By Fred Lherault, field CTO, EMEA, Pure Storage
Data has become the engine of progress. Private enterprises use it to optimise experiences, enhance operations, improve customer services and invent new business models. Governments use it to build the cities of the future, to plan for the consumption of utilities and energy resources, and to manage crises such as the COVID pandemic.
But centralised repositories for data are becoming obsolete and legacy approaches for accessing insights will not work for future minded organisations. Forward thinking organisations should be planning at the edge because it is where the data is created. Those that do not invest in the edge risk being left behind by these new environments. According to Gartner, 91% of data is now processed in data centers, either in the cloud or on premises. But the analyst firm predicts that by 2025, the balance will have shifted to the edge, where 75% of all data processing will take place. It’s clear that now is the time to invest in edge computing capabilities. Here are five reasons why organisations should do this today.
- Faster response times
Edge computing architecture places apps, data, and resources closer to where data is generated. Processing occurs at the outer reaches of an organisation’s environment instead of forcing data to make a trip ‘back to base’, which may be a data centre that is hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away.
By enabling data to be stored at the edge, organisations get faster response times and can more easily deliver real-time insights. Applications at the edge will then be able to distil, process, and visualise data, displaying rich, actionable information on the spot.
This ability is critical for essential and cutting-edge applications across industries. Manufacturing firms can deliver predictive maintenance, repairing equipment before it degrades or breaks down. Healthcare providers can leverage advanced monitors, sensors, and other devices that greatly enhance diagnosis and treatment. The transportation industry is being disrupted by autonomous vehicles. Cars are their own edge device and sending data to a remote location is a risk due to a delay in response times back to the vehicle. Then there is augmented reality (AR), an edge technology that has applications across retail, education, and entertainment. Its intense rendering operations need real-time responses to function.
- Greater resilience
Another key benefit of edge computing is business continuity. In the event of disruption or downtime in a centralised data center, sites at the edge can continue to operate independently since the infrastructure is local. That is just the beginning. Edge platforms allow faster, more consistent, and more reliable services, enhancing customer and employee experiences across industries and use cases.
Furthermore, what many businesses can fail to realise is that edge computing doesn’t need to be connected. While being connected offers the benefit of being able to get data back to centralised data centres, faster edge computing can operate in a disconnected mode, which can be a big advantage in more remote industries and operations. Take the example of a rural mining site. An edge system there can run autonomously if there is a drop in connection and then sync and transfer data when the connection resumes, without any disruption to business operations.
- Economical data movement
When assessing edge computing as a business-viable proposition, the term “data gravity” emerges. One estimate suggests that by 2024, Forbes Global 2000 enterprises will be creating 1.1 million gigabytes each second. But there are time and monetary expenses to moving this data around — increasing network bandwidth to accommodate more devices and data comes at significantly higher costs. Instead of constantly streaming data and consuming large amounts of bandwidth, edge computing can help because it processes data in place and only delivers the most important information to the central location. Edge computing also reduces connectivity costs by moving smaller amounts of data between the edge and data centers.
- Security and data sovereignty
The UAE and other countries have strict data residency regulations that restrict the moving of data across national boundaries. Edge computing’s ability to process data on site leads to more straightforward compliance. Not only that; when transmitting to the data centre, the edge can encrypt packets of data, which may be important if the data centre is governed by different data security laws than the edge location.
Technologies such as AI and ML are gaining widespread acceptance in the region because businesses know they can enhance competitiveness. Edge computing enables the latest in AI, automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT) by feeding algorithms the latest and most pertinent data sets.
Sensors connected to edge machinery can act on ML models by passing far less data back and forth than was used to create the model in the first instance. It speeds up time to action from an AI or ML algorithm because there isn’t time lost to network latency and the amount of data being moved is minimised to only the essential. Therefore, the rate to insight is vastly increased, which can improve innovation.
In addition, a large amount of innovation has already appeared in terms of automation, containerisation and distributed analytics. This means there’s never been a better time to run distributed applications and data. Organisations that are looking to manage edge deployments are now able to use containerisation as well as network and data abstraction layers to ensure that their applications are deployed in the same manner regardless of location. This further enables innovation by creating simplicity in IT operations and freeing up time from complex, cumbersome management or data movement tasks.
The competitive edge
Transporting data from the edge to a centralised data center for processing brings with it cost increases and latency hikes. Not only that — it’s not necessary to transport all data back to a centralised location. In a world where unstructured data is growing exponentially — every single piece of data isn’t going to add value and be strategically important to an organisation. There needs to be a gatekeeper — both a physical device and also a skilled person who can differentiate between strategic and non-strategic information which doesn’t need to be moved around. This differentiation will enable innovation and provide competitive advantage.
Edge locations can be managed simply with automation: infrastructure-as-code can deploy and maintain across many sites easily, no matter if they are edge or centrally located. A distributed analytics platform can then analyse data from anywhere without bringing it back to a central location first. This will speed up time to insight and add a further level to differentiation.
Faster response times for decision making at an edge location, resiliency and protecting operations are all reasons why organisations should be looking seriously at edge computing and implementing solutions in the near future if they haven’t already. Organisations that do not see the edge as a target for investment will soon wonder why their competitors are outperforming them.