It’s true that edge computing is hard to define and is running high on the hype scale. But research and surveys continue to indicate that this trend of processing data where it’s collected for better latency, cost savings and real-time analysis is an innovation with legs. There will be 75 billion IoT devices by 2025, according to Statista.
According to Spiceworks’ “2019 State of IT” report, 32% of large enterprises with more than 5,000 employees are using edge computing, and an additional 33% plan to adopt it by 2020.Tied to the growth of edge computing is the advent of 5G wireless: 51 operators globally will start 5G services by 2020, according to Deloitte Global research from 2019.
The major cloud companies are also investing in the edge. The AWS Local Zones service allows single-digit latency connecting to computing resources in a metro environment, while Microsoft offers the Azure Stack Edge appliance and Google Cloud IoT is a “complete set of tools to connect, process, store, and analyse data both at the edge and in the cloud.” It’s safe to say that edge computing is becoming mainstream and CIOs and their IT operations leaders should plan appropriately for it in 2020 and beyond.
Benefits of the edge for ITOps
We’ve read plenty about the business benefits from edge computing: oil rig operators need to see critical sensor data immediately to prevent a disaster; marketers want to push instant coupons to shoppers while in the store; video security monitoring can catch a thief in the act and medical device alerts that ensure patient safety are just a few solid use cases for edge-based processing. Edge computing may save IT money on cloud and network bandwidth costs as data volumes keep exploding and the need to store every data point becomes harder to justify.
There are also implications for IT management and operations. Local processing of high volume data could provide faster insights to manage local devices and maintain high-quality business services when seconds make a difference – such as in the event of a critical server performance issue threatening the ecommerce site.
Today, IT operations teams are inundated with data from thousands of on-premise and cloud infrastructure components and an increasingly distributed device footprint. The truth is, only an estimated 1% of monitoring data is useful, meaning that it provides indications of behavior anomaly or predictions about forthcoming change events.
With edge monitoring, we can potentially program edge-based systems to process and send only that small sliver of actionable data to the central IT operations management system (ITOM), rather than transmitting terabytes of irrelevant data daily to the cloud or an on-premise server where it consumes storage and compute power.
The job of filtering out the highly-contextual data on the edge, where business occurs, can support real-time decisions for successfully running IT operations at speed and scale—regardless of what combination of on-premise, public cloud or private cloud infrastructure is in place. At the same time, ITOps will need to be a leader when it comes to minimising the risk of edge technology from a performance, security and privacy perspective. However, as detailed below, we are in the early stages of determining how to make this work in practice.
These are the ITOps realities for edge computing:
Edge-specific security needs are still unknown
Edge devices are often small and infrequently designed with security in mind. More than 70 percent of edge devices don’t mandate authentication for third-party APIs, and more than 60 percent don’t encrypt data natively. So the attack surface in IoT and edge environments is now larger, and less secure. This is particularly worrisome when considering edge devices that collect personally identifiable information such as email, phone numbers, health data or financial formation like credit card data. IT operations will need to work closely with security and legal teams to map out the company-specific risk, governance and compliance requirements around managing edge data.
Edge monitoring tools are immature
Companies need platforms that can instantly monitor and analyse edge-generated data. In the connectivity of tomorrow, billions of connected devices will be communicating machine-to-machine, and the addition or subtraction of connected devices will be possible at an unprecedented scale. In this environment, the ability to manage large volumes of connected devices and the information being exchanged between them will be critical. 5G acts as the unifying technology, bringing flow of information and the density of scale. We will see an influx of innovation in edge monitoring in the coming years.
New environments call for new rules
As organisations move more data and application assets to edge computing environments, IT will need to devise new policies and thresholds for central processing and alerting of all this data. Applying AI-based automation is essential here, as manual efforts will have zero chance of keeping up with the volume of data filtering, analysis and response. We are entering the age of nano satellites, vis-à-vis SpaceX and OneWeb. These edge devices will transform the future of agriculture, energy, mining, transportation and finance due to their capabilities for sending insightful data in real-time to customers, wherever they are at any moment. IT operations will have its work cut out to understand and properly manage this evolving edge infrastructure.
DevOps processes will become even more paramount
If you haven’t already realised that DevOps is taking over software development and IT management, just wait for when edge goes mainstream. There will be no other way to manage change and deployments of edge technology without the agile, continuous integration and continuous delivery methodology of DevOps. It will be imperative for ITOps to adopt DevOps practices and tools to manage, monitor and deploy edge resources.
ITOps is at a crossroads, determining how much of the past is still relative and how much they will need to change to adapt to a distributed, hybrid cloud world that will soon include edge as a fundamental pillar of their digital strategy. Security, machine intelligence and DevOps will be crucial areas of expertise for ITOps teams looking to help drive better business value and customer experiences from the edge.
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