This document is intended to describe the use case of edge computing as a key component of IT infrastructure in the retail industry. Retail is only one of many industries that can benefit from edge computing infrastructure and each industry has unique needs and problems to solve.
Amazon operated strictly online for two decades. During this period, Amazon learned a lot about customer buying behaviors and how quickly a consumer can change the way they shop. From all of its data, Amazon learned that customers who shopped online also wanted to shop at physical locations.
Customers are continuously searching for the seamless transition between online and in-store experiences. The retailers who master that virtual and physical combination will become the leaders for the coming decades. It will be interesting to see what other acquisitions on top of Whole Foods Amazon has in mind to expand into the tangible world of the consumer.
On-premises infrastructure assets for edge computing provide more reliable performance and connectivity to keep systems operational even if internet connectivity fails. In retail, IoT-driven backroom technology such as RFID, real-time point of sale (POS), and smart shelving systems will improve the accuracy of inventory tracking throughout the supply chain. Automated inventory management can reorder items without requiring humans to take inventory, making it easier to prevent shortages of popular items at peak times.
However, unlike full data center implementations, edge infrastructure needs to be easy to configure, manage and connect back to the primary data center or even the cloud; it should not warrant dedicated IT staff. These requirements are what make hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) technology well-suited for edge computing. Unfortunately, not every solution can scale down in a cost-effective manner. Many solutions are not economically viable, given their high demand for resources like processors and RAM. They are too expensive to buy and too expensive to operate. Edge computing, particularly in retail where locations are abundant, requires a lightweight solution that can operate effectively at a low cost. Ease of use and operational efficiency must also be considered. With ease of use and scalability in mind at every step of the product’s design and creation, the hyperconverged Scale Computing Platform for the edge meets the needs of edge computing and more.
In fact, edge computing can be used whenever the speed, volume, and privacy of data matter. And there are a whole series of use cases that retailers can consider today.
More and more retailers and fast-food restaurants are investing in the greater uptime and reliability that comes from transforming their mission-critical POS with edge capabilities.
What about tackling shrinkage by combining edge-based POS systems with real-time AI-powered video analytics? With shrink increasing across all retail sectors, that has the potential to significantly reduce inventory loss and make a real impact on the bottom line.
We got rid of the chaotic infrastructure in the stores, provided a template for ALL stores and are able to manage all stores from a single pane of glass. We’ve been able to consolidate the number of vendors and contracts and drive better economics. We created a Store-as-a-Service for ourselves and our franchisees.— Rolf Vanden Ynde, Manager Networking And Strategic Innovation, Delhaize
TOMORROW’S RETAIL APPLICATIONS ARE CONNECTED
Historically, application development in retail has produced large, monolithic applications designed with specific functionality in mind (warehouse management systems, scanning and pricing, etc.). These systems are traditionally interconnected through a complex web of point-to-point interfaces. These non-flexible infrastructure configurations constrain retailers from responding rapidly in the new and dynamic digital-physical environment. Instead, retailers must adopt new and agile applications to innovate a better customer experience.
To make these kinds of retail experiences work in practice, you need near-instantaneous response times, to process large amounts of data, and to keep customer details completely secure—all of which are ideally suited to an edge-based solution.— Accenture
INNOVATION ON THE EDGE REQUIRES INNOVATIVE INFRASTRUCTURE
Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is a simple and easy-to-use platform combining compute, storage and virtualization in a single solution. In most cases, HCI can be deployed rapidly and much easier than traditional infrastructure. HCI also allows better streamlining of IT operations and reduces management footprint by automating many of the common management tasks. HCI is, by design, highly available. This high availability reduces planned and unplanned downtime and will typically mitigate what would have been a disaster in a traditional infrastructure design. Hyperconverged systems are intended to scale. Once an HCI solution is implemented, expanding compute and storage capacity is easy to do and typically completed in minutes.
In some cases, how HCI is delivered is not in line with the above: simple and easy. Some infrastructure vendors offer an “HCI” layer on top of various complex products, hiding the complexity. It looks simple, but underneath these solutions are complex and difficult to manage.
What About Economics?
