Earlier this year, Scale Computing published “The Gorilla Guide to: Enabling IT at the Edge” a jargon-free guide designed to help IT leaders and practitioners understand the fundamental principles of edge computing and offers practical guidance as to how to get started on your edge journey. One of the most commented upon chapters was in Chapter 2, The Top 5 Requirements for a Successful Edge Deployment.
Edge computing deployments have unique constraints that are significantly different from the ones with which typical data center deployments contend. After all, by definition, edge deployments are away from normal support services, far from the sanitized data center, and deeply enmeshed in the real work of the organization where they must deliver high value without disrupting other business activities.
Here is what we believe are the top five requirements for a successful edge deployment:
1. Modest Physical Footprint
Some vendors just sell standard data center equipment for edge use without accounting for the less-than-perfect environment that may be encountered there. For example, data center gear designed to work when provided with the highest quality cooling can suddenly develop reliability issues when located in a poorly ventilated storage space at an edge installation.That’s why it’s vital that edge equipment should be conceived from the start for that purpose, with sufficient ruggedness built in to handle the wider range of issues that are typical at the edge -- whether that edge is the shop floor, a warehouse, or somewhere in a retail establishment. Edge components and systems need to be thought of as “universal” products that can be deployed when and where they’re needed, with few limitations, and made appropriately secure in any given environment.
2. Affordable but Effective
For the many industries that operate remote sites, ranging from finance and retail to manufacturing and so-called Remote Office Branch Office (ROBO), there’s a need for reliable computing to support their business applications and operational technologies. But none of these scenarios can afford large, dedicated spaces or complexity. Edge adopters must consider the size of the actual equipment and its requirements for access space, air flow, cabling, and so forth. So, smaller and more compact equipment generally helps drive flexibility because it allows more freedom to choose deployment locations and makes it less likely a deployment will disrupt other activities. It typically also implies less onerous cooling and power needs. It is worth noting that compact form factors can also be helpful for enhancing physical security. For example, a smaller form factor means equipment can be secured and ceiling mounted for example, where it becomes harder to tamper with.
3. Resilient and Survivable
Edge computing is no place for daintiness: It’s where real work gets done, some of it dirty, messy, hot, and noisy. So, in addition to needing only a basic physical environment and simple power and connectivity, prudent adopters make sure the edge setup (hardware and software) is designed to be failure resistant, able to recover from many problems autonomously, to protect data, and to maintain operations in almost any circumstance. Edge equipment needs to be ready to handle that kind of stress without generating performance issues. Furthermore, autonomy should be part of the basics -- delivering no-nonsense reboots and allowing most other maintenance tasks to be initiated remotely.
4. Simplified Resource Additions (Scale Out) and Hardware Replacement
Edge environments are very dynamic with new applications being deployed regularly and data volumes growing exponentially creating new demands on edge infrastructure. It’s critical that infrastructure is designed to accommodate that growth and expand and upgrade the edge micro-datacenter with new resources and applications as easily as the initial edge deployment. Failure to plan for expansion of the edge environment can lead to expensive forklift upgrades or multiple independent islands of infrastructure to manage, with all the complexity and cost associated with that kind of choice.
5. Repeatable, with Zero-Touch Provisioning
Edge systems should take a standardized approach requiring little or no customization and minimal skills in installation. When possible, edge should offer or embrace infrastructure as code (IaC), which simplifies change control. Repeatability means that service and support is standardized so staff doesn’t need to research each installation before responding to a problem but, instead, can count on using a consistent approach and methodology. Management must not require specialized IT staff on site; upgrades and infrastructure scaling must be non-disruptive; the foundation must be self-healing; and IT specialists must be able to manage the entire edge fleet seamlessly at scale. Finally, look for zero-touch provisioning. This is a device-configuration process that can be operated automatically and eliminates most of the burden on IT administrators when setting up, maintaining, or upgrading an edge system
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