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Myth busting at the edge

Image: Adobe Stock / Connect world

Jason Collier, co-founder, Scale Computing debunks four of the common myths that surround edge computing.

The IT landscape is constantly evolving and the last few years has seen many technologies move from concept to product, from slow and time consuming to fast and efficient, from big and clunky to small and space saving.

Today’s IT landscape is all about moving towards the micro data centres, as the demand for edge computing pushes through the need for quick and instant access to data.

Edge computing is localised computing for systems that operate away from the primary data centre. Typically, these systems rely on connectivity and reliable performance – take a self-driving car for example, you would not want there to be any delay in the system deciding to brake or accelerate.

It is exactly this reliance on connectivity and performance for real-time diagnostics that means cloud computing is not always a good fit.

With the proliferation of IoT and AI, and as more devices connect to the internet and to each other, edge computing is at the top of the boardroom agenda for IT.

So, as we move closer to the edge, here are four common myths about edge computing…busted.

  1. Edge computing is a brand-new technology

Edge computing is most definitely not new – even history shows us that if you want to predict the next technology, look at what is already being used.

While self-driving cars are very much still in development, edge computing is currently solving an age-old challenge – reliable and good computing power for the business spread out across multiple locations. In other words, the remote and branch offices (ROBO).

For organisations including retail shops, oil rigs, transport like planes or trains, manufacturing and medical facilities, edge computing is providing a service that is essential to their day-to-day operations – consistent and dependable access to data.

Essentially, edge computing is any computing that takes place outside your data centre, away from your IT staff. It could involve only a few remote sites, or it could be hundreds or thousands of sites, such as retail locations. These sites could be across town or around the world.

Regardless of the distance, they all have the same needs and requirements including disaster recovery, remote management and high availability.

So, it is not new, just reinvented. Edge computing is certainly a new term, but it’s bringing back to the agenda what many distributed enterprises have long looked to achieve.

  1. Edge computing replaces the main, centralised data centre

We should think of edge computing as an augmentation of the data centre being driven by IoT, not a replacement of it.

There are more devices connected today than there ever have been in history and, while edge computing is required to make these devices work the way they were intended, it is not able to facilitate this without a centralised data centre.

This is why edge computing is so beneficial for ROBOs – these distributed organisations face huge challenges in working away from the main office across multiple devices, while still being required to operate efficiently and effectively.

With edge computing businesses can benefit from real-time data analysis and enhanced AI and IoT in remote locations.

  1. Edge computing is expensive

Everything can be made to be expensive, but the bottom line is, edge computing does not need to be expensive. Because edge computing is a compute source away from the main data centre, its resources can be kept to a minimum.

For example, in a hospital it might be a piece of medical equipment, in a retail shop it might be a cash register, and for the ROBO it might be a single IoT device. It is flexible and most definitely cost effective if supported by the right technology. Opt for something that is cost-effective, scalable and reliable.

  1. Edge computing is complex and difficult to manage

Edge computing constitutes anything outside of your centralised data centre size – say anything less than six racks. So, if the system itself was complex and difficult to manage it would simply fail.

The reason edge computing works for the ROBO business is precisely because of its easy and minimal management requirements.

Take retail for example – each individual supermarket does not have an inhouse IT team, at best maybe there is one IT manager, but often there is no one at all. But there are dozens of cash registers, barcode scanners, self-shop scanners, alarm tags, de-activating alarm sensors – the list goes on.

The edge computing system is designed with simplicity at its heart so that the management it requires is minimal. This means, in organisations like supermarkets, the team on hand can focus on excellent customer service rather than IT management.

So, we have now busted the four myths on edge computing. It’s a new term but not a new concept, and with it, it’s important to understand how it works and the benefits it can bring.

Edge Computing is definitely emerging as a hot topic at the moment, and it can help modernise traditional centres, but it’s important to understand exactly what edge computing is.

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