Edge computing has many advantages, but it is anything but plug and play. […]
Edge computing is becoming increasingly important for IT strategies in the corporate environment because many companies want to move storage and analytics functions closer to the place of data collection, for example in IoT scenarios. However, this has its pitfalls. The network edge is riddled with potential pitfalls and problem areas that you should be prepared for if you want to reap the benefits of the edge.
The potential benefits are undeniable – among other things, companies rely on edge computing for improved latencies as well as lower WAN bandwidths and transmission costs. According to a market report by Grand View Research, edge computing revenue in 2020 was $4.68 billion. By 2028, analysts expect a market volume of $ 61.14 billion.
Finding the right approach
Because edge computing is a relatively young technology, there is no broad base of best practices that could underpin its value to IT decision makers. “One of the biggest challenges for edge decision-making that no one really talks about, in my opinion, is that there is very little real-world performance data that can serve as a decision-making tool for edge deployment,” said Jennifer Cooke, Research Director at IDC.
“The reality is that edge solutions require a lot of coordination across different vendors – from the database and applications to the infrastructure and connectivity.“
Jennifer Cooke, Research Director at IDC
“The reality is that edge solutions require a lot of coordination across different vendors – from database and applications to infrastructure and connectivity. For this reason, many companies turn to partners who assemble the ecosystem for them.“
As part of this process, organizations should look for partners for edge integration who can quantify the performance increase and cost reduction touted by vendors: “I’ve also recently seen a shift from a do-it-yourself attitude with edge implementations to the insight that it’s better to rely on partners to manage edge resources,” Cooke says. “The pandemic has even accelerated this trend, showing companies that remote monitoring combined with partner management actually works well.“
Like any other area of IT, edge computing also poses individual security risks and vulnerabilities. Taking all layers and sub-segments fully into account and creating a zero trust environment is a challenge for many companies, says Matt Kimball, Senior Analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy: “Security must include the infrastructure, the network, the entire software stack and the integration of all these different elements with each other, the cloud and the management and monitoring consoles. This market segment is so complex, and in some areas so niche, that CIOs, CISOs, and IT leaders need to invest heavily in the people who are tasked with developing and implementing a holistic strategy. And these people are hard to find.“
Like any other area of IT, edge computing also poses individual security risks and vulnerabilities.
(c) ra2 studio / stock.adobe.com
Security risks that organizations should consider when formulating an edge strategy include:
- The potentially enormous number of IoT devices.
- The supporting infrastructure required for the edge.
- The vast amounts of data they generate (and need to be protected).
According to Kimball, some vendors have tools on offer to improve edge security. “But again, the challenge is to find people who can understand both the problems and the competing solutions and create a trusted, fully integrated environment,” the analyst points out.
Data management and analysis
The ability to analyze data at the edge and gain insights from it is an appealing aspect of edge computing environments. “The edge is basically a large-scale, distributed data management issue,” said Vijoy Pandey, vice president of engineering and CTO of Emerging Technologies and Incubation at Cisco.
According to analyst Kimball, data management and data science are as important to the business success of companies as IT security: “It should come as no surprise that the company that can gain insights from its data the fastest is best positioned.” Like security, data science is a complex topic and practitioners are rare: “Of course, the tools must be available to gain the best insights from the data. But a good data scientist understands the intricacies that matter most to the business. Specialists who have mastered this well are in great demand.“
The Edge is basically a large-scale, distributed data management problem.
(c) Siarhei / stock.adobe.com
In the area of data management and analytics, companies could also benefit from an external perspective, says Kimball: “As a former IT manager, I can tell you that I detested driving IT initiatives outside of my company. But I also knew that relying on outside help in uncharted waters paid off.“
Prepare IT infrastructure
Building an edge-enabled network requires time, money, and know–how resources that are not available in every organization. “IT departments are often more accustomed to delivering a few servers and implementing the backup required for home office connectivity,” says Kimball. But IoT deployments and the more complex requirements for storage and data processing at the edge of the network required such environments to do more than just keep the back office running: “Deploying and managing the environments is more important and challenging than ever.“
In general, it is good practice to keep things simple when it comes to infrastructure and IT operations. For this reason, the research expert recommends that IT executives who want to invest in an edge infrastructure first consider the providers they already know: “If your company has standardized on Dell, this is probably also the best starting point for an edge infrastructure. The same goes for HPE, Lenovo, Cisco, Supermicro and co.,“ Kimball said.
Duos Technologies, a provider of automated edge systems for rail operators, faces the challenge of providing connectivity and power to such systems in remote areas. “In most cases, there are relatively simple obstacles to overcome,” says Scott Carns, Duos’ Chief Commercial Officer. A bigger challenge is finding robust servers that can work in the same environment: “Most servers are designed for data centers and IT environments that have perfect power and environmental control systems.“
Considering the number of systems, devices and applications involved, edge computing has a strong potential for complexity. “Most edge investments are driven by the need to solve a specific business problem by a non-IT business owner,” said Gil Shneorson, senior vice president, Edge Portfolio, Dell.
“Most edge investments are driven by the need to solve a specific business problem by a non-IT business owner.“
Gil Shneorson, Senior Vice President, Edge Portfolio, Dell
As a result, organizations may have multiple individual edge devices that perform specific tasks and operate on their own infrastructure. Each solution has been independently purchased, deployed, managed and secured over time, leading to inefficient infrastructure sprawl at the edge of the network, Shneorson said. “We’re seeing a shift in the industry: IT is getting involved earlier in the process so it can provide best practices and strategic input for different use cases in edge environments.“
While this is a good idea, for many IT teams it means building a single, flexible and efficient infrastructure to support more edge computing tasks. “This works by modernizing its edge technology base and data pipelines through a consistent hybrid cloud architecture, operation, and management to get the most value out of the data – across different use cases, locations, and clouds,” Shneorson said.
* Bob Violino works as a freelance IT journalist for InfoWorld and Network World in the USA.