Living On The Edge: Firms Apply Advanced Computing To Operations And CX

Cloud and (cutting) edge computing are seeping into corporate operations at all levels. But they may not be helping marketing as much as other areas, judging by Succeeding at Connected Operations With Edge Computing, a study released Monday by Schneider Electric, conducted by IDC.  

For instance, content delivery — a task that can involve email, social and search — ranks relatively low on the list of the top use cases for edge infrastructure: 

  1. Cybersecurity systems to monitor the operational network locally
  2. Storing and processing operational data to bring it to the cloud 
  3. Using of imaging videos, or vision-based capabilities for security inspections, etc.
  4. Process automation systems, including robotics and autonomous vehicles 
  5. Control system functionality of a non-autonomous operational asset
  6. Content delivery
  7. Digital signage
  8. Predictive analytics for diagnosing operational assets and processes
  9. Augmented reality or virtual reality

But improving the customer experience appears to be higher-priority among the reasons for investing in edge computing:

  1. Improve cybersecurity 
  2. Resiliency and reliability 
  3. Create new products, services, or experiences for customers 
  4. Improve the customer experience 
  5. Reduce the amount of data sent to the cloud for cost savings
  6. Minimize latency for real-time applications 
  7. Lack of connective to outside data centers in remote sites
  8. Regulatory/compliance needs

Indeed, companies often turn to edge when they seek to “create new or improved experiences for customers and to become more operationally efficient, improve safety and security, and become more sustainable,” says Chris Hanley, senior vice president, commercial operations & global channels, leading-edge commercial strategy for Schneider Electric. 

As with everything, challenges abound. Here are the main inhibitors to companies investing in edge-computing applications and workloads: 

  • Concerns about managing edge infrastructure at scale
  • Concerns about securing edge infrastructure 
  • Finding secure locations to place edge compute
  • Finding locations to place edge compute that can handle our power needs 
  • Lack of skills for designing, implementing, and managing an edge solution 
  • Too many decision makers or stakeholders in operations and IT 
  • Cost of deployment 
  • Consensus on where and how to deploy edge compute 
  • Lack of business case
  • Lack of preferred provider

In addition, firms with edge technology are challenged by these practical issues:

  • Lack of connectivity or slow connectivity 
  • Utility power outage or power surge lasting greater than 60 seconds 
  • Delays in ability to service or maintain equipment
  • Equipment damaged by the surrounding environment (dust/humidity) 
  • Interruption to facility power 
  • Natural disaster impacting the area 
  • Equipment purposely tampered with or removed by unauthorized people
  • Equipment mistakenly moved or altered 
  • Not enough power capacity for edge compute 
  • Noise generated by edge compute is considered disruptive
  • Fire near edge compute 

Can external service partners help? Yes, with the following needs -- and only the top one exceeds 50%: 

  • Maintaining the system with patches and software updates a la carte (or similar “moments in time”) 
  • Monitoring the systems through a managed service 
  • Deploying management and operating software on systems 
  • End-to-end "as a service model" fully managed without taking ownership of the edge infrastructure 
  • Providing physical maintenance and service
  • Designing and installing the infrastructure hardware 
  • Migrating existing or new workloads to the systems

“Resilient edge resources are the foundation for shifting to digital-first, connected operations,” says Jennifer Cooke, research director, Edge Strategies, IDC. 

Cooke adds: “Organizations will become vulnerable if and when their technology fails. To future proof edge deployments, leaders must develop a strategy that addresses concerns, such as cybersecurity and connectivity issues, and ensures access to the skills required to maintain resilient edge infrastructures.”

IDC surveyed over 1,000 IT operations and professionals across industrial, healthcare, education and other verticals in the U.S., China, Japan, Germany, the UK, India and Ireland. It also conducted in-depth interviews with industrial enterprises. The firms numbered from 100 to 1,000 employees. 




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