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Accelerating edge adoption to get ahead of competition

Top reasons to invest in edge in South Africa are to improve operational efficiency, deploy automation/autonomous systems and AI, manage growth of connected devices and sensors (IOT) and support network segmentation strategy.

Johannesburg, 14 Jun 2023

NTT, which positions itself as a leading IT infrastructure and services company and parent company of Dimension Data, today launched its Edge Advantage Report, which found that more than two-thirds (78%) of enterprises investing in edge are solving real-world business challenges and eight out of 10 organisations expect their dependency on third-party edge services to grow over the next two years.

Enterprises around the world are discovering the edge advantage, benefiting from digital technologies that accelerate data-driven decision-making, secure physical and virtual assets and control sustainably resilient operations. But while more than 80% of technology decision-makers say their edge investment expectations have been met or exceeded, many fear the rapid pace of technology evolution could cost them in the long term.

Infrastructure capabilities

Current adopters see the fragmented management of compute, connectivity and IOT devices as a hindrance to realising the potential of edge. As such, those organisations that are combining private 5G and edge technologies report the highest benefits over enterprises that have adopted a legacy segregated approach, or none at all.

The report also revealed that though most organisations believe their network infrastructure can handle their current edge requirements, almost 40% of global enterprises planning edge deployments acknowledge a need to upgrade their network in order to support the expected spike in connected devices and applications. In South Africa, nearly two-thirds of enterprises that have already deployed edge have co-ordinated a wide area network refresh.

In light of this, many organisations are planning to turn to partners to help them on their edge journey. So much so that 86% of South African businesses believe their organisation’s dependency on third-party edge services will grow in the next 24 months, with 88% expressing a preference to consume edge services from a single partner that offers a central point of accountability and 94% declaring that “having more managed service options” is a top factor in making edge consumption easier.

“The growing need for faster processing and a distributed digital architecture is creating increased pressure on networks and infrastructure capabilities, driving both accelerated adoption of private 5G and edge,” said Shahid Ahmed, EVP New Ventures & Innovation at NTT. “Achieving the edge advantage will require end-to-end solutions with holistic management and uncompromising accountability. Only through utilising these solutions can enterprises gain instant access to data, where it is generated or collected, with near zero latency, and harness it to drive powerful business outcomes.”

An industry view

The motivation behind edge adoption can vary from industry to industry. Among manufacturing in South Africa firms, supporting network segmentation strategy is the top-ranked edge investment driver, with operational efficiency second. Manufacturing firms are striving to be just-in-time organisations that meet and even anticipate market needs, turning data into competitive advantage. Here’s the breakdown of the top reasons to deploy edge solutions:

  • Increase use of data insights for decision-making (100%);
  • Improve supply chain efficiency and resilience (100%);
  • Increase employees’ safety, experience and efficiency (90%); and
  • Streamline/digitise business processes (86%).

When it comes to improving supply chain efficiency and resilience, 100% of healthcare, transportation and manufacturing organisations have had their edge expectations met or exceeded. The same can be said for increasing employee safety, experience and efficiency in the energy sector.

Edge-optimised applications take advantage of low latency, predictability and high bandwidth for real-time data collection to perform according to industry-specific needs. With the benefits of edge clear, it’s hardly surprising that 94% of respondents consider it a competitive advantage within their industry.

Complex environments

According to organisations that have already deployed edge, the top reasons to invest are to improve operational efficiency and deploy automation/autonomous systems and AI. But achieving these objectives is a formidable challenge because they require:

  • Tight orchestration of hardware, platforms, systems and devices;
  • Consistent operational performance without compromising security; and
  • Overcoming legacy infrastructure and technical debt.

Organisations need help to navigate the complexity of adopting edge and next-generation technologies into what is, traditionally, a complex and change-averse environment. Legacy protocols and systems need to be carefully managed to ensure production is not impacted while migrations are in progress.

The challenges that an organisation can encounter are key drivers in why 100% of enterprises partner for edge expertise and 88% want a single edge partner that can do it all. But those that successfully harness the benefits of edge can look to grow their business, improve agility, enhance sustainable business practices and improve quality control.

“Organisations striving to become real-time enterprises need help beyond design and launch of edge solutions,” said Camille Mendler, chief analyst at Omdia. “Managed services offer a pragmatic and adaptive way to keep ahead of complexity.”

Journey to the edge

At the end of last year, NTT announced the launch of its edge as a service offering to help secure, optimise and simplify organisations’ digital transformation journeys. Leveraging NTT’s network infrastructure capabilities and global footprint, the managed edge compute platform gives enterprises the ability to deploy quickly and securely manage and monitor applications closer to the edge.

At the end of the report, NTT has outlined a guide with suggested starting points and pathways for organisations to consider before embarking on their edge journey.