Enterprise Computing Draws Closer to the Edge

A recent #IDGTECHtalk Twitter discussion confirmed interest in edge computing is on the rise – but it’s still early days in terms of implementation.

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As the cloud becomes a mainstay of the modern enterprise, edge computing is beginning to bubble up as a way to create efficiencies and boost performance for a range of industry-specific use cases and emerging applications.

While definitions vary, edge computing is generally viewed as a model for bringing computation and data storage closer to the location where you need it, saving bandwidth and turbocharging response time. Such geographic-specific, distributed allocation of computing resources can deliver lower latency for applications where human safety is a factor, aid in streamlined customer experiences, and serve up real-time processing muscle for machine learning and analytics.

A recent #IDGTECHtalk Twitter discussion confirmed interest in edge computing is growing – but it’s still early days in terms of widespread implementation.

“Edge computing is what we used to the branch office—it’s the reasoning that’s changed,” says Wayne Anderson  (@DigitalSecArch), a security and compliance architect with Microsoft’s M365 Center of Excellence (CoE). “Where do you need resilience or local aggregation in your apps or data? That’s where edge lies, often in concert with devices or IoT.”

Finding the Right Use Case

Touting benefits like decreased latency, improved bandwidth management, and zero-touch operations, practical uses of edge computing are popping up in areas like financial services, telehealth, agricultural tech, and in industrial settings.

Edge computing can support real-time processing and analytics to improve factory floor operations or to monitor and optimize oil rigs in the field. On the consumer side, edge computing has potential for applications in areas such as gaming, healthcare, autonomous mobility, content delivery, and to drive performance for video monitoring and video conferencing.

The benefits of edge computing also resonate in the age of remote work, a trend that shows little sign of abating due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. “COVID is a catalyst for the cloud, nevertheless edge computing in Europe plays an increasingly important role,” says Fabian Schmidt, head of software engineering and founder at Homo Digitalis. “Latency is one reason—data protection and confidentiality another.”

Solving for Challenges and Concerns

Despite their heightened interest, early results from an #IDGTECHtalk poll showed organizations are somewhat hesitant about fully embracing edge computing. Identifying clear use cases and security and cost concerns are among the top-of-mind considerations.

“Many firms simply don’t have the internal resources who have that experience and it can be expensive to implement,” says Ben Rothke, manager of information security  at Tapad.

While it may seem daunting to go into new areas like the edge, there are service providers that can provide both the expertise and the ability to flexibly deploy at the edge.

In addition, security must be a conscious choice when deploying. “Especially when you’re trying to retrofit security after deployment, when it was never engineered into the infrastructure in the first place,” Rothke adds.

Recommendations for Moving Forward

Like any major IT initiative, educating both C-level executives and stakeholders in the business benefits of edge computing is critical to getting buy-in. Aligning with the right partners, identifying specific use cases, and starting with a defined proof of concept project can help showcase the business value and develop guidelines and best practices.

“Throw out assumptions on what’s possible and don’t try  to go it alone,” says Mark Thiele, a CIO and CSO. “Think of edge like eating an elephant—you take one bite at a time. Focus on the business value and work out from there, ideally tied to your digital experience journey.”

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