Edge computing is critical enabler of transition to digital-first connected operations

Research reveals drivers of edge computing deployments, challenges and solutions for maintaining resilience, connectivity and supporting digital-first connected operations that are secure, reliable, resilient and sustainable

Businesses’ transition to connected operations is inevitable, but so is the challenge of designing, planning, building and maintaining the technology capabilities necessary to support the evolution. These could range from lack of access to skilled individuals for implementation and maintenance, to concerns around managing edge infrastructure at scale, according to research from Schneider Electric.

The provider of solutions for digital transformation of energy management and automation says resilient, secure, sustainable resources, remote software and digital service solutions, and trusted partners are critical to overcome the challenges and succeed at the network edge.

The research paper, Succeeding at digital-first connected operations, carried out by IDC, highlights the power of edge computing in enabling the shift to a digital-first world. It took responses from more than 1,000 IT and operations professionals across industrial, healthcare, education and other verticals, as well as a series of in-depth interviews with industrial enterprises. Respondents were global, representing firms in the US, China, Japan, Germany, the UK, India and Ireland.

The organisations ranged in size from 100 employees to more than 1,000. Responses provided insights about the factors driving edge investments, the challenges firms face while deploying to the edge, obstacles to continued investment, and strategic recommendations to future-proof edge capabilities.

Schneider regards edge computing as one of the major enablers of a digital-first paradigm. In fact, the most common use cases of edge infrastructure include cyber security systems to monitor the operational network locally, as well as storing and processing operational data to bring it to the cloud.

“As organisations seek to create new or improved experiences for customers and to become more operationally efficient, improve safety and security and become more sustainable, they are leaning more on digital technologies,” said Chris Hanley, SVP, commercial operations and global channels, leading edge commercial strategy at Schneider Electric.

“The whitepaper examines the crucial role that edge computing and edge deployments play in enabling digital-first, connected operations. It highlights strategies that IT professional and decision-makers can adopt to future-proof their edge computing capabilities to support remote, connected, secure, reliable, resilient and sustainable operations.”

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When organisations were asked why they were investing in edge computing to support these workloads, respondents cited “improve cyber security” (50%) and “systems resiliency and reliability” (44%). Yet there are various challenges that organisations must overcome to ensure their edge infrastructure, and therefore their connected operations, are resilient and reliable.

Despite the promise of the edge, many organisations reported connectivity and power outage concerns. In fact, 32% of respondents had experienced a “lack of connectivity or slow connectivity” with their edge deployments, and 31% had experienced a “utility power outage or power surge lasting more than 60 seconds”.

The report highlighted the challenges to overcome when transitioning to digital-first connected operations. Workforces will need to have the right skills to execute across technology settings and to be able to build alignment internally to drive change. This focus will require companies to engage with new ecosystem partners inside and outside their organisation, and also includes security where physical and cyber security concerns are high when connecting operations.

This concern, said the report, will require systems and processes that are tailored for this new paradigm. As more local operations capabilities are directly supported remotely through the connected edge, reliability was also highlighted as a critical concern.

“Resilient edge resources are the foundation for shifting to digital-first connected operations,” said Jennifer Cooke, research director, edge strategies at IDC. “Organisations will become vulnerable if and when their technology fails. To future-proof edge deployments, leaders must develop a strategy that addresses concerns, such as cyber security and connectivity issues, and ensures access to the skills required to maintain resilient edge infrastructures.”

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