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IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: Edge Computing and The Internet of Things

August 14, 2017 No Comments

Featured article by Thomas Humphrey, Segment Director for the Industrial Edge Division at Schneider Electric

Data-intensive applications and technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) require massive amounts of processing power. Without the proper infrastructure in place, this flow of data can have a dragging effect on business operations. As the number of connected things grows—Gartner estimates there will be 8.4 billion connected devices by the end of 2017—businesses face considerable data handling challenges ahead, including processing the massive amounts of data collected by IoT devices in real time. As such, many enterprises are implementing edge computing to combat latency woes and drive a better customer experience.

Thomas Humphrey, Segment Director, Industrial Edge, at Schneider Electric discusses why deploying an edge IT strategy is mission critical as more devices become connected, highlighting the overall benefits edge computing provides businesses.

  • Q. How have digital technologies such as IoT, changed the data center landscape, driving a new need for edge environments?

A. As we advance into an all-digital era and the number of IoT connected devices grows, it is critical that data centers be prepared for the resulting overflow of data. Within a traditional, centralized data center, a cloud architecture provides the scale and operating efficiency necessary for handling less time-sensitive data-related tasks, such as collection, warehousing and onsite analytics. However, with the rise of data-intensive applications such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, cloud alone cannot support the bandwidth and speed demanded by these technologies. As such, the cloud’s capability created the need for edge data environments to solve any latency and bandwidth issues caused by IoT and emerging technology.

  • Q. How does edge computing differ from a standard data center architecture? How does it differ, if at all, from cloud?

A. An edge IT deployment is an extension of both standard data center architecture and the cloud, serving as a local standpoint to gather, process and store data—moving compute power to the “edge” of a network. By processing high bandwidth content closer to the end user and removing a portion of the data load from a central data center or cloud architecture, edge data centers gather information from IoT connected devices and deliver the data almost instantaneously to the user—whether that’s a family watching Netflix, a doctor assessing a patient’s health records or a retail store clerk searching a digital inventory. Typically smaller than traditional data centers, edge IT deployments are easy to place closer to the point of aggregation, transforming a cloud computing implementation from a wholly centralized architecture to a more distributed one.

  • Q. What benefits does edge computing provide businesses?

A. By implementing an edge IT strategy, businesses are able to create new experiences for their customers and drive higher levels of applications locally. As businesses continue to implement technologies such as AI and augmented reality (AR) in their operations, it is necessary to have compute power at the point of data consumption through edge IT. This prevents latency issues that could negatively impact customer experience and satisfaction. Essentially, edge data centers provide a platform for the next generation of groundbreaking and radical technology, and create new opportunities for businesses.

  • Q. What are the main considerations for IT managers when looking to deploy edge?

A. Edge deployments are mission critical. Security is a top consideration and physical security and remote monitoring are practical solutions for these types of deployments. When deploying at the edge, IT managers should ensure the management systems in place secure the data and the physical assets of the environment. Additionally, IT managers must consider redundancy and availability, and understand how to address these needs in an edge deployment, given the high reliance on compute power.

In the eyes of the CIO, business considerations are paramount, including speed, agility, lowered cost and ease of deployment. An edge IT deployment addresses these needs, working to improve business operations and continuity.

  • Q. What industries will see the most edge growth over the next few years?

A. Edge is expected to permeate a variety of industries in the near future, including retail, health care, financial services and manufacturing. For example, as the retail industry introduces the concept of smart warehousing—facilities controlled by robots and computers—smaller, edge data centers placed within the warehouse will process the data produced by these robots in real time, ensuring warehouse operations run quickly and efficiently.

Similarly, with the advent of the mobile app in the travel industry, airline customers have mobile access to check in, view their flight status, change their seat and track their baggage. Local, edge data centers process this data and information in real time so that customers’ requests are made instantaneously and their experience is satisfactory.

No matter the industry, businesses can use edge computing as a tool to drive a better experience for their customers.

schneider 150x150 IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: Edge Computing and The Internet of Things

As Segment Director for the Industrial Edge Division at Schneider Electric, Thomas is tasked with developing and executing strategy for the emerging markets of Industrial Edge and Industrial Internet of Things.


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