The Internet of Things is discussed so much that it gets nearly 2.5 billion hits on a Google search. Everyone wants to know what’s next in this arena, which touches our lives in so many ways these days as internet connectivity becomes increasingly fused into everyday objects and physical “things.”
I can tell you where IoT is going next, however. Based on a study by IDC that shows by 2020, nearly half (45 percent) of all data that IoT devices create will ultimately be stored, processed, analysed, and acted upon at the edge of a network—or close to the edge of one. This represents a significant trend in the world of IT in general, and IoT specifically.
Edging up to IoT
To understand the implications here, it first helps to know what “the edge” really means. In its simplest definition, edge computing is an infrastructure of physical computing that resides not within the walls of the data centre, but intentionally outside of it. The reason for this is that “living on the edge” from a data perspective allows you to keep storage and computing resources, as well as applications, in close proximity to where they are actually necessary in terms of data generation and collection.
The fact is that while data centres have long been the data-generation “default” location, this no longer fits with the way people work. By using edge infrastructure instead, a number of benefits result in terms of both data management and performance. Edge computing allows for the collection, processing, and most importantly, reduction of ginormous volumes of data. From there, the data can be smoothly triaged to a public or private cloud.
So where does the Internet of Things come into this picture? When we look at the long term implications for IoT, it’s clear that the edge will become critical to its future effectiveness. The cloud’s latency is problematic in the arena of machine intelligence deployment and prevents feedback in real-time. An edge infrastructure helps guarantee that enterprises have access to the most recent developments in IoT by reducing latency.
Integrating the edge
As you think about IoT and how edge solutions can add value, here are some specific use cases:
Staying up and running: Certain industries can gain especially important benefits from leveraging the edge. Any business that has a remote site or remote office branch office (ROBO) comes to mind first. For example, retail organisations are characterised by multiple stores, so edge computing works well from the perspective of point of sale and security, as well as maximum up time. The finance industry fits the edge model as well, since banks and other financial firms generally have more than one branch office.
Quick processing: IoT leads to mountains of data that businesses must find a way to process rapidly; where the cloud is concerned, communication must be fast enough to be efficient.
Cost savings: Edge computing can help save organisational resources when it comes to IoT, since deployments need not be as large, which thus avoids replication of pricey infrastructure at every site.
What to look for
As companies run more and more applications using edge computing, requirements begin to resemble a data centre. Yet while in a data centre, it’s relatively easy to deploy HA and scalability, for example, enterprises must figure out how to close the gap that’s often found in the middle of infrastructure and the edge solution supporting it.
That’s why it’s important to know exactly what you’re looking for with an edge computing system. Keep the following factors in mind when evaluating potential solutions:
Minimal management: An edge solution first and foremost should be designed to minimise management duties for IT administrators—look for a solution that allows for remote management capabilities for simplified deployment and maintenance.
Self-healing: No system is perfect, but the best systems have the ability to recognise problems and correct them automatically. Self-healing edge solutions save IT staff’s time by offering HA and high performance for applications while detecting and correcting errors.
Scalable and affordable: To help keep edge solutions cost effective, enterprises should also ensure that their systems are properly scalable in both directions based on the edge’s location. Without scalability built into the solution, companies may find themselves paying for unnecessary resources.
Automated: If your edge solution allows you to minimise or even eliminate the need for dedicated IT administrators onsite, then it’s obviously critical to have an automated system. Automation can help in more ways than one:
- Freeing IT from manual tasks and troubles that can arise from human error
- Providing assurance that systems will keep humming along by making automated corrective adjustments as needed
- Doing away with system downtime and the hassles of bringing systems back online
- Allowing continued operations even in the event of hardware failure by moving around workloads for an application as needed
All of the capabilities above help ensure easy deployment and management of an edge system. With plug and play capabilities and the ability for remote IT operations, organisations and IT alike will avoid complexity and make the most of edge systems for IoT devices and beyond.
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