Hans O’Sullivan is CEO of StorMagic.
The explosion of data outside of the traditional data center has driven the market to a more hybrid IT model away from centralization, causing edge adoption to soar. Vendors now offer more (and better) edge solutions than ever before. These sophisticated edge solutions provide great results, but they’re not always the easiest to run. A few trends such as overselling hardware and services have created a situation where customers don’t know how to get the most out of their edge solutions, because they’re so complex. The key for organizations becomes not simply adopting edge solutions, but identifying the ones that reduce complexities and headaches. Ideally, solutions deployed at the edge will practically run themselves.
Edge is an interesting paradigm where IT meets operational technology (OT). IT/OT convergence occurs when an IT system is used with OT systems to monitor and manage processes to help improve operations. Some examples of this include manufacturing plants that constantly monitor machines for process control, retail stores that track various customer experience technologies and wind farms that must keep blades moving to manage energy production application workloads. The data that OT collects and manages is utilized in real-time to streamline processes and identify where efficiency improvements and cost savings can be made. In order to ensure that these benefits are realized, the systems running cannot tolerate downtime. Edge solutions that simplify high availability and management are exactly what organizations are looking for to get the most out of their IT/OT convergence projects.
Edge sites need solutions that are simpler, smaller and easier to operate, often with no onsite IT staff. This drives huge demand for solutions that basically run themselves and can be managed remotely. Oftentimes, solution providers try to position data center products at these smaller sites–which just doesn’t work. Hardware and software solutions designed for data center use are frequently too complicated, physically large and expensive. So as more data moves outside the data center, organizations can’t use the same designs they’ve used in the past. Companies must adopt a new way of thinking, or risk blowing their budgets by deploying solutions that take too many people—and too much time—to manage.
As organizations rethink how to architect and deploy edge solutions, they are typically faced with the following requirements:
- Zero Tolerance for Downtime: Downtime is detrimental to operations and must be mitigated at the edge. With limited IT resources physically present at remote sites, the need for systems to continue to run even when one server goes offline, whether it’s for planned maintenance or due to failure.
- Restricted Budgets: Edge customers with dozens, hundreds or thousands of sites must be ultra-cautious with every budget dollar because of the scale of these projects.
- OPEX and Environmental Issues: Edge systems must be small in size due to limited real estate and the need to keep operating expenditures, like power, cooling and management time to a minimum.
- Security is now Required: More and more edge sites are concerned about data breaches and computer system theft, and are looking for encryption methods to help protect them. These remote sites do not have the same physical security as a corporate datacenter, which puts them at risk.
The Future of Edge: IT Makes the Complex Simple
As edge adoption continues and OT becomes more tightly integrated with IT, decision makers will continue to find ways to introduce simplicity into their remote locations. What does the ideal solution look like? Here are some attributes IT professionals should consider when shortlisting edge solutions:
- Reduce Costs: Keep the number of locations in mind when it comes to cost. Even small extra costs for IT solutions when multiplied by 1,000 sites can add-up rapidly. Look for solutions that deliver only the bare minimum amount of hardware required to meet performance needs. In most cases, just two servers can run an edge site.
- Save Time with Centralized Remote Management: Solutions should be easy to install and simply run once in place, with no need to update the software frequently. Solutions should offer centralized, remote management and monitoring with no need for specialist onsite IT staff, especially for organizations with thousands of sites.
- Eliminate Stress with High Availability: Downtime can be a huge headache at the edge, where it’s even harder (and takes longer) to get support staff and replacement parts onsite. Look for highly available solutions that reduce IT resources (people and hardware) and can be updated during production hours to eliminate downtime for customers.
- Making the Complex Simple with Automation: IT solutions at the edge will become more intelligent and intuitive as IT staffs become more generalized. Data at the edge should be as easy to manage and monitor as the dozens or hundreds of apps on your smartphone.
Can you imagine having to read a manual to figure out how to download and run an app on your smartphone? New-age edge solutions will soon bring that extreme level of simplicity to you and your teams. Dispersed enterprises with many edge locations require and now demand a level of simplicity that should have been built-in from the start.
Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.
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