Simple solutions for edge computing

DIY approaches to edge computing projects often fail to deliver a solution that’s engineered for security, performance and cost-effectiveness.

Simple solutions for edge computing

DIY approaches to edge computing projects often fail to deliver a solution that’s engineered for security, performance and cost-effectiveness.

Marco Castanheira
Marco CastanheiraSenior Consultant, Dell Technologies

Edge computing is a critical platform for transformative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) because it delivers essential real-time processing and rapid data insights. 

However, organisations are still taking a DIY approach to edge computing that’s less likely to deliver the smooth, effective and enduring platform they need. Avoiding the pitfalls of cost, scaling, governance difficulties and security vulnerabilities requires an expert partner. 

Tech trends

Analysts McKinsey predicted in its Top 10 tech trends that will shape the coming decade article (2021) that we’ll experience more technological progress in the coming decade than we have done in the preceding 100 years. The World Economic Forum builds on this prediction, saying that organisations that are making the most of advances in technology are also in a good place to make the best return on their investments.

The message is clear – embrace new technologies and make the most of them to protect the bottom line.

So why is edge computing – an emerging technology that has the potential to help organisations stay competitive and relevant for years to come – so often adopted in small, ad hoc ways? Why are organisations risking success by choosing a DIY approach rather than an expert-led structured programme that will future-proof the whole organisation?

Challenging complexity

Some of the issues are perceptual – many organisations think implementing an edge computing solution is expensive, so hold back from working with an expert partner. In fact, it’s the complexity that can come with edge computing that sometimes pushes up costs.

Some organisations go into operating at the edge with a mindset that it’s as easy as deploying a wi-fi network. And it’s true. If they’re adopting relatively simplistic video applications or network surveillance, and they’re using a licensed spectrum, it can be quick to activate.

However, if they want to move beyond straightforward contained use cases, they need expertise in spectrum licensing rules, spectrum utilisation, edge computing solution design, integrating the edge with other systems, and so much more. 

This complexity is the biggest barrier to edge computing DIY success because it causes delays and ramps up costs. There is also the need to find specialists in each area and develop processes that will only be used once, which can allow significant security vulnerabilities to creep in.

Then there’s the question of what else needs to change within the organisation as part of moving to the edge. New processes and skills will augment the positive impact of technology innovation at the edge.

At the moment, 4G and 5G are probably the greatest use of distributed edge by supporting devices wirelessly. Private networks will also increasingly rely on edge computing. Both these areas bring complexity and require extra capabilities and expertise – can they be sourced in-house? Can a DIY approach get different stakeholders aligned at the enterprise level?

Experience proves that creating consensus about the right technology, the right model, the selected providers and use cases, is more effectively achieved when done with external advice. 

Professional advice is perceived by organisations as neutral, bypassing organisational silos. It generates streamlined decision-making that’s capable of unlocking investment decisions that would otherwise go through a long-term internal discussion process.

If an organisation understands how to reduce complexity, it can accelerate time to value and reduce the costs of an overall edge computing programme.

Partner organisations

A shortcut to tackling the complexity of edge computing is to work with a partner organisation that has access to an ecosystem of expertise. The bottom line is that the partner will have implemented edge computing for hundreds of enterprises, and they’ll have invested in developing streamlined, effective designs and approaches. 

It’s likely this implementation will involve automating some deployment processes, such as remote site supervision, orchestrating everything possible to reduce costs and creating robust security for their edge computing solutions.

Plus, they’ll have worked out the best ways to coordinate with their ecosystem partners to cut the number of phases in the whole adoption programme, so organisations can rapidly realise their edge computing reality. As a result, it won’t make any difference whether the organisation wants to make 10, or 10,000, sites live simultaneously – the capability will be there.

Expert leads

Tapping into the edge computing expertise of a partner is also an effective way to navigate through governance and regulatory issues, particularly when it comes to spectrum licences.

The market is moving on from the simple ‘buy a spectrum and get country-wide licensing permission with it’ approach. Now it’s likely that an organisation’s edge project will need to step outside pre-granted spectrum licences, and, at this point, the complexity returns. 

It’s essential to understand the regulations and plan spectrum utilisation strategy for the medium- to long-term to extract maximum benefit for the organisation. Applications for licences need to be more case- and location-specific and must also consider needs such as mobility between networks. 

It’s also relevant to assess how organisations can leverage and incorporate pre-existing solutions cost-effectively in the evolution plan – but this takes both experience and knowledge.

Prioritising security

Maximising the potential of edge computing will involve business-critical processes, so security must be a priority. 

Defending human safety, or industrial processes, where a stoppage can cost billions of dollars a day is just the beginning. This is complicated by the fact that very few organisations can assure security solutions from origin to site in their environment. Clearly, any edge computing deployment must come with security baked in, which needs a specifically designed delivery model as well as expertise.

Long-term success

When I talk to customers about how to implement edge computing, I stress the importance of understanding it as an engineering process. Designing a low-maintenance network, purpose built for different vertical enterprises, embracing multi-cloud aspects and specific operational technology requirements is also part of this journey. I believe long-term success and creating that platform for future development stems from this.

An initial investment in bringing in a partner at the beginning of the project pays off later down the line when you have a network that’s engineered for security, and performance, in the most cost-effective way.

Dell partners with BT to provide the expertise to do this, so that organisations can use edge computing to step confidently into the future.

To find out more about how edge computing can help your organisation, download BT’s Living life on the edge computing ebook.

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