The Factors Pushing Edge to the Forefront

By John Fryer

What is causing edge computing's shift to the mainstream?

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Edge computing—defined as computing infrastructure that exists close to a source of data that helps to collect, analyze, store and use data in a meaningful way—is quickly gaining popularity across many industries. By harnessing computing at the edge, rather than in the cloud or via a centralized data warehouse, organizations can leverage real-time data processing to significantly improve the way they run their businesses.

Gartner predicts that by 2021, 40 percent of enterprises will have an edge strategy in place, up from about 1 percent in 2017. But what is causing edge computing’s shift to the mainstream? There are a number of elements to examine that can help us get a better understanding of why edge has emerged and why it is needed.

The Rise of the Internet of Things
It is estimated that by 2020, more than 5.6 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices in enterprise environments will utilize edge computing for data collection. That represents significant growth over 1.6 billion devices in 2017, according to Business Insider Intelligence‘s 2016 article, “Edge Computing in the IoT: Forecasts, Key Benefits, and Top Industries Adopting an Analytics Model that Improves Processing and Cut Costs.”

This influx in IoT devices is causing the amount of data being produced to skyrocket, thus requiring a way to process it more quickly. This has caused edge to emerge as an improved alternative to the cloud in IoT environments, as it can process data right where it is being produced, and it allows for real-time data, which some business-critical applications demand.

The Need for Real-Time Decision-Making
As the IoT becomes more mainstream, it is emerging in industries in need of innovation, such as manufacturing, energy and waste management. For example, manufacturers can implement IoT sensors on a plant floor. Edge computing can then be used to instantly process the data collected by these sensors, giving manufacturers information on how to make faster, more informed decisions that optimize the supply chain, streamline production and reduce costs.

The Opportunity to Close Modernization Gaps
The IoT and edge are enabling data center modernization and improvement. Most organizations looking to adopt these technologies have legacy systems in place that are expensive to rip and replace all at once. Virtualization can provide an affordable way to update and innovate these environments, while capitalizing on modern devices. This can be done without sacrificing existing systems, since edge devices can be used as a communication bridge between legacy systems and modern machines, allowing them to leverage the benefits of real-time data immediately.

The Growing Need for Improved Security and Compliance
Security is a major concern across all industries, from manufacturing to banking and health care. Specifically for IT teams in the industrial space, the risks involved when data is transferred between devices and the cloud is a big worry.

However, edge computing can help to alleviate some of these concerns by making much of that data transfer avoidable in certain environments. With the edge, sensitive information can be filtered locally, and only data that needs to go to the cloud will be sent there. Therefore, enterprises can build security and compliance frameworks that meet their needs and ensures compliance with audits.

RFID and Edge Computing Are Complementary
There are a growing number of applications for RFID, many of which enable some form of tracking for product inventory or movement related to goods, services or people. A lot of these applications are localized in their real-time impact, but may have broader implications across an enterprise or organization.

Edge computing is an ideal way to meet these diverse needs without having to transfer all information to and from a data center or a cloud. It enables the local real-time applications to operate independently, while allowing the collection and filtering of data that has broader use. The edge-computing market is still evolving, but the combination of RFID applications and edge computing promises to open up new opportunities for both technologies.

How to Take Advantage of Opportunity at the Edge
For organizations to take advantage of the benefits edge computing delivers, new technology approaches and computing infrastructures are needed. New innovations with built-in virtualization, continuous availability, automated protection and managed services can help organizations to reap the benefits of edge computing in the near term.

John Fryer the senior director of industry solutions at Stratus Technologies, where he is responsible for go-to-market strategies and industry initiatives across all of the company’s product lines. He has more than 25 years of experience with systems and software products in a variety of engineering, marketing and executive roles at successful startups and major companies, including Motorola, Emerson Network Power and Oracle. His experience includes more than 15 years working with high-availability solutions for the enterprise and networking industries.