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Edge orchestration vital to managing a distributed environment


Johannesburg, 14 Oct 2022
Pramod Venkatesh, CTO, inq.
Pramod Venkatesh, CTO, inq.

As the world moves closer to edge computing, which brings storage and computation power closer to data sources, edge orchestration is becoming even more important as it allows for infrastructure, services and applications to be combined into a holistic, seamless offering for enterprise customers.

Inq. CTO Pramod Venkatesh explains that the current trend is to have a distributed environment, which was spurred on by the need to work from home during COVID-19. “One key aspect is the manageability of these systems, which become vital. Companies need to ensure security patches are installed and that they are up and running.”

Managing the life cycle of systems and hardware is where edge orchestration comes in, he explains. “This tool allows IT to manage multiple edge nodes through a single pane of glass.”

Among the benefits are the following:

  • Enabling management of edge applications across a distributed network to allow for edge computing to work effectively, bringing all the devices under one umbrella.
  • Monitoring systems to ensure they are performing well, as well as rooting out connectivity issues.
  • Enabling proper security for devices that are at risk as they are not necessarily cloud-based. This helps eliminate people attempting to hack into a system remotely.

Once edge orchestration is implemented, it allows management of multiple devices from a remote location by simply throwing a switch, allowing them to configure themselves automatically. This is true regardless of the number of devices you have and means that physically travelling to a location is no longer necessary, which is especially important in an era of skills shortages.

What to consider

However, before one can move to the edge, businesses need to consider the hardware as one needs sufficient computing power, says Venkatesh. A Raspberry Pi can be used if you're deploying a simple IOT application. However, if you're deploying networking applications, you need a high-end server with a good amount of throughput.

After this, one must carefully consider connectivity, as the devices will be managed from a centralised location. “If your network fails, your boxes will be isolated, so you need redundancy,” adds Duncan Pie, inq. Group COO. Various options are available, such as wired or mobile connections.

Duncan Pie, COO, inq.
Duncan Pie, COO, inq.

Businesses also need to consider what applications they will be deploying over the network and whether they are edge compatible, says Venkatesh. “It's very important that you're distributing your application; it will no longer be sitting in one powerful central server, but rather in different locations.”

The chosen edge application also informs how they are delivered, Pie explains. “There are multiple technologies, including older ones, that use virtual machines. Today, most tech is moving to a container-based environment, like using Docker containers.”

Pitfalls

Venkatesh explains that a lack of connectivity is where most systems will fall because none of the boxes will work without it. “That is one of the leading causes of failure in an edge orchestration solution.”

One needs to make certain that, since the processing is happening locally, they can reduce the bandwidth and latency as systems can be very data intensive. “The fact of the matter is there is back-end connectivity, because edge, while it can operate as a standalone, still needs to communicate something back towards the central system,” says Pie.

One must also be aware that orchestration takes some time, although it is well worth it because of the benefits offered. It is also offering solutions that are like those provided by cloud providers.

Currently, most companies are running one or other aspects of their systems on the edge. However, without orchestration, the complexity is increased, which all but renders edge benefits redundant, says Venkatesh. Companies also need to ensure they don’t use various vendors for different applications, such as software and IOT. “What you're seeing is, without an orchestration engine, you will have these multiple different boxes and different management platforms for each of the applications, which increases the chance of any one thing failing.”

Orchestration allows companies to collapse all these systems into one application, which can be managed centrally, explains Pie. This is, however, something that the industry is accepting and moving forward in implementing.

Moving to the edge makes sense, but being able to control each application, ensure uptime and have effective security from a centralised location is definitely the way to go.

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