By George Senzere, Solution Architect, Secure Power at Schneider Electric
More than ever the speed, reliability and resilience of edge computing can unlock the benefits of the world’s current and quite rapid digital transformation. Together with the cloud, edge computing is a vital cog in hybrid IT architecture that is enjoying considerable demand in key sectors such as mining, petrochemical, healthcare and buildings.
Edge computing brings together the elements of compute, storage and manageability for those critical applications that need to be close to the point of processing. This supports new generation applications, which are demanding reduced network latency and the ability to rapidly process large volumes of data.
Edge computing offers distinct benefits – super low latency between the system and the user, absolute control of the environment, and uptime protection against internet outages. However, these deployments need to be remotely manageable, logically and physically secure, rapidly and repeatedly deployable, and most of all, run on reliable power sources.
In South Africa, we are not far behind our international counterparts with companies increasingly looking at harnessing the benefits of edge computing. And locally, edge computing deployment cuts across various industries such as manufacturing, retail, health and hospitality.
In the manufacturing industry for example, the use of robotics is becoming more prevalent, improving productivity, which in turn relies on the computing power of the edge to offer reliable information as close as possible to processing points.
Edge computing is undoubtedly providing an important competitive edge to businesses, with their customers in turn benefiting from improved and advanced services and products.
Opportunities for the channel
Edge computing requires a disciplined approach; as an architecture, it has moved away from centralised computing to a distributed methodology. It also supports companies’ efforts to obtain real time data.
Edge computing is made up of a number important element such as security, which in turn requires an ecosystem of partners that are specialists in their respective fields. As an equipment manufacturer we work very closely with our channel partners to meet organisations’ business requirements. We have been involved in a number of projects that have given us intimate insights into the South African edge computing market place.
To this end, our recommendation to our partners is to work very closely with the end user, follow proven methodologies to address edge computing challenges, whilst following key steps when implementing these projects:
- Step one is a thorough strategy assessment of customer requirements which will involve the input of several stakeholders. In this step, the business objective of the project is clearly defined. All the key stakeholders are involved, for example those who own the customer experience, IT owners, those who own manufacturing operations and so forth. The idea here is to discuss the market, the objectives and the challenges in a round table discussion.
- Step two is working together with the customer to realistically assess what is required to realise an edge computing environment and meet their business requirements. In this step, it is critical to understand the business status and what the anticipated results are. This will identify the current gaps and the steps necessary to the get the organisation to the desired state. This step needs to clearly define what a successful project will look like.
- Step three is implementing best practices to address step two. In other words, the formulation of the strategy. This typically means involving other organisational employees, partners, and perhaps the Schneider Electric partners to assist in this process. We know that no one company can provide all the solutions, hence the involvement of all the key players is crucial at this stage.
Step four is fine-tuning the edge computing deployment plan, ensuring that it is rolled out in a secure and manageable way, with the requisite team of experts supporting it. This may involve working with Schneider Electric to assess your current teams and management systems, and defining a plan to ensure maximum availability and security. Considering that many solutions will require computing in various locations, we will address both physical and cyber security along the way.
When the above is followed, it will go a long way towards realising a successful edge computing project.