I’m going to come right out and say it: the future depends on the effectiveness of edge computing solutions.
Think about it. Without edge computing sites that bring compute power close to the action, the Internet of Things (IoT) cannot function properly. Likewise, the 5G networks that telcos are building will depend on the edge to deliver the anytime/anywhere high-speed mobile functionality they are promising.
But how do we get the edge to reliably support real-time processing and analysis across vast distributed environments? As I discussed during a learning session at Schneider Electric’s Innovation Summit Barcelona, it will require three main ingredients:
- A collaborative ecosystem of partners to deliver and maintain solutions and services
- Integrated, easy-to-assemble hardware systems that adapt to different environments
- Software-based monitoring, management, and maintenance solutions
A Partner Ecosystem
During my session presentation, I was joined by Tripp Partain, CTO, converged servers, edge and IoT systems at HPE, who discussed his company’s edge computing efforts. We agreed a strong, collaborative partner ecosystem is key to successful edge deployments. These interdependent networks will include equipment manufacturers, infrastructure vendors, MSPs (managed service providers), system integrators, and end-users — each with specific roles and responsibilities to ensure the whole thing works.
HPE has introduced a line of converged edge systems, consisting of ruggedised severs with remote capabilities to process IoT and edge data — and converge operational technology (OT) such as control systems and industrial networks with IT — to enable edge functionality. The systems, Partain said, were a result of taking “decades of building solutions that are meant to go into the data centre to figure out how to apply the best of those capabilities to solving problems at the edge.”
Like HPE, each partner will draw on core competencies and market knowledge to build its piece of the edge ecosystem. Some will perform deployment services, run software systems, and maintain the infrastructure. System integrators and vendors likely handle implementations while service providers will cover monitoring and management.
Remote management is fundamental because some edge environments will span continents and cross oceans. They may include thousands of local sites that connect to a few dozen larger regional sites that, in turn, connect to a couple of traditional data centres. Most organisations will be running hybrid IT environments with workloads in on-premise data centres, edge sites, and cloud-based infrastructures.
Nobody can do this alone, which is why partnerships are essential to managing and maintaining edge deployments. Partner ecosystems are what will enable the use of kiosks for ordering meals at fast-food restaurants, augmented reality mirrors at retail shops, and responsive, mobile banking over 5G networks — to name a few examples.
Integrated Hardware for Edge Computing
Partain and I also highlighted the importance of integrated hardware systems, such as HPE’s converged systems. Edge computing systems will have to be easy to configure, assemble, and deploy, and adaptable to different settings. HPE’s systems are ruggedised, so they can run in harsh climates, such as those where oil and gas companies operate, as well as climate-controlled office towers.
Another example of hardware designed specific for the edge is Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxureTM Micro Data Center, which can be mounted on a wall in locations where floor space is scarce. These various solutions deliver multiple functions, including power management, security, remote monitoring, and cooling, providing a turnkey solution to run a small edge site.
During the session, I noted that IoT/edge deployments will have thousands of sites. Staffing all locations is out of the question, so organisations have to rely on remote monitoring and management software to run everything, including the physical environment, cyber and physical security, hardware and software performance, and workload status.
Software-driven remote capabilities allow administrators to make critical decisions, such as powering down systems during an outage before a UPS runs out of battery, causing an abrupt shutdown that damages data. Remote capabilities reduce staffing costs and help prevent disruptions to the business.
The Right Combination of Edge Computing Solutions
So, yes, edge will shape the future of computing. But for it to deliver Certainty in a Connected World, it will need the right combination of partners, hardware, software, and services. Find out more about edge fundamentals and solutions by accessing our edge computing resource site. Also, you can access our entire Innovation Summit learning session for further insights for your own business needs.