The global edge computing market is expected to reach $9 billion by 2024, a significant increase from the current level of $2.8 billion, according to a study by MarketsandMarkets. Gartner also considers edge computing to be one of the 10 most important IT trends in 2020. Enterprises that rely on edge computing benefit in many ways. They understand a strong focus on edge computing will enable them to better connect remote enterprise locations, reduce latency and the risk of network downtime, and distribute loads across the network. In addition, edge sites enable companies to meet regional legal requirements — essential for companies that must adhere to government regulations and compliance requirements.

Once centralized networks are morphing into networks of distributed, dynamically interconnected systems spanning clouds, microservices, and software-defined networks. As a result, distributed edge data center sites, which are rooms with only a few racks or even “data centers in a box,” are becoming a more critical component of the dispersed IT required in today’s environment.

What this means for businesses is that edge has become a technical requirement and they must figure out how to work it into their operations. Compute, storage, and network connectivity at the edge is needed to deliver high-quality services with geographically distributed resources.

As data moves to the edge of networks, businesses must right-size their data centers to fit the new demands. Centralized hubs, where processing for primary applications occurs, will remain the core of the data center’s network.

Edge data centers, which perform regional processing and caching, will become more prevalent with the surging demand for low-latency connections. Edge sites will play an increasingly integral role in the overall architecture. The degree of distance from the core data center, where most processing, analysis and archiving occurs, varies. Edge sites just need to be within a local area to connect, integrate and re-route data back to the core data center.

Opportunities Through Edge Computing

The goal of any business is to provide uninterrupted digital services, maintain business continuity, and deliver the best possible customer experience. To do this, content must be made available to end users faster — customers, employees, and machines/devices alike.

In autonomous driving, for example, large amounts of data have to be reliably exchanged between vehicles and data centers in real time. Since edge locations are physically closer to the end users (in this case, the vehicles) performance and speed are higher in almost every situation. Centralized data processing would be technically impossible for the example of autonomous driving due to the large amount of data and its necessary processing speed.

In addition to the proximity, another performance aspect comes into play: Edge locations are generally younger and equipped with the latest technology compared to the main data centers.

Beyond performance, there are also numerous security aspects for edge computing. As computing power, data, and applications are distributed across a large number of devices and data centers, it is much more difficult to crash an entire network through a DDoS attack. For example. Since more data is processed on local devices and is not transferred back to a central data center, edge computing also reduces the amount of data that is at risk at the same time.

Edge computing also makes it easier for companies to comply with legal regulations, such as the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). To maintain compliance, companies have only been allowed to store personal data in the public cloud under certain conditions. Additionally, critical data must be stored securely and inaccessible to other countries or locations. This applies, for example, to banking applications and personal data for which many countries have issued very strict compliance requirements. Edge sites are a solution in both cases.

Distributed Data Centers Create New Requirements

In addition to the numerous opportunities that edge computing offers, it also presents IT departments with new challenges, as they now have to deal with additional locations and networked data center infrastructures. Site-specific information must be shared, both locally with on-site personnel and centrally as part of an integrated network.

To make matters worse, companies often equip their IT departments with fewer staff and resources despite increasing requirements. Therefore, IT departments urgently need solutions to efficiently control the management and operation of their distributed data centers.

A centralized solution that can be used to manage and optimize the entire data center infrastructure is the key to successful infrastructure management in complex environments while controlling costs. What should such a solution look like?

At a minimum, an infrastructure management tool should meet the following criteria. 

  • Provide complete end-to-end visibility (across all locations, resources, and connections).
  • Support connectivity — standardized and harmonized network operations is essential.
  • Facilitate network planning to optimize capacity and resource utilization and understand the impact of changes before they are made.

End-to-End Transparency

In order to remotely monitor the large amount of geographically distributed IT resources, IT departments need to evaluate, manage, and optimize the entire data center infrastructure from the central data center to individual edge locations. Therefore, the appropriate infrastructure management solution must be able to create transparency at all levels.

This includes the exact location of all edge locations and their connection to the main data center, including the building infrastructure (power, cooling, floor space), the IT infrastructure (networks, servers, storage), connectivity (physical cabling infrastructure and logical circuits/bandwidth), and services (software, applications). It’s crucial to have a detailed overview of the current situation in order to understand the effects of planned changes before making them.

Insight into all physical and virtual assets and their dependencies, manufacturer-independent and neutral, can only be achieved through unified resource management with a uniform data model. With the help of 3-D representations and simulations, IT managers can then visualize the information stored in a central database and simulate changes. A dynamically updating database will ensure data consistency and accuracy, which is critically important for planning, operation, and fulfilment teams that rely on that information to make business decisions. This approach ensures the greatest level of data accuracy for the upcoming changes.

To remotely monitor the large amount of geographically dispersed IT assets, data centers need to centrally manage and optimize the entire data center infrastructure from the central data center to each edge site, and even beyond. Look for a solution with this inclusive capability. With a central data repository in place, network managers can receive immediate insights into all the data connections in their networks and data center infrastructure, independent from the underlying hardware vendor technology.

Such unified resource management is critical because network issues are no longer confined to a single data center site, or a lone network element. A holistic understanding of how all network resources work, both individually and as part of the network fabric, is required.

Embracing the Edge

Overall, edge sites can help all types of businesses deliver services and products to an extended customer base with a standardized level of quality. While operating on the edge drives success in a competitive environment, it’s important that infrastructure management teams and network operations managers have the proper tools to plan, manage, and document the network and communications infrastructure — ideally all within one central network and asset database.

A professional infrastructure management solution will provide complete visibility and transparency across the entire data center and the associated networks. Based on this knowledge, IT departments can carefully plan individual changes by analyzing and simulating the effects on services and customers. The ideal database should also be dynamic to ensure that changes are updated automatically and IT managers always have a reliable basis for future decisions. Such a solution will allow data center operators to efficiently manage a variety of remote edge locations without ever being on site.