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Blog · 04 May 2023

Why secure connectivity is critical for edge computing

How to securely connect your network infrastructure to avoid unnecessary risk and achieve the full benefits of edge computing.

Head of Product Management, BT

Edge computing is seen as a gateway to innovation - helping organisations to solve the challenge of real-time data analysis by moving their data, computing and workloads closer to where they’re needed.

This helps to significantly reduce latency and accelerate processing times to enable faster, more intelligent business decisions.

That’s why it’s set to boom. By the end of the decade, Dell estimates that more than $700 billion in capex will have been spent on edge infrastructure alone.

But data processed at the edge isn’t the whole story. There are many touchpoints along the network journey that connect other data sources, devices and clouds. The ability to securely connect these compute locations from device to cloud is critical and can impact the overall effectiveness of projects, for example, Internet of Things (IoT) deployments. 

Securely managing your data

To help applications make more effective business decisions, organisations often have many IoT devices and systems set up in their campus, factory, warehouse or office generating large volumes of data. The first challenge is how to connect these devices securely to the network. You need to fully understand what you’re connecting, how you’re connecting it, the potential security issues that could arise from those devices being connected to a wider network and, above all, how you manage that.

You then need to find a way of bringing your data together, aggregating it properly and deciding what goes to the cloud and what stays local. This choice will be based on a number of factors, such as:

  • Latency and urgency: ultra-low latency is critical for the rapid analysis and decision-making that many IoT technologies need, and edge computing is a key enabler. For example, the data from a safety camera looking at people in a factory needs to be processed quickly to identify health hazards and alert workers before accidents happen.
  • Data security and compliance: certain companies and countries have data sovereignty regulations that require sensitive or business-critical data to be hosted locally, removing cloud computing as an option. Edge computing simplifies compliance with regulations by keeping data in its region of origin.
  • Balancing workloads: companies may wish to keep data at the edge for the reasons stated but also take advantage of extra computing power that’s not available at the edge and will send large volumes of data to the cloud for further analysis. For example, an onsite camera system that combines meta data from multiple entry points may need to calculate how many people are onsite at any one time and will therefore need wider data analysis that’s not latency sensitive.

Securing your network

Whether you’re sending data to the cloud or processing it at the edge, here are a few steps you can take to ensure secure connectivity to avoid putting your network at unnecessary risk:

1. Gain full visibility of the devices connecting to your network and collecting your data

Using a dedicated Operational Technology (OT) security platform can significantly improve visibility across devices and infrastructure, helping to map out the entire environment and identify any vulnerabilities across all of your connected equipment. Then, every time a new device is connected, the solution will assess its risk as well as use its ongoing threat detection capabilities to provide system alerts about any new threats or process anomalies.

2. Explore network and connectivity solutions

Many use cases will involve locating data at the edge and in the cloud, so prioritise building secure connectivity into these deployments from the start, for performance optimisation and maximum security. When connecting devices and systems at the edge, first define how devices, systems and other data sources will be connected, and then look at how all these elements will be connected with the edge compute solution. Consider how the edge compute solution will work with the existing network, fixed connectivity, wireless, mobile and, increasingly, private 5G as an option for ultra-low predictable latency as well as ultra-reliable and predictable connectivity.

3. Adopt a risk containment strategy

Proper network segmentation minimises the potential damage an intruder can cause to operations. It does this by defining and isolating the network into smaller segments, creating security zones and policies to control, monitor and isolate on specific device types or functions to break up the attack surface. This is ideal because network managers can dramatically reduce the impact of an attack by isolating anything suspicious to that particular segment before it can reach other critical systems.

Partnering gives you the edge

We help organisations unlock the true value of edge computing. By collaborating with world-class partners like Dell Technologies, we implement leading edge computing platforms to provide end-to-end edge computing technology solutions that accelerate digital transformation. We have developed a flexible, practical approach to delivering Edge Compute solutions for a range of multi-sector, multinational organisations.

If you’d like to find out more about our Edge Compute solutions, please visit our webpage.

To read our 'Living Live on the Edge' eBook, created in collobration with Dell Technologies, visit our whitepaper page.