Sunday 2nd April marks this year’s Paris Marathon, one of the world’s oldest modern marathons and a race in which I participated last year. As runners gear up and manage the final hurdles of training, there are direct parallels between what an athlete goes through leading up to and during any marathon and businesses looking to implement an edge computing strategy. The link? Monitoring, data and good planning.
There are reasons why some organisations hold back from committing to an edge strategy – the journey can be complicated, and challenges can arise that may be difficult to overcome. However, the only way to complete a marathon is by taking one step at a time – you don’t start by running 42 kilometres, it starts with the first step, then the first kilometre, then the next kilometre, and so on until the finish line is crossed.
Here’s where you should be in your edge strategy for every marathon milestone:
Before getting to the start line of any strategy, you need to think about the end game – where you’re able to see what’s happening in your edge facilities, your on-premises data centre and your collocated racks. This is where you define your purpose and ambition, with many businesses addressing the things that are important to them, like sustainability, efficiency, adaptability, and resilience.
Such a framework can be seen permeating Schneider Electric’s work together with our Elite Partners across the globe.
For example, EfficiencyIT provides Wellcome Sanger Institute with energy-efficient and sustainable data centre solutions. Wellcome utilised Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure IT to increase the power efficiency of its data processing capability at the same time while making opex available, which could be used to fund important activities such as genomic research activities.
However, planning can’t always be done alone. To reach our goals, it is sometimes expedient to get professional help. Runners, for example, may have the support of a personal trainer to help them prepare for their journey from the training ground to the finish line.
Likewise, businesses may look to bring together different stakeholders and advisors in the course of achieving their purpose.
Once we’ve created the purpose and goal for our strategy, we can go to the start line and get into ‘tactics mode’. Just as you find in a marathon, people are generally eager to get started implementing their edge strategy. However, you need to make sure that your strategy is supported by tactics that are going to get you through but are flexible to changes. In the case of edge facilities, standardised modules provide customisable options within a system designed to work together optimally. This means a single architecture can be adopted which can be optimised for a range of conditions, such as deployment in warehouses, offices or on factory floors.
Hitting the first big milestone of your marathon is a great achievement, but you need to keep thinking about how you are going to get to the finish – keep your eyes on the prize! This is accomplished by monitoring your performance and pace – measuring your vital signs. Likewise, software and sensors are critical tools for monitoring what is happening in the edge space and ensuring infrastructure is not at risk. Here, we need to be proactive, using data and analytics to predict potential challenges and taking steps to mitigate them based on good information.
Reaching the halfway point
At the midpoint of our strategy, we have a functioning system in place in which we need to deploy edge at scale and to do so, we rely on an ecosystem of partners. A report by IDC from 2021 found that investing in an ecosystem of partners for greener edge infrastructure can create a 20% improvement in data centre efficiency through intelligent power, reducing this overhead by as much as €238,729.
Sometimes we hit unforeseen and even major challenges in our edge strategy. These can range from complex disruptions like mergers and acquisitions to changes in your customers’ business environment. Any change may create the need for you to alter your edge computing deployment strategy.
Overcoming challenges links back to standardisation. To meet certain requirements, in some cases, Schneider Electric in-house designers have developed edge computing standards, e.g., in the life science space, retail sector and even automotive manufacturing. As an illustration, our work with Geneva Airport allowed it to meet growing customer demands and capacity increases by integrating third-party software.
The home stretch
In the final leg of our strategy, it’s important to reflect on what got us to this stage – planning. We’ve planned the pace of our strategy, who the best stakeholders to partner with and how to overcome any challenges through our ecosystem, all the while maintaining service uptime.
How do you measure its success? Perhaps, by looking back at your IT network and understanding if you’re managing your infrastructure in the most sustainable and cost-effective way to meet (internal) customer demands. The overall measure of success will usually be seen in an improved customer experience. When shared with you as key learnings, it can help you to improve your business with edge in any location.
At the last kilometre, you can see the finish line and how your edge computing deployment is going to support future-proof applications. The journey has been long, but knowing your customer operations will be efficient, sustainable, and reliable – and that there’s going to be a tangible return on investment – provides you with a visceral sense of accomplishment. So much so, in fact, that sometimes you cannot wait to get back into training for the next big challenge! I’ve seen this with the customer strategies I’ve supported throughout my career – and it gives me a bigger buzz than the running bug!
Recovery and reflection!
Thanks to hardware from Garmin, Stryd and apps like Strava, runners themselves can be like small, mobile edge facilities. Creating and accumulating performance data which can help keep them on pace and out of the red zone, which is powered and secured in an edge data centre. However, I’ve learned this much training for and running marathons – just like with edge deployments, success is baked in through planning, tracking, and sticking to the strategy.