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Edge computing critical enabler of digital-first connected operations

By Shannon Williams
Thu 21 Apr 2022

Edge computing is a critical enabler of a transition to digital-first connected operations, according to a new report from Schneider Electric.

The digital transformation of energy management and automation company has unveiled findings from a newly commissioned IDC White Paper entitled, Succeeding at Digital First Connected Operations, that highlights the power of edge computing in enabling the shift to a digital-first world. 

The white paper details responses from over 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 United States, China, Japan, Germany, The United Kingdom, India, and Ireland. The organisations ranged in size from 100 to more than 1,000 employees. Responses provided insights about the factors driving edge investments, the challenges firms faced while deploying to the edge, obstacles to continued investment, and strategic recommendations to future-proof edge capabilities.

"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," says Chris Hanley, SVP, commercial operations & global channels, leading edge commercial strategy, Schneider Electric.  

"The white paper examines the crucial role that edge computing and edge deployments play in enabling digital-first, connected operations," he says. 

"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."

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

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

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

Challenges to overcome when transitioning to digital-first connected operations:

Security. Physical and cybersecurity concerns are high when connecting operations. This concern will require systems and processes that are tailored for this new paradigm. Yet, once connected to the cloud, the power of operational data can be harnessed to drive a host of new and enhanced use cases. Such data can enhance collaboration in the enterprise and enable remote operations capabilities that result in labor efficiencies while ensuring companies have resilient, remote operations capabilities.

Skills. The workforce needs 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 of their organisation.

Reliability. As more of the local operations capabilities are directly supported remotely through the connected edge, reliability is a critical concern.

"Resilient edge resources are the foundation for shifting to digital-first, connected operations," says Jennifer Cooke, research director, edge strategies, 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 cybersecurity and connectivity issues, and ensures access to the skills required to maintain resilient edge infrastructures," she says.

How organisations can future-proof edge capabilities to support their transition to digital-first connected operations"

Resilient, secure, sustainable power and connectivity resources: By including resilient power and connectivity resources early in the edge planning phases, companies can reduce the risk of downtime.

Remote Monitoring and Management of edge resources at large scale: The ongoing management of edge infrastructure at scale will challenge all organisations. Having the right skills in the right place at the right time will be difficult if not impossible. Ensure that your edge resources are equipped to support continuous remote monitoring and autonomous operation.

Trusted partners that can provide the necessary skills for the above edge resources: Consider trusted partners to provide industry best practices and service in situations or locations where it is not economically or physically feasible to do it yourself. Trusted service partners can often predict problems before they occur. Further, look for partners that also have a commitment to sustainability since among those surveyed, 82% cited commitment to sustainability as a selection criterion for edge solution providers

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