoditized and cost-saving manner. Agencies should rely on partners who have proven reference designs and architectures that include core automation and virtualization technology along with monitoring software to reduce risk and significantly accelerate time to market.
Step 2: Configure and test
Once a multi-vendor solution is validated, scaling becomes the biggest obstacle. Whether solutions are being deployed once or by the thousands, consistency and quality remain paramount to adoption and future success. Having the right facilities is important to source, stage, integrate and test the solution to make sure it functions as intended in a real-world setting.
Step 3: Deploy
With the solution built, validated and ready to go, there is no point in taking those components apart — not only would this waste time, but it would also risk the integrity of the solution and place undue pressure on a data center team to aggregate it all back together again. To truly enable scale, an effective IT partner should be able to configure complete racks, crate them up and ship them as an integrated, pre-tested solution.
Step 4: Operate and manage
Technology is changing more rapidly than ever before, and the pace of change is only accelerating. Deployment is just half the battle. Agency managers should develop a post-deployment plan with continuous monitoring and management of the solution, remediation of issues if they should arise and support to optimize the solution moving forward. In today’s “everything-as-a-service” world, even government agencies are getting more comfortable with the idea of outsourcing remote monitoring and management, and strategic staffing.
Building to the edge
Edge computing deployments come in different forms and sizes—from local devices that serve a specific purpose, such as an appliance that runs a building’s security system, to small, localized data centers that offer significant processing and storage capabilities to regional data centers with more than 10 racks that serve relatively large local user populations. As agency IT managers deploy edge computing, they will need to consider whether network architectures can address specific services, applications and use cases, such as 5G networking.
No matter the size, it is critical for agencies to build edge data centers with the same attention to reliability and security as they would for a large, centralized data center. By adopting micro data centers, agency IT teams can install and manage edge networking and computing simply, reliably, and predictably. Micro data centers combine power, cooling, physical security, and management software and services into prepackaged rack solutions that can be deployed globally in any environment.
Jeffrey Chabot, Schneider Electric’s Director, Government Segment sums up the benefits of edge computing architecture, “It brings together compute, storage, and manageability for critical applications as close to the point of processing as required while supporting a new generation of applications that require reduced network latency and the ability to rapidly process very large volumes of data.”
The bottom line is that edge computing enables agency workforces to analyze massive amounts of data for meaningful insights, then act with real-time information and business logic — all as part of a broader ecosystem that includes core and cloud capabilities.