Edge computing brings processing and storage capabilities closer to where it is needed, but why is this a game-changer, and which industries can benefit the most? From enormous manufacturing plants to e-commerce sites and large supply chains moving goods around the world, the deluge of data now being collected at the edge is fuelling opportunities for real-time insights that take decision-making to a new, more insightful level.
However, to harness the benefits, companies in every sector need to modernise, and implement a decentralised data strategy that brings the speed and flexibility needed for edge computing to be a success.
The concept of the edge is not a new one, in fact, organisations have been collecting data at the edge of the network for many years, even before cloud computing became ubiquitous. The difference though, is that the Internet of things (IoT) trend that has swept the industry over the past few years, means that data is no longer only collected, it has become connected.
This is why the edge’s role in driving data-first business is just now coming to the fore. Driven by the massive shift to working from home, the proliferation of smart devices, and IoT applications, the edge is creating a flood of data that is being generated and consumed outside of yesterday’s centralised data centres. Concurrently, the pervasiveness of 5G connectivity and a slew of robust, cost-effective edge processing power have made it feasible to decentralise data storage and real-time analytics, and place them closer to the data source.
In fact, the IDC predicts that there will be 55.7 billion connected IoT devices within three years, which will generate a whopping 80 billion zettabytes of data at the edge. The analysts also forecast that global spending on edge computing will reach $176 billion this year. It’s no surprise then, that IT leaders around the world have some sort of edge strategy in place - or are planning to.
After all, the benefits are well documented. The edge is at the vanguard of truly data-driven businesses. It drastically reduces latency, removes bottlenecks, it improves reliability, resilience, and scalability, enhances security, and lowers operating costs. This means that organisations can not only benefit from data insights that simply weren’t available to them before, but they can also act on these insights almost instantly.
However, to support an edge strategy, businesses need to redefine their traditional data strategies, and rearchitect their data warehouses and systems keeping a decentralised approach top of mind. At the same time, they need to do this in a way that enables seamless data movement, without compromising on compliance and security controls.
A good starting point for any business wanting to become truly data-first, is taking a good look at where the business’s data currently resides. Establish a data footprint, since ultimately the edge is all about data. They need to know how much data they have, where it is going, how long they need to keep it, and of course, who is allowed to access it.
Next, they need to shine the spotlight on cyber security and data governance, because as data is collected and analysed at the edge, the attack surface widens exponentially. Any data-first modernisation strategy requires companies to retool their practices to build cyber security in from the ground up, not tack it on as an afterthought.
Then, they will need to appoint data stewards as part of cross-functional teams made up of individuals from across the business, as this will help them to define and establish data needs, and to ensure that all relevant data sources have been taken into consideration.
Edge computing promises to open up an entirely new world of insights, improvements, and innovations, but there’s always a catch. To maximise the opportunities, a paradigm shift is needed, and businesses need to modernise, and implement a truly decentralised data strategy to create a truly data-driven business.