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Defining the Edge of the Network and What it Means for Your Business

Robert Linsdell •

The tech world is full of buzzwords, trends, and ‘disruptive innovations’. It’s easy to get lost in the constantly updated tranche of new developments and terminology that sometimes we miss out on or ignore technology that makes a real impact on how businesses do business.

I believe edge computing falls into this category. It’s a term that’s been around for a while now, but many in the industry are still unaware of what it means, and certainly of its importance in business terms.

We conducted research across among our customer and partner base across Asia Pacific, and found that almost one third of respondents were not fully aware of the technology. 40 per cent of respondents have a comprehensive understanding of the technology, but only one third have set up their infrastructure to accommodate it.

Gartner has also conducted research (Gartner, Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2017, 21 July 2017, Mike J. Walker) on the topic. According to it, “Most of the technology for edge data centres is readily available, but widespread application of the topology and explicit application and networking architectures are not yet common. Systems and networking management platforms will need to be stretched to include edge locations and edge-function-specific technologies such as data thinning, video compression and analysis.”

In this article, the first of a five-part series all about edge computing, I look at what exactly the edge is, and why it’s important to your business to have the right strategy for it.

So what is it?

The edge represents entry points into enterprise or service provider core networks. This traditionally included routers, routing switches, desktop computers, etc. In recent years, the edge has exploded as we’ve added tablets, laptops, smartphones, wearables and more to the equation.

This explosion, a token of our gradual move towards an IoT future, has driven the need for ‘edge computing’, which we at Vertiv define as the process of moving computing power away from the core data centre to the edges of the network, close to where all these devices are, and to where most data is now being created.

Consider the way in which data is created and processed at the edge today. A retail store that needs real-time processing of customer information; a government branch that has to localise data for security reasons; mining sites that need real-time analytics of data captured from a site-scanning drone or wearable device worn by workers – particularly critical in the event of an accident. It’s all very logical – we’re creating more at the edge, so therefore we need some infrastructure out there to take care of it, but it’s more than logic and convenience. Implementing edge infrastructure is vital to optimising how your business uses technology.

Supporting how we use technology today

Now think about how we rely on technology now – not just in the workplace, but in everyday life.

We use applications to order a lift, food, rent our homes, check the weather, book holidays, and pretty much everything else. Our patience for these services being unavailable is thin, despite the fact that you don’t need to go back too far to get to a time when they didn’t exist.

This reliance and thin patience carries over to the workplace. Staff, and in particular younger staff from the newer millennials, want a seamless user experience in their workplace and for technology to work for them. Glitches, jitter and latency are simply out of the question.

Businesses have responded to new demands for a digital playground in the workplace through the proliferation of the edge devices mentioned above, but there is a disconnect between that and implementing the infrastructure that needs to be in place to support it.

If you deploy edge infrastructure, such as a modular data centre – a neat, plug-and-play, converged system – to the front lines of your business, workloads get processed faster and with minimal latency.

That means video conferencing where the audio and video sync up and the experience isn’t spoiled by pixelated images and poor sound quality, connecting to the server from a tablet in a matter of milliseconds, not minutes, and an overarching better user experience.

Relying on the core data centre, which could be miles away or even outdated, to manage the edge, simply doesn’t make sense any more. A multi-pronged approach is needed, and the edge is fast becoming the most important part of that approach.

Stay tuned for my next article, which will focus on why edge networks might be the missing link in your company’s hybrid IT strategy.

This blog was originally posted on LinkedIn.



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