The IT landscape is constantly evolving and over the last few years businesses have benefitted from a wide variety of options for IT infrastructure. The latest term dominating the industry is edge computing, and it is becoming one of the fastest growing segments of IT. Today’s IT landscape is all about moving towards the micro data centers, as the demand for edge computing pushes through the need for quick and instant access to data.
So, what is edge computing? Edge computing refers to computing that takes place outside of the data center, typically this means bringing IT infrastructure closer to where data is being created and used . Run on a small or tiny hardware footprint, infrastructure at the edge collects, processes and reduces vast quantities of data and can be further uploaded to either a centralized datacenter or the cloud. Edge computing acts as a high performance bridge from local compute to both private and public clouds.
Although the terminology is new, the concept of edge computing is not. Remote and branch offices (ROBO) have always required computing to take place in multiple locations, away from the main site. Today, edge computing is effective in nearly any type of industry where remote sites exist. It is particularly dominate in industries such as retail, finance, healthcare, industrial and manufacturing companies.
In retail, for example, retailers need reliable computing that can provide maximum uptime for point of sale, inventory management and security applications for the numerous store locations on the edges of their networks. Banks and other financial institutions with multiple branch offices also require reliable computing to support rapid, business-critical transactions.
Edge computing is also set to play a prominent role in the continuing deployment of IoT devices as the most effective means to process the vast amount of data they produce quickly and effectively. This requirement is only likely to become more pronounced when communication of that data to the cloud may not be reliable or fast enough to be effective.
In the case of ROBO deployments, small branch locations are now increasingly running core, mission-critical applications and the infrastructure they reside on needs to evolve to match the critical nature of the workloads they are running.
It’s obvious that most edge computing sites have very specific computing needs and require much smaller deployments than the primary data center site. Many organizations may have dozens or hundreds of smaller edge computing sites and they cannot afford to roll out complex, expensive IT infrastructure to each site.
How to fix the great edge computing mismatch
But with many applications running on the edge becoming as critical as those in the data center, how can organizations match the resiliency, scalability, security, high-availability and human IT resources found in the data center? How can they address the growing mismatch between the importance of the applications and the infrastructure and IT that supports them at the edge?
To support critical applications with little or no onsite IT staff, edge computing infrastructure has to be more reliable, easy to deploy and use, highly available, efficient, high performance, self-healing and affordable. In many instances, to keep applications running without dedicated IT staff onsite, systems require automation that eliminates mundane manual IT tasks where human error can cause problems.
Autonomous infrastructure also keeps the systems running by monitoring for complex system failure conditions and by taking automatic actions to correct those conditions. This eliminates the downtime that would take a system offline and require an IT staffer to come onsite to bring it back online. Even when hardware components fail, automation can shift application workloads to redundant hardware components to continue operating.
Edge computing infrastructure needs to be easy to deploy and manage because businesses with hundreds of sites cannot afford to spend weeks deploying complex hardware to each site. They need to be able to plug in the infrastructure, bring systems online and remotely manage the sites going forward. The more complex the infrastructure, the more time they will spend deploying and managing it.
Edge computing infrastructure should also run with as little management as possible. They need to be self healing to provide high availability for applications without requiring IT staff resources, with automated error detection, mitigation and correction. Management tasks should be able to be performed remotely and with ease.
In addition, these systems should be scalable up and down, dependent on the requirement of the edge location, to ensure organizations are not saddled with excessive overheads for resources they don’t need.
A data center in a box
Virtualization, converged infrastructure (CI) and hyper converged infrastructure (HCI) are helping organizations to deploy the compute, storage and network resources at the edge to match the growing requirements being placed on dispersed locations. The data center in a box approach makes it easy to deploy IT infrastructure that can be managed individually or centrally, to add additional resources without downtime, to deliver built-in self-healing, local high-availability, remote disaster recovery and hybrid cloud capabilities.
These systems can be deployed in minutes and preconfigured to avoid lengthy on- site resources during initial deployment. No specialised training or certification is required because these platforms are designed to be powerful but intuitive, which also negates the need for on-site IT expertise.
CI and HCI help to make edge computing much more accessible and affordable for organizations of all shapes and sizes. These systems can transform isolated locations into unified, self-managing micro data centers that meet the changing needs of computing at the edge for so many organizations. CI and HCI can give businesses the capabilities they need to meet the developing challenges of computing on the edge without tipping them over it.