Market and technology trends such as big data and the Internet of Things have altered the way distributed computing is managed. Remote pockets of computing power, traditionally found in network closets of commercial buildings, now are filling spaces in retail locations, manufacturing sites, warehouses, healthcare clinics, fast food restaurants, and many other locations. These systems on the network edge gather data near the source of its origin. Thus, the time lag of data exchange is reduced and the richness of the data is increased, both of which drive all kinds of money-saving and cost-reduction business decisions.
As these edge computing systems gather and process more and more data, the infrastructure that supports the power, cooling, and security needs of these systems are deemed increasingly critical. However, properly managing places where servers, storage, and networking have never existed before can be challenging. Dusty environments, more people milling about, and a lack of on-site technical expertise can all lead to unanticipated business downtime. As a result, those who manage edge computing sites now must ramp-up both physical security and the remote visibility to these systems.
In these new, more critical edge environments, management tools that mimic the robust value-add of data centre -level tools, controlled environments, and on-site experts are required. However, because of the remote nature of edge environments, a different approach is needed to achieve the same ends of availability, reliability and resilience.
Key Factors to Consider When Deploying an Edge Infrastructure Management Solution
Until recently, little guidance and experience on management tactics that support these new edge environments has been shared. Although many implementations are unique given the vast diversity of edge computing applications, four principal considerations need to be evaluated when deciding how best to manage edge computing-related physical infrastructure systems:
- Functionality — Subscription-based cloud systems are particularly effective at managing edge environments. Little to no up-front investment is required and the systems are scalable so that investments can be proportional to system growth. In addition, third parties can be enlisted to monitor the behaviour of the edge system. Such cloud-based systems also gather performance data so that robust analytics can be performed regarding the current and future health of the system. In situations where multiple edge systems are installed across diverse geographic locations, benchmarking can be performed, so that management best practices can be shared. An effective edge management system should also be vendor agnostic in order to be capable of analysing the performance of all systems associated with the edge implementation. Labour intensive update tasks are also simplified as the cloud-based management system is capable of both remote firmware updates (avoiding the expense of dispatching field personnel) and the mass configuration of systems (the push of one button can update many systems across multiple geographies all at once).
- Support — Oftentimes, edge systems consist of a mixture of various parts and pieces which can make it difficult for an end-user to both manage and support. However, some solution providers integrate the systems prior to delivering them to an end-user. In many cases, these micro data centres come with pre-loaded management software and pre-configured, pre-tested, and integrated IT and power, cooling, and rack components. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) can offer both remote support and on-site support when required (e.g., if a faulty unit needs to be replaced). Some vendors offer remote monitoring and maintenance via global service bureaus staffed by expert engineers. They can also administer dispatch services that enable next-business day on-site remediation of issues, with spare parts included as part of the service. Several of those same vendors even offer formal customer success management (CSM) programs and tools which proactively focus on the long-term success of customers through more evolved relationships.
- Security — The question of how data will be transported and stored in a secure manner and how personal data will remain confidential should also be considered when deploying edge systems. Investigate whether the various components of the edge system, including the management system, have been designed and certified to adhere to the proper cybersecurity and data privacy standards. Security is also an ongoing challenge. Security updates should be published by the vendors on a regular basis and be easily downloadable.
- Vendor reputation — When it comes to successfully implementing edge systems, factor in the experience and geographic presence of those vendors you choose as partners. Technical expertise should be available across the installation, operations, and maintenance phases of all edge deployment projects. The viability and reputation of the vendor should also be established across multiple use cases as edge systems can sometimes be required to withstand harsh environmental conditions. Robust, reliable edge systems capable of communicating performance data help to maximise the uptime of edge systems.
Access Edge Infrastructure Management eGuide
To learn more about how new edge computing sites can be more easily and cost-effectively managed, download our newly released Buyer’s Guide to Edge Infrastructure Management Solutions.