As the retail industry accelerates its drive towards more interactive and digitized customer experiences, the requirement for more complex “hybrid” IT systems becomes more acute. However, as systems grow in complexity, system architecture design and planning become more important in order to avoid unanticipated systems downtime and the associated business disruption. Under such circumstances, selecting technology partners that are well versed in choosing technologies designed to emphasise both resiliency and ease of integration becomes paramount for reducing downtime risk for retailers.
According to Gartner, downtime costs average $5,600 per minute, which extrapolates to well over $300K per hour. This number increases in environments where high-level data transactions occur (such as retail point of sale terminals).
Though many variables can impact uptime and the related business continuity, two overriding factors impact retail IT system availability. The first is the way IT systems and the accompanying power and cooling support infrastructures are architected. The second is the particular ecosystem of partners that retailers choose to rely on for the design, deployment, and support of both cloud-based and edge computing systems.
Digitisation changes the IT systems uptime paradigm
Traditional brick and mortar retailers are currently undergoing massive business model restructuring as they rush to provide their customers with digital experiences that create value. New concepts such as digital mirrors, smart dressing rooms, and smart displays need to operate reliably in order to deliver that value. Unfortunately, in many cases, the IT architecture in place to support these systems may be antiquated and inefficient. The technologies in play are not connected in a way that optimises real-time interactive customer experiences.
For these digital experiences to be both immersive and cost-effective, a hybrid compute architecture is recommended. “Hybrid” implies a combination of the centralised cloud (characterised by massive compute and storage), and on-premise “edge” data centres (with smaller compute and storage assets located very near to where the data is being consumed).
Hybrid architectures combine the advantages of cloud and edge (e.g., cloud access to “big data” and the ability of edge systems capture local data) while accounting for the limits of each (latency delays on the cloud side and limited data analysis scope on the edge side).
Hybrid deployment requires planning and the right ecosystem of partners
In order to successfully deploy a hybrid architecture, careful planning will be required to strike the proper balance between cloud and edge computing. Edge computing environments are more diverse and therefore require a subset of ecosystems to support the hybrid architecture. For example, new pre-configured, pre-tested micro data centres can provide physically secure systems that integrate components from a number of key vendors. New generations of monitoring software also greatly assist in both vendor-neutral remote management, and in pro-active support and maintenance of edge systems.
Beyond the hardware and software aspects of hybrid computing, however, a key critical success factor is the ability to assemble the right ecosystem of partners for both designing, deploying and supporting the hybrid solutions. Nimble companies which possess the niche expertise needed to address the wide swath of new retail industry edge digitisation requirements should be paired with major global IT and physical infrastructure (rack, power, cooling) players with expertise in system reliability and availability. Systems integrators also play a key role in linking together hyper converged computing, operations software, environmental monitoring, power distribution, and power protection all in a secure rack. Partners that have worked to validate, test and pre-integrate their software will tend to be the most successful at deploying truly resilient hybrid compute environments.
The evolution of both hybrid computing and new digitisation-driven ecosystem of partners will help retailers to lessen the risk of technology influenced downtime. Systems optimised to support digitised environments will drive a higher level of business continuity.
Access Edge Computing Resources
To learn more about best practices for deploying high availability edge computing in a hybrid compute environment, download the new Schneider Electric white paper “Solving Edge Computing Infrastructure Challenges.”