The job of an IT architect or administrator becomes more complex with each passing day. It hasn’t been that long since an IT staff only had to deal with the resources found inside the walls of the enterprise. Today things are different. IT organizations must address the needs of a remote workforce, multi-cloud integration, and the rapid rise of edge computing and artificial intelligence.
Edge computing places compute and storage capabilities into the real world, allowing an enterprise to generate insights and deliver value where it is most needed. Edge computing extends the reach of enterprise IT right to the point that data is generated, enabling new and impactful use cases that change the way that many businesses operate.
There isn't an industry that isn't touched by edge computing. Nurses in hospitals depend on edge devices to monitor and interpret signals from dozens of sensors that send alerts when a patient needs attention. Edge devices in a chemical refinery or factory can predict, in real-time, equipment failures before they occur. Retail is amid a new kind of digital transformation driven by the deployment of AI-enabled edge devices that leverages image recognition to drive everything from inventory control to customer care. The list of industries and applications is endless.
For all the business benefits that it delivers, extending an enterprise's infrastructure to the edge can be a complex and challenging endeavor for IT organizations. Infrastructure at the edge takes core capabilities and critical resources out of the security of the enterprise data center and places them in often unpredictable environments. As a result, edge computing requires a fresh way of thinking about IT architecture.
I was fortunate to have the recent opportunity to spend time with the edge and AI teams at Dell Technologies. I learned how the dominant force in enterprise IT thinks about solving the challenges at the edge. As you might imagine, Dell had a lot to say. I’ve captured much of Dell’s AI at the edge story in a new whitepaper that you can read here.
Challenges at the Edge
Edge computing isn't just about deploying isolated infrastructure into remote locations. As a fully integrated element of an enterprise’s overall IT infrastructure, an edge solution needs to be just as enterprise-grade as anything you can find in the traditional datacenter
The capabilities needed for edge solutions mirror traditional IT infrastructure while also exceeding traditional needs in many places. This touches on a wide range of areas, including equipment placement, connectivity, manageability, and security.
Edge solutions may be deployed in environments that are physically exposed or have an uncertain climate. This may drive special packaging, ruggedizing, or even physical security considerations. In addition, edge applications may be business-critical while also being remotely located, increasing the need for reliability and specialized maintenance planning.
Edge infrastructure may not always be connected to a corporate network and may rely on third-party communications infrastructure such as 5G carriers. The edge devices might also be placed where connectivity isn’t guaranteed to be reliable. Edge applications must continue to provide service even when disconnected from the network.
There is often a limited IT presence found at an edge computing location. These solutions are also often deployed at scale, with many sites being managed simultaneously. This demands intelligent management solutions that can employ automation and technologies that allow for flexible deployments and reconfiguration.
That edge solutions often exist outside the physical confines of a typical enterprise leads to increased concerns about security and access control. Edge requires comprehensive security capabilities that meet the needs of edge applications while also seamlessly integrating into the existing enterprise infrastructure.
IT organizations can attempt to manage these new complexities alone, but the most successful organizations understand the value of leveraging robust technologies partnerships. Dell Technologies is a natural partner to embrace, as this is the company most often driving the seamless integration of disruptive new technologies into established IT architectures.
Dell’s AI at the Edge
It should be no surprise to find that Dell Technologies delivers a full range of storage, compute, and networking capabilities that can bridge nearly any edge deployment. Beyond a portfolio of products, Dell is also quick to tout its range of reference architectures, as well as its worldwide service and support organizations. There are also customers who are leveraging Dell's recently introduced APEX as-a-service offerings to solve compute problems at the edge.
Dell Technologies offers a full range of AI-ready compute solutions for the edge. This includes its industry-leading Dell EMC PowerEdge servers powered by the latest generation Intel Xeon processors, Dell's integrated VxRail hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solutions, and Dell's Edge Gateways.
Many of these offerings directly target edge deployments. For example, Dell's PowerEdge servers are available in reduced sizes for constrained environments. Dell offers rugged configurations for environmentally harsh conditions, and even fully RF shielded racks for sensitive edge locations.
Data at the edge is often stored at the edge, and Dell Technologies storage solutions scale from the edge to the data center to allow maximum flexibility. At the same time, the value of data at the edge lies in the ability to use that data to derive quick insights.
Dell Technologies enables these insights with intelligent data-driven workflows, supported by the Dell EMC Streaming Data Platform (SDP). The Dell EMC SDP allows an enterprise to store and manage data where it makes the most sense for the solution. This allows the solution to address the special considerations unique to edge environments, such as limited storage and compute resources to provide comprehensive analytics at the edge.
Dell brings new strength to the edge with flexible deployment and consumption-based models. Dell’s recently introduced APEX offerings enables flexible deployment and consumption models for storage and compute with its as-a-Service approach to IT infrastructure. Dell APEX scales beyond the traditional data center, allowing infrastructure to be deployed anywhere within an enterprise, including the edge. I recently talked with Adam Glick, Dell’s senior director of product marketing, about the value of APEX. You can listen to that podcast here.
And, of course, Dell Technologies delivers expertise that extends beyond storage and server hardware. As a result, it can serve the needs of deploying and managing IT infrastructure – whether in the data center, in a hybrid-cloud environment, or at the edge.
Nearly every enterprise is extending its reach to the edge, delivering data-driven insights at the precise location where data is generated. AI-enabled applications can lead to instant decisions, providing immediate value to the enterprise.
At the same time, deploying infrastructure to the edge can be a complex process that touches every IT function. As a result, edge computing demands special considerations. These considerations extend beyond the typical manageability, security, reliability, service, and support requirements of an enterprise data center.
IT organizations ready to embrace the edge need both a strategy and a partner with experience with AI and the edge. Dell Technologies has the expertise, products, services, and reach to simplify the edge with intrinsic security and deliver insights where they're needed the most. This enables the consolidation of operations, data, and infrastructure as edge deployments expand.
Dell Technologies should be on the short list of potential technology partners to accelerate innovation at the edge.
Learn more about the challenges of deploying solutions at the edge, and how Dell Technologies fits into that picture, in my recent whitepaper on the topic.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.