Edge computing technology concept. Blue integrated circuit with icons. Futuristic tech of data processing.
Image: Michael Traitov/Adobe Stock

Driven by the significant increase in data transfers, real-time applications and the demand for low-latency, edge computing and the cloud have replaced the traditional computer architecture. The edge concept is simple: To bring data storage and processing centers as close to the user as possible.

Microsoft explained that while edge computing is used in retail, manufacturing, smart factories and many other industries, it allows organizations working in extreme environments — where normally connections are not available — to work with cutting-edge technology. The cases are endless.

SEE: Don’t curb your enthusiasm: Trends and challenges in edge computing (TechRepublic)

Edge computing processes data at the “edge” of the network either by the device itself or a local server and is often connected to the cloud. Only the data that needs to be processed in the data center, or the most critical, is transmitted. This brings down latency to a minimum and increases response times.

5G, IoT, augmented reality, virtual reality, robotics, smart supply chains, telecommunications and other new technologies are driving edge computing. Market Research Future revealed that the sector is anticipated to reach $168.5 billion by 2030, growing at an astounding 24.51% CAGR. Leading companies in the sector include Advanced Micro Devices, HPE, IBM, Red Hat, Microsoft, Amazon and Alphabet.

Top 4 best practices for the edge computing journey

1. Management: Automation, support and edge-awareness

IBM reported that companies should be able to deploy, update, monitor and recover edge computing space without intervention. The entire edge management process should be fully automated. Companies should only focus on “what needs to be placed where.”

This automation of edge computing resources allows organizations to adapt, scale or change their infrastructure without direct intervention. Additionally, leaders must understand how their edge computing infrastructure operates, where it operates, and what type of hardware and software it uses. Having a solid knowledge of the edge infrastructure allows management to make informed strategic policy-driven decisions.

“Before beginning an edge computing project, it is critical to understand who is participating and whether they are on the same page with the final goals,” Aarti Dhapte, senior research analyst at Market Research Future, told TechRepublic.

Dhapte explains that encouraging collaboration and cooperation among the communication technologies — the people in charge of processing and disseminating information — and the operational technologies — those in charge of controlling and monitoring hardware and software at the client endpoints — is vital. In this scenario, breaking down silos is critical since one side cannot grasp the needs or fulfill the tasks of the other.

2. Business case: Security, risks and benefits

Any organization going into edge computing should draw up a solid business case. The business case should outline the benefits, risks, and security capabilities of the edge computing infrastructure and service that is being planned.

Edge security

Microsoft explained that adding thousands of internet-connected sensors and devices to a network is a genuine security concern. While edge computing process data locally and stores most of it offline, businesses should take strong security strategies.

Leaders should integrate an edge security strategy into their entire edge environment. In one way or another, every nook and cranny requires the same protection and service visibility as the central data center, Dhapte says. Security practices for edge computing are similar to those used in the cloud. Multi-factor authentication, malware protection, endpoint protection and end-user training are a must in the edge.

Businesses should also consider the zero-trust approach while searching for solutions to limit the risk of breaches. Additionally, edge hardware should be secured from various assaults and threats. Regarding data enterprises can adopt data encryption in transit and at rest.

Risks and responsibilities

When an organization embarks on edge computing ventures, it will eventually cross paths with scaling, variability and rate of change challenges. IBM explained that edge computing resources are in a constant state of change. Networks are reconfigured to deal with traffic, gateways are updated, new features and processes are released, and edge devices or endpoints are constantly moving around and often shared.

Managing this ever-changing infrastructure is key to avoiding risks.

“If DevOps is critical to managing a hyper-scale cloud infrastructure, then zero-ops (that is, 100% automated and secure operations without any human intervention) is critical to managing the massive scale that edge computing represents,” IBM says.

Benefits of edge computing

The benefits of edge computing are significant. Costs of IT operations can be decreased, data transport is optimized and reduced, and security postures are strengthened. Remote locations can operate in real-time even with heavy data transfer rates, and every organization can have faster insights leading to better decision-making and actions.

Processing data in the edge allows for continual and autonomous operations even when disconnected by a disruption. The benefits of edge computing will depend mainly on each organization and what it plans on using it for. Whether used in simple or complex operations, edge computing can improve workers’ performance, data management and real-time insights, provide faster response times and minimize security risks.

The edge also offers new methods of making commerce, entertainment and healthcare more convenient, farms and factories more efficient, and consumer experiences more pleasurable.

3. Compatibility: Works on the edge, works anywhere

If your company is operating on the edge, it should also be able to operate in the same way in the cloud, on-premises or in remote locations. Compatibility of the entire system across all channels is essential.

For example, IBM’s edge and telco network cloud solutions run on Red Hat OpenShift, an open hybrid multi-cloud platform, and it can run anywhere — from any data center to multiple clouds to the edge. Similarly, other edge providers should guarantee compatibility.

Leaders should also ensure their edge system works perfectly with their cloud computing centers.

“In conjunction with cloud computing, edge computing may help an organization’s digital transformation path,” Dhapte says.

It is not ideal to implement edge in isolation. By implementing it with cloud services, business operations can scale effectively. Edge features should be robust and compatible with different equipment manufacturers, independent software vendors and new technologies like 5G, machine learning, artificial intelligence and open hybrid multi-cloud architectures.

Red Hat Developer’s best edge “strictly-for-developers” practices include:

  • Consistent tooling: Developers need to be able to use the same tools regardless of where the application is deployed.
  • Open APIs: Well-defined and open APIs empower real-time data programmatically.
  • Accelerated application development: Look for offerings not built solely for edge. Invest in tech that can work anywhere.
  • Containerization: Containers are an especially good fit for edge application requirements of modularity, segregation and immutability.

4. Know your edge technology

Edge technology includes a wide range of solutions. Depending on the demands of your organization’s operations, edge hardware devices may include smart cameras, robots, drones, sensors or IoT. When building your edge infrastructure, make sure that the devices you use are compatible and can be deployed in the edge.

Some hardware will also include computing resources, memory and storage. The more power your edge CPU has, the faster it will perform. Clusters or servers are used to process data at an edge location. Edge clusters are often tasked with running enterprise apps, enterprise workloads and an organization’s shared services.

Make sure your hardware is built to last and is reliable. Often edge technology is left out in the open, shared by workers and must withstand weather and other events. Your hardware must be closed off to environmental factors, temperature resistance, movable, include storage capacity to transfer large amounts of data and be compatible with the latest software, equipment and connectivity options.

When it comes to choosing software, it’s essential to engage with a trusted vendor.

“Working with a vendor with a proven multi-cloud platform portfolio and a wide variety of services geared at expanding scalability, improving performance and strengthening security at edge deployments is critical,” Dhapte says.

A good practice is asking vendors critical questions about security, performance, team size, cost and return on investment. It is also recommended to ask vendors for a demonstration of their security and management capabilities.

“Edge computing has caused a seismic shift in the way we do business; it’s an intriguing concept that offers multiple chances to unleash the power of data,” adds Dhapte.

As edge computing continues to transform industries enhancing their performance and capabilities, edge software, hardware and services continue to evolve. Good edge computing practices can help organizations build strong strategies, scale, innovate and expand to stay ahead of the pack.

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