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Why is Edge so important to organisations?

Just a few years ago, many understood ‘the edge’ to be areas within an organisation’s IT environment located outside of the data centre. ‘The edge’ would consist of places where IT and OT (Operational Technologies) met but didn’t particularly integrate, like factory floors or remote plant rooms. Where data was collected and then sent to the data centre for analysis and archiving. These early deployments of edge technologies were generally constrained for connectivity, generated limited amounts of data and the number and types of devices were limited. This often led to the conclusion that the edge was only applicable to certain industries and not relevant to most organisations.

Just what is the edge?

In simple terms, Edge computing enables mobile computing and Internet of Things (IoT), allowing the device itself, or a local server close by, to process the data, rather than sending it to a data centre. This improves speeds, saves bandwidth and improves security. It is called ‘Edge’, because the computing is done close to or ‘at the edge’ of the data source, rather than relying on a data centre to do the work.

With the acceleration in tech and an increase in understanding, that narrow perception of the edge held a few years ago has changed dramatically in recent years. Rather than limiting our understanding of the edge to the place where OT and IT collide, we now see the edge in the context of people, places and things and the data that is generated between these. This helps us to understand the impact of the edge on many different industries. In manufacturing, the way we produce goods and services is being digitally transformed to deliver better product with less waste; in the entertainment industry we now see customised experiences unique to the individual. It is hard to find ANY sector that is not being redefined by embracing intelligent edge.

Looking ahead

Why has the edge become so important? Especially in a time when organisations are moving more workloads to the cloud and where connectivity and bandwidth is improving at such a dramatic pace. Part of the reason is that the amount of data that is being generated at these sites is so large that we are now dealing with centres of data, and the movement of that data can take time. With edge computing we can process and store data faster, therefore facilitating real time decision-making, which is vital, as any delay in making these decisions can result in missed opportunities.

All of this data does not just sit at the edge forever. The data holds value to the organisation beyond these real time decisions, helping deliver deeper insights that form more strategic decision making. When we consider that there will be up to 55 billion connected devices by next year, according to IDC, and those devices are getting smarter and generating more data every minute, edge computing also helps to contain the costs associated with the movement of these large amounts of data. By distributing compute to the edge, these devices can analyse all of the data that is generated and then transmit the relevant data to the datacentre or the cloud. This helps to reduce connectivity costs and any potential ingress costs without sacrificing business outcomes.

How to build an edge to cloud strategy

As you build your edge to cloud strategy you’ll need to consider where you should be processing data. This will come down to a business value decision that looks at the time we have to make decisions vs the value of that operation. That decision will then help you decide on the most logical opportunity to process that data. It can be filtered down into three categories, which can be used alongside each other, depending on the data and devices you are using:

  1. Edge Decision Making – we put the decision making at the very edge by deploying systems that can support AI or ML within these edge compute devices to deliver real time insights. We see this in operation in manufacturing quality assurance (QA) systems where camera and sensor data is streamed through edge solutions, and QA decisions are made immediately.
  2. Application and data aggregation – for scenarios where the period to make a decision is less time-sensitive and where we need a number of applications or pieces of data to come together to make a more informed decision. For example, taking data from a number of edge inputs to deliver the appropriate outcome. This is found in building management and smart retail.
  3. Data Capture – where we log and collate data. We can derive deeper insights and even benchmark sets of data against each other to identify patterns. We see this in remote monitoring solutions and the automotive industry for autonomous driving training.

The next steps – connectivity and security

Once you have identified your ideal mix of the three categories above, you need to consider connectivity and security. Flexibility of connectivity is essential, whether that is cellular, WiFi or WAN, and your choice of devices alongside this connectivity is fundamental to the value that you can derive from your edge solution. As with anything that connects to your organisation, whether end user devices or CCTV cameras, the environment needs to be secure so it does not introduce unnecessary risk.

Standard datacentre networking practices may not apply to your edge deployment, which is why we look toward solutions that have the ability to virtually eliminate the need for static configurations, ACLs and VLANs, while still delivering the highest protection levels. Dynamic Segmentation simplifies the segmentation of traffic by understanding the devices and their roles, storing that information in a centralised network access control solution. These centralised policies are then enforced across the entire network using a policy enforcement firewall to ensure that the traffic from each device only goes to the resources assigned. Should any device deviate from those policies assigned to it, it can be automatically removed from the network. This gives you peace of mind that your environment is protected from any nefarious activity from the outside in.

At HPE we understand the importance of the edge to the success of organisations from all sectors. We believe that it must be an intrinsic element of your IT and therefore it needs to be part of your Hybrid Cloud strategy. It is for these reasons that we have invested in the people and technologies required to help our customers embrace edge to cloud.

For more advice on building an edge to cloud strategy, contact davin@hpe.com

Davin Cody
Hewlett Packard Enterprise



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