By Chris Buchanan – Edge computing is gaining steam across industries, bringing processing power closer to the data source. It changes the way businesses operate and how they drive growth.

The result is never-before-possible business outcomes – from driving innovation in the world of pro cycling to optimising the manufacturing floor – where real-time computing takes place far from a traditional data centre.

If businesses want to see immediate value from edge data, it must be acted upon quickly. But doing so is not simple. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 75% of the world’s data will be produced and consumed outside of a public cloud or data centre. One of the greatest challenges in the modern era will be to categorise this data at the edge before sending it to the cloud. This is what makes edge devices and computing so critical.

In South Africa, a survey conducted by ITWeb in partnership with Dell Technologies and Intel revealed that 73% of organisations believe that edge computing is essential to digital transformation. With the right strategy in place, organisations can identify a multitude of innovation opportunities at the edge and speed decision-making in real-time.


Every Industry Can Benefit from Real-Time Computing

Edge is the next frontier of business transformation.

While the number of use cases at the edge continues to grow, so do the complexities of edge operations. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for the edge, and every industry is required to take a tailored, strategic approach to effectively manage and secure their edge technologies.

For example, the Q36.5 Pro Cycling team recognises that innovation is driven by data and makes extensive use of data-driven rider selection as well as pre, post and during race data to make informed decisions faster. In this way, technology delivers a competitive advantage by giving the team’s riders the best chance of success through greater insight and active intelligence.

Virtual training apps and gamification enable cyclists to interact, train and compete in a virtual world, and even allow management teams to test riders for possible team selection regardless of location. In addition, 5G technology boosts capacity and performance for mobile broadband and provides real-time edge compute capacity as well as purpose-built connectivity for end devices – all critical in a sport where the norm is to race 280 days a year in 25 countries on five continents.

In another example, manufacturers use sensors and cameras to keep an eye on the efficiency of production floor machinery as well as the standard of goods from the assembly line. Edge computing examines the data from many sources to look for broad trends. To maximise system efficiency, factories can use data insights to speed up the system, enhance output quality, and address breakdowns in real time – something that is critical and cannot be addressed as quickly if data otherwise needs to travel back and forth from a data centre or public cloud. Data is processed on the shop floor, giving manufacturers improved data insights and accuracy, so they can act more quickly and increase efficiency.

Additionally, retailers can offer better shopping experiences by tracking product movement to better manage inventory and supply or by assisting consumers more promptly. Edge technology is also helping to unify the physical and online shopping experiences, from automatic checkout in grocery shops to inventory analytics that guarantee shelves are always stocked (and shelf inventories are accurately reflected online).


Understanding Challenges at the Edge
Many enterprises want to manage and safeguard data at the source but have limited IT assistance to do so. This has led to an increase in the complexity of edge deployments and often involves unclear objectives and conflicting processes between IT and operational technology (OT). With the amount of data generated growing nine times annually and expected to reach 221 zettabytes by 2026 (according to IDC), organisations need a simple and effective way to manage and secure the diverse ecosystem of edge technologies.

Focusing on the end goal is the foundation of effective edge projects. Prior to discussing technology, make sure your intended business objectives are agreed upon and aligned. For instance, if you work in manufacturing, consider whether you want to minimise costs or increase production yields by proactively avoiding machine failure and the ensuing downtime.

To help your business save money on edge computing, look for chances to combine apps onto a single infrastructure. Think of your edge as a system that permits effective operations rather than a collection of disconnected devices and apps. Key components of a system that can support consolidation include virtualisation, containerised applications and software-defined infrastructure. Edge consolidation offers more flexibility while also being more effective.

These are just some of the challenges to consider as you plan for growth and develop agile processes at the edge.


Planning your Edge
It is important to choose a partner who can assist you in defining your edge, consolidating your edge computing operations and developing a growth strategy. The data collected and processed at the edge can change both businesses and our everyday lives. Adopting technology that secures and streamlines the edge can lead to outstanding business outcomes.


Chris Buchanan is the clent solutions director at Dell Technologies South Africa