I’ll start with an understatement: The pandemic has profoundly affected edge computing.

For over two years, edge computing has accelerated growth at the distributed edge due to the rise in remote work and the changing demand for various applications.

For example, I learned that there is a limit on the WiFi bandwidth at home – something I hadn’t even thought about until my family relied on our Internet at home 24/7.

Edge computing is about moving into unconventional spaces for critical digital infrastructure. Whether on a manufacturing floor (industrial edge computing), an outdoor location, or a retail stock room - the rack becomes the data center.

Flexibility and standardization of data centers have become critical. We also can’t forget about the need for robust resiliency.

Furthermore, physical security is also a big issue. Many edge data centers don’t have IT staff on-site and are more accessible to whomever is around. This is a story that’s still unfolding.

Overall, data continues to increase, and the acceleration of pushing compute further out has picked up.

Simultaneously, we see autonomy in warehouses and factory floors, which leads us to the question:

How close are we to autonomous operations at the network edge?

With the recent technological advancements, autonomous operations at the edge are becoming a reality.

There is already a level of autonomy in unmanned places that may not be easily accessible to employees and other personnel.

Recently, I walked through the Newark Airport and passed by the CIBO Express - the store is powered by Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, so there were no cashiers.

As the name implies, you can swipe your credit card and walk out with your purchases; think of all the technology that needs to effectively run the operation.

Looking at the infrastructure to support the store, is relying on edge computing alone effective?

Reliable remote IT access is the key to self-sufficient edge sites. You need to be able to solve problems that might occur and have the peace of mind that your edge data centers are operating as they should.

At Vertiv, we focus on remote IT access to give customers eyes and ears at their distributed edge data centers and robust monitoring of what’s happening within their networks.

There’s also a level of predictive analysis to ensure the customer has the information they need to make decisions about their edge networks.

I anticipate we’ll see the most evolution around remote IT access to edge data networks that are secure and robust.

Where are we seeing the most growth in technology to support edge deployments? What’s next?

We’ve all heard a lot about the explosion of edge computing and distributed networks, but now, we’re seeing incremental growth. There are a lot of proofs of concepts, and it starts in waves.

Right now, we’re trying to turn data into something meaningful, which takes edge computing architecture. That means upgrading existing sites and putting in more equipment.

The next step is enhancing the customer experience, which includes more augmented reality applications - that one is a little further out and more of a proof of concept. These aren’t leaps and bounds but rather pockets of activity.

Ultimately, we’ll get to a fully immersive experience with machine learning and AI edge computing happening further and further out. We’re seeing more conceptual discussion in the area but very few edge computing use cases.

When we talk about edge computing, we tend to focus a lot on the IT stack and the critical infrastructure that supports it. What we’re focused on – and where I hope we move as an industry – is converging those two things. That comes through remote IT access that has one foot in operational technology and the other in IT - that’s what’s needed to enable the network edge and support future growth.

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