This is where Scale Computing Platform comes into play. SC//Platform is known not only for being low cost, but also for extremely easy implementation and management. Scale Computing was one of the first vendors to provide an HCI solution to the small and mid-sized markets. Since then, Scale Computing has become a market leader by providing solutions to organizations of all sizes. With “scale” in its name, Scale Computing can confidently claim its ability to provide solutions at a low enough cost to satisfy the needs of even the smallest businesses, and the capacity for organizations to grow for years to come.
Scale Computing provides a range of edge computing appliances that can be as small as a shoebox or range up to a multi-appliance data center-style cluster. Scale Computing delivers a customized, highly flexible, and economically viable hyperconverged infrastructure for an unprecedented price point. HyperCore Edge provides the combined advantages of efficient performance, ease of use, and integration with public cloud services and private cloud systems. Far from a stripped-down system, HyperCore Edge provides the features and functionality of mainline SC//HyperCore which can deploy and manage 5 or 5,000 stores.
Improved Sustainability, Driving a Greener World
Drive efficiency in energy use, product manufacturing, packaging waste, and shipping costs, and eliminate onsite repairs.
A more integrated offline-online retail strategy is inherently more efficient—and thus more sustainable—especially in areas like energy usage, product waste, and packaging.
For example, retailers can use precision analytics to match supply and demand more accurately, reducing excess and unsold inventory. They can add edge computing to the mix to enable smart shelves that automatically monitor product wastage and replenishment.
When you factor in edge computing, it’s even possible to have dynamic pricing that encourages more sustainable choices. And by rethinking the design and layout of the store, retailers can enable circular business models. That includes refillable containers and product-as-a-service models on the one hand, and micro-fulfillment centers that open new home delivery options on the other.
Reducing CO2 by >75%
The HE100 series of appliances provides unique changes when compared to traditional edge infrastructure:
Manufacturing. Due to the size and use of the latest technologies, the HE100 Series servers contain 60-80% less raw materials compared to 19” rack servers.
Logistics. Shipping costs a fraction compared to traditional servers due to the small form factor’s size and weight. This results in 90% less fuel consumption needed for transportation per server.
Power. The power consumption of a single HE100 Series server is 15-25% of a traditional server, resulting in an annual power savings of $150 - 250 per server.
Onsite repairs. Unit replacement is easy, without onsite expertise. No onsite repairs mean less technician travel time and fewer miles to drive.
SCALE COMPUTING PLATFORM
Scale Computing Platform provides a unique platform ready to host the workload for any “store-of-the-future.”
Resource Conservation. With a unique, patented software design, Scale Computing Platform requires fewer resources than any other hyperconverged solution in the market.
High Availability. SC//Platform is a true hyperconverged solution that includes built-in replication, cluster-wide redundancy, and automated rolling updates – all to secure the best possible uptime available in the market today.
Virtualization. Scale Computing HyperCore comes standard with embedded KVM server virtualization – there is no additional hypervisor license cost and no recurring fees to use the hypervisor. In fact, a new VM can be created quickly and easily in under one minute. The built-in virtualization software is also easy to manage through the unified HyperCore UI.
Built-In Data Protection. SC//HyperCore’s architectural flexibility and native backup and recovery are unmatched in avoiding data loss. Scale Computing integrates with leading advanced backup and proactive ransomware third-party software vendors, to take data protection to any level stores may need.
Cloud-init Customization with REST-APIs. SC//HyperCore includes cloud-init customization via REST-APIs to enable infrastructure-as-code so developers and administrators can automate otherwise very manual processes. With cloud-init, mass provisioning of customized VMs becomes possible, saving time by automating steps in site and application setup. Another benefit is the consistent change control and more reliable updates through standardization.
Containers. SC//HyperCore provides a highly available and resilient container runtime environment with lower management effort for containers.
Fleet Management. With Scale Computing Fleet Manager, stores can be managed from a single web-based interface. SC//Fleet Manager makes monitoring the health of an entire infrastructure deployment easier than ever.
Affordable. SC//Platform offers the most economical, expandable, and resilient solution available in the market today. Besides a very attractive initial price point, implementation and ongoing management costs are very low – typically 30-40% lower than other solutions.