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Blog · 29 Jun 2022

How to take the complexity out of edge computing

DIY approaches to edge computing projects often fail to deliver a solution that’s engineered for security, performance and cost-effectiveness.

Marco Castanheira
Senior Consultant, Dell Technologies

Edge computing is, and will continue to be, a critical platform for transformative technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) because it delivers the real-time processing and rapid data insights that are essential.

However, organisations are still taking a DIY approach to edge computing that’s less likely to deliver the smooth, effective and enduring platform they need. Avoiding the pitfalls of cost, scaling, governance difficulties and security vulnerabilities requires an expert partner.

Grasp the potential of edge computing

Analysts McKinsey predicted in 2021 that we’ll experience more technological progress in the coming decade than we did in the preceding 100 years put together. The World Economic Forum builds on this, saying that organisations that are making the most of advances in technology are also in a good place to make the most in terms of return on their investments.

The message is clear – embrace new technologies and make the most of them to protect the bottom line.

So why is edge computing, an emerging technology that has the potential to help organisations stay competitive and relevant for years to come, so often adopted in small, ad hoc ways? Why are organisations risking their success by choosing a DIY approach rather than an expert-led structured programme that will future-proof the whole organisation?

Complexity is the biggest challenge for DIY edge computing

Some of the issues are perceptual; many organisations seem to think implementing an edge computing solution is expensive, so hold back from working with an expert partner. In fact, it’s the complexity that can come with edge computing that sometimes pushes up costs.

Some organisations go into operating at the edge with a mindset that it’s as easy as deploying a wi-fi network. And it’s true, if they’re adopting relatively simplistic video applications or network surveillance, and they’re using a licenced spectrum, it can be quick to activate.

However, if they want to move beyond straightforward, contained use cases they need expertise in spectrum licencing rules, spectrum utilisation, edge computing solution design, how to integrate the edge with other systems, and so much more. This complexity is the biggest barrier to edge computing DIY success because it causes delays, ramps up costs with the need to find specialists in each area and develop processes that will only be used once, and can allow significant security vulnerabilities to creep in.

Then there’s the question of what else needs to change within the organisation as part of moving to the edge. New processes and skills will augment the positive impact of technology innovation at the edge.

At the moment, 4G and 5G are probably the biggest users of distributed edge, supporting devices wirelessly. Private networks will also increasingly rely on edge computing. Both these areas bring complexity and require extra capabilities and expertise – can they be sourced in-house? Can a DIY approach get different stakeholders aligned at the enterprise level?

Experience proves that creating consensus about the right technology, the right model, the selected providers and use cases, is more effectively achieved when done with external advice. Professional advice is perceived by organisations as neutral, bypassing organisational silos. It generates streamlined decision-making that’s capable of unlocking investment decisions that would otherwise go through a long-term internal discussion process.

If an organisation understands how to reduce complexity, it can accelerate time to value and reduce the costs of an overall edge computing programme.

Partnership is critical to tackling complexity

A shortcut to tackling the complexity of edge computing is to work with a partner organisation that has access to an ecosystem of expertise. The bottom line is that the partner will have implemented edge computing for hundreds of enterprises, and they’ll have invested in developing streamlined, effective designs and approaches. It’s likely this will involve automating some deployment processes, such as remote site supervision, orchestrating everything possible to reduce costs and creating robust security for their edge computing solutions.

Plus, they’ll have worked out the best ways to coordinate with their ecosystem partners to cut the number of phases in the whole adoption programme, so organisations can rapidly realise their edge computing reality. As a result, it won’t make any difference whether the organisation wants to make ten or ten-thousand sites live simultaneously – the capability will be there.

Expertise takes care of governance issues

Tapping into the edge computing expertise of a partner is also an effective way to navigate through governance and regulatory issues, particularly when it comes to spectrum licences.

The market is moving on from the simple ‘buy a spectrum and get country-wide licencing permission with it’ approach. Now it’s likely that an organisation’s edge project will need to step outside pre-granted spectrum licences, and, at this point, the complexity returns. It’s essential to understand the regulations and plan spectrum utilisation strategy for the medium to long term to extract maximum benefit for the organisation. Applications for licences need to be more case and location specific, and must also consider particular needs such as mobility between networks. It’s also relevant to assess how you can leverage and incorporate pre-existing solutions cost-effectively in the evolution plan – but this takes both experience and knowledge.

Never forget that cybersecurity is critical

Maximising the potential of edge computing will involve business critical processes, so security must be a priority. Defending human safety or industrial processes where a stoppage can cost billions of dollars a day is just the beginning – complicated by the fact that very few organisations can assure Zero Trust from origin to site in their environment. Clearly, any edge computing deployment must come with security baked in – and that needs a specifically designed delivery model as well as expertise.

Explore how partnership can deliver long-term success

When I talk to customers about how to implement edge computing I stress the importance of understanding it as an engineering process. Designing a low maintenance network, purpose built for different vertical enterprises, embracing multi-cloud aspects and specific operational technology requirements is also part of this journey. I believe long-term success and creating that platform for future development stems from this.

An initial investment in bringing in a partner at the beginning of the project pays off later down the line, when you have a network that’s engineered for security and performance in the most cost-effective way.

Dell partner with BT to provide the expertise to do this, so that organisations can use edge computing to step confidently into the future.

To find out more about how edge computing can help your organisation, download BT’s new edge computing ebook.