Find out how edge computing compares with the cloud, how to use it, and trends driving its growth.
Editor's Note: This article is adapted from a white paper, "Transformation of the Edge: Architecting your infrastructure for performance and reliability." Download the full white paper to learn how edge computing is changing, and see examples of edge computing use cases, and opportunities presented by next-generation solutions.
U.S. Presidents are known to have the best security in the world. Yet President Ronald Reagan was shot on March 31, 1981, in Washington, D.C., walking to his limousine from the Washington Hilton Hotel. Why? Because he wasn’t in the White House. It wasn’t a matter of his security being the best. It was a matter of vulnerability. And if you never leave your house, you’ll never get in a car accident. It’s a matter of vulnerability.
It’s the same with your industrial data. When you send the data via the cloud around your geographic region, to remote locations, or perhaps to all over the world, it’s vulnerable to cyberattacks. Edge computing can provide more security than the cloud in some applications, because it eliminates that vulnerability.
Many companies are looking to their edge computing systems for improving cybersecurity as well as better latency, bandwidth and reliability for certain applications. Yet for most operational technology (OT) professionals who have been responsible for edge-based computing systems, the evolution of the edge may seem like a moving target.
Trends, Complications and Opportunities
Industrial firms computing at the edge might believe their existing approach is sufficient. However, trends and shifts occurring in technology will require them to change how they think about edge computing, as follows.
Device Evolution. Increased volumes will drive down unit costs, making Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices cheaper, more capable and standardized. For example, programmable logic controllers (PLCs) already are becoming more intelligent, open standards-based and more cost-effective.
OT Evolution. The OT role will continue to evolve and assume more responsibility for edge computing, because IT departments already are stretched too thin, and the edge is simply not a top priority for them.
Increasing Machine-Based Automation. Emerging technologies such as real-time analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) will increase the criticality of edge data. Automation will become increasingly faster and much more capable, even surpassing the limits of human ability. For example, railways can now process edge data to support 300 km per hour travel safely.
New Vendors and New Business Models. New technological solutions, such as AI, machine learning and advanced analytics will continue to drive innovation, agility, and capital efficiency. Organizations should consider partnering with vendors, technology and solutions best suited to their long-term strategies.
Example of Edge-Optimized Architecture and Delivery
Today, technology vendors are delivering a new edge infrastructure approach that incorporates all the attributes described previously. This new edge approach includes:
Zero-Touch Computing Platform. An automated, fully integrated and self-protecting industrial computing platform that reduces the need for IT support while increasing operator efficiency and lowering downtime risk.
Software-Defined Edge Infrastructure. A single interface to a full stack of essential applications, including virtualized compute, storage, and networking; cybersecurity; IIoT gateways; VPNs; routers; analytics; and artificial intelligence.
Key advantages are:
- It’s ideal for running business-critical industrial applications quickly and reliably in remote locations with limited or no IT resources.
- It increases operational efficiency with pre-installed virtualization software and intuitive, user-friendly configuration and management tools.
- It’s easy to deploy and can be installed quickly by users, reducing the time it takes to get critical applications up and running.
- It reduces IT’s burden with self-monitoring and self-protecting capabilities that make it ideal for unmanned facilities.
- It predictively prevents unplanned downtime via redundant on-premise systems backed by a managed service cloud.
- It supports multiple ecosystems — a range of architectures and applications, without modification.
A comprehensive edge platform satisfies the essential requirements of the today’s edge environment including operational simplicity, virtualization, uninterrupted production and interoperability.
Stratus Technologies, based in Maynard, Massachusetts, is a participating Encompass™ Product Partner in the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork™ Program. The company provides high availability and fault tolerant solutions to keep applications up and running.
The Journal From Rockwell Automation and Our PartnerNetwork™ is published by Putman Media, Inc.