UK firms find obstacles to unlocking full potential of Edge

Survey finds almost of half of UK IT leaders in the UK are already actively using Edge technologies to deliver new outcomes and business value, but 87% of ITDMs are missing key skills to unlock the value of data

As companies discover the power and benefit of bringing networks, especially wireless, nearer to users, new research from Aruba is suggesting that the ability of organisations to realise business value from data increasingly depends on their capacity to collect, process, store and analyse it at the Edge.

Part of a report, At the edge of change: Navigating the new data era, the study set out to assess the implications of the shift in data processing from cloud to Edge, how IT decision-makers (ITDMs) are responding to this trend, the opportunities the Edge presents for a number of major industries and the critical role networking plays in this transformation.

Putting context to its global study of 2,400 ITDMs, the Hewlett Packard Enterprise-owned firm notes that as networks become increasingly congested with huge volumes of data generated from user and IoT devices, IT leaders are recognising that analysing real-time data nearer to the Edge yields greater efficiencies and insights, which results in improved business outcomes.

Overall, the study found that the benefits of Edge technologies were becoming increasingly important as ITDMs grapple with the growing amounts of data generated in their networks and look towards the cost and latency advantages of storing and processing it at the Edge. 

It revealed that 44% of UK organisations are already actively using Edge technologies to deliver new outcomes, with another 21% planning to do so in the next year. There was also a growing recognition (57%) of the urgency around the need to implement integrated systems to handle data at the Edge. Moreover, the maturity of a company’s deployment at the Edge was revealed to be strongly correlated with its ability to derive value from the data collected from devices.

ITDMs cited a variety of benefits from capturing and analysing data at the Edge, from operational efficiencies to the opportunity to create new products, services and revenue streams. Almost half (48%) of ITDMs highlighted “improving operational efficiency and costs” as one of the biggest benefits of capturing and acting upon data from user devices and 51% cited “increasing workforce productivity.”

Just slightly more respondents believed the data from the Edge gave them deeper customer insights, 28% cited the opportunity to create “new differentiated products, services, revenue streams and business models”, and 48% highlighted the potential for personalised service delivery. 

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Just over three-quarters (78%) of ITDMs globally who were in production deployments with Edge technologies said they were able to use this data to improve business decisions or processes. That compares with just 42% of ITDMs who were only at the pilot stage and 31% who were planning pilots over the course of the next 12 months.

ITDMs were found to be focused on utilising the Edge to improve safety, visibility and the customer experience. By sector, the most popular Edge use cases were tracking and monitoring individual items through the supply chain in retail (51%), the use of facial recognition in the hotels/hospitality industry (49%) and improving healthcare providers’ experience with always on tools and applications (49%).

However, some key hurdles were encountered. Almost a quarter of ITDMs in the UK said there was too much data in their systems to handle and 30% stated that they could not process data quickly enough to take action.

Over a quarter also highlighted problems with budget (26%), a lack of skills (26%), and an inability to collect data from so many different sources (17%). Over half (52%) of ITDMs in the UK recognised much faster data processing as a result of optimising machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) on their networks. 

Just over a third of ITDMs pointed to a lack of expertise, skill or understanding with regard to Edge technologies as top concerns. Notably, the overwhelming majority (87%) thought they were missing at least some skills needed to help their organisation unlock the value of data. This thought rose to 98% and 99% respectively of ITDMs in the government and hotels and hospitality sectors respectively. Inevitably, there were concerns about the security implications of the Edge.

Nearly three-fifths of ITDMs said that connecting IoT or user devices at the Edge had made or would make their businesses more vulnerable. However, a quarter also identified improved security as one of the biggest benefits of capturing data from user devices.

Call to action

In a call to action, Aruba said that as firms begin to consider harnessing the power of their data and building an Edge infrastructure, they must adopt three principles.

First, they should consider solutions that can manage all domains and locations from a cloud-native, single pane of glass that can centralise and correlate all cross-domain events and operations.

In addition, they should implement solutions that provide reliable, highly accurate and specific AI-powered insights, and automation that can resolve issues more quickly, before they impact the business or users.

Finally, in considering security, they should consider solutions that use AI to detect, classify and continuously monitor these devices and work seamlessly with access control solutions.

“Developing an Edge strategy against the backdrop of existing cloud implementations is becoming a necessity as the number of connected devices increases and it becomes impractical to transfer vast volumes of data to a cloud or datacentre environment, especially as organisations undergo digital transformation to advance their business objectives and address customer needs,” said Partha Narasimhan, chief technology officer and HPE Senior Fellow for Aruba.

“Organisations that can process, store and analyse data at the Edge will be able to use that data first to optimise their existing business model, and over time, will develop innovative products, services and experiences that will not only augment, but transform their offerings for customers and employees.”

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