Faster, more efficient services from the edge
While the advantages of edge computing are well-documented, corporates using this technology do so primarily for improved efficiency and flexibility, as well as for the reduction in unplanned downtime it offers.
Moving computing closer to the data source enables companies to analyse data in real-time. This allows for timely decision-making which, in turn, curbs costs and ensures the effective use of applications in remote locations.
Denver Pillay, account manager at Rittal, says while edge users face less downtime owing to automated data processing and application recovery, this technology can be deployed outside traditional data rooms or data centres. Self-monitoring capabilities make it ideal for unmanned stations or decentralised locations with limited resources.
“With increasingly more IOT devices in circulation today,” says Pillay, “edge computing is impacting how companies build their systems. There is rising demand for quicker, more efficient services and content delivery, which is why businesses invest in edge networks. Companies that fail to invest in edge computing could find themselves scrambling to catch up in the coming years.”
The technology provides the features of the ‘traditional’ cloud, but without a central cloud server: the cloud, in this case, is made up of connected devices enabling processes to be completed at cell towers before the data is even returned to the Internet-based company.
Edge computing uses small hardware devices such as smartphones and network gateways within the IOT network and could bring new capabilities to applications such as autonomous vehicles.
Pillay expects even greater efficiency with the introduction of 5G, owing to the improved speed of connectivity and reliability on offer.
“The 5G network’s speed should be 10 times greater than that allowed for by 4G. It will enable faster data processing, reduced latency and improved customer experience.”
In some industries, the need for rapid processing extends beyond customer satisfaction. Pillay cites the case of medical wearables, where data lags could mean the difference between life and death.
Moving the point of control closer to the user enhances security and helps ensure compliance with regulatory and privacy specifications. Edge services, says Pillay, steer traffic automatically to ensure fast, secure delivery across the network. It allows organisations to provide performance and security features to internal-facing apps such as CRM and ERP systems, in addition to customer-facing apps.
“More applications today rely on multi-cloud architectures for flexibility, resilience and performance at the edge, making business intelligence, reporting applications and IOT and marketing automation apps among those most likely to use multi-cloud architectures.”
Multi-cloud architecture, in conjunction with edge services such as managed domain name system (DNS) solutions, also improve resilience as DNS optimises Web application performance and traffic management across multi-cloud environments.
“Customers are increasingly looking for a more personalised experience, which can be provided at the edge as these services don’t just bring data closer to the user, but also optimise their experience and deliver rich content.”
With edge services, data is managed outside the data centre or core cloud, providing what Pillay describes as “an interactive and immersive experience” for customers.
In terms of cyber crime, however, he concedes that edge computing could be less secure than traditional computing in terms of physical infrastructure, including IOT devices and software, as loopholes in edge security can provide hackers with access to the network core. Edge computing networks must be maintained to ensure all devices receive regular updates and proper security protocols are followed.
“Encryption, patching and artificial intelligence to monitor, detect and respond to potential threats are all essential to eliminate risks.”
Asked about best practices for businesses implementing edge, Pillay’s advice is to “think big, but act small. Map out the long-term vision for edge deployments, but don’t rush to implement these technologies right away.”
Edge computing can be challenging for some organisations as it involves moving parts and a change in mindset from the current IT environment. It requires infrastructure with the capacity and bandwidth to analyse and act on large volumes of data, in real-time.
“On the networking side alone, it means deploying connections from devices to the cloud and to data centres. While companies may want to ramp up their edge infrastructure as soon as possible to support the IOT and other remote computing solutions, this is not going to happen overnight.”
Personal assistants including Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant constantly communicate with cloud servers, which is why they are less useful in areas with reduced WiFi and cellular coverage. Edge computing negates the need for these assistants to connect to the Internet.
“Edge has helped to make smart cities a reality by bringing IOT applications such as water and energy management to the urban landscape,” says Pillay. “It brings machine learning and artificial intelligence to the edge of the Internet of things.”