Edge computing, or the analysis of data and development of solutions at the site where it is generated, is bringing the power of the cloud to mobile and IoT devices and is being used by businesses to create smarter buildings, cities, workspaces, retail experiences, among many other applications.
“The edge is crucial because it driving new ways to increase operational efficiency, maximise performance and safety, and minimise unplanned downtime, which are all vital in today’s digital, always-on operations,” says Tsholofelo Montshioa, business development manager for Super Micro at Axiz, SA’s leading value-added ICT distributor.
This is particularly true considering the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), particularly the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). “Edge computing is one of the foundations of innovation and is opening up new and exciting ways of doing business. There is no question that edge computing will be the power behind the next industrial revolution, forever altering the way manufacturing and services are carried out.”
Not only does the edge power the collection of data in real-time, it is the portal to optimising that data, to glean actionable insights from it instantly, says Montshioa.
“Edge computing is both scalable and flexible, and can be up and running far more quickly than centralised computing, enabling businesses to respond to shifting business needs more rapidly. It is more cost-effective and efficient, as processing data in real-time removes latency as well as the associated costs with sending data to and from the various clouds and servers,” he noted.
However, along with all its benefits, edge computing is also driving a massive paradigm shift in the way data needs to be managed and secured.
“There’s no doubt the edge, and particularly edge devices, have fallen into the crosshairs of many threat actors and cyber criminal groups, which is why organisations need to raise the bar when it comes to securing the edge,” she says. Adding; “The shift to the IoT and the emergence of the edge will have tremendous potential when it comes to improving smart technologies across the board, but they also bring a slew of new cyber security challenges.”
She says, that firstly considering the enormous amount of unsecured IoT devices we see today, many of these were not designed with security in mind from the bottom up, only tacked on as an afterthought, if at all. This is seeing IoT devices become extremely vulnerable to attacks.
“Moreover, most IoT devices have a very limited capability when it comes to running standard encryption, authentication, and access control algorithms, and they are far more vulnerable when it comes to DDoS attacks. Similarly, they are at a greater risk of physical tampering, and are vulnerable to a range of attacks that could compromise data integrity,” she adds.
Montshioa adds that the plethora of IoT devices that are connected to the Internet will also generate massive amounts of data, and will do this at a very rapid pace. Since it is unfeasible to store all this data in a centralised location for processing, it will need to be stored at the edge computing notes, or in edge clouds, which will mean the way its privacy is protected will need to change too, because decentralised edge clouds are far more vulnerable to, and not as well defended from, a variety of attacks and breach attempts.
Businesses will need to find a way to provide appropriate data privacy and security from the multiple layers that go hand in hand with the intelligent edge, including the perception layer, the transport layer and the application layer. Improving data privacy and security better protected in such a decentralised edge computing environment has been a major challenge.
“Until now that is Supermico, a global leader in enterprise computing, storage, networking solutions, and green computing technology, has debuted its latest intelligent edge platforms that are perfect for network security, virtualised network functions (VNFs), and multi-access edge computing (MEC) for 5G and IoT,” she adds.
Supermicro’s network security edge solutions are ideal for use in Unified Threat Management (UTM), Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW), Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), and other network security applications.
A wave of big data from a slew of ubiquitously networked devices, sensors and the Internet of things, is flooding organisations across the board, and putting pressure on data centres to deliver and perform at their peak. Moreover, the need for instant, ‘from anywhere’ resources from the business perspective, has led to the development of powerful ‘hyperscale’ cloud data centres.
This is according to Tondani David Mphephu, Azure expert at leading ICT value-added distributor, Axiz. “It’s no surprise then that Internet giants, and the hyperscale data centres they are creating to support their platforms, are at the centre stage of all conversations around the storage and data centre today. The sheer scale at which these providers are developing infrastructure, the innovation they are driving, and how they are competing are dominating the cloud landscape are hot topics.”
He says hyperscale cloud was developed by the cloud behemoths (think Microsoft, Amazon and Google) to support the creation and delivery of software-based services at lightening speed, and with the lowest possible price tag. “They wanted a platform that underpins the ongoing, reliable and scalable delivery of software-based services without the expense and speed limitations that go hand in hand with physical hardware and networking infrastructure.”
The hyperscale cloud is essentially a software-based environment that is removed from physical infrastructure so that all resources provided by the infrastructure can be manipulated quickly and programmatically, without long, onerous procurement cycles and time-wasting human intervention, explains Mphephu. Software applications developed to run in a hyperscale cloud environment are designed to be fast, cheap to deploy and extremely resilient to physical infrastructure failure.
Hyperscale cloud is not only removing the barriers to service innovation by allowing new software to be deployed almost as fast as it can be created, it is driving the democratisation of many technologies that were previously only available to large enterprises, such as analytics and AI, he says.
Mphephu adds a caveat: “All hyperscale providers are not equal, and because software is at the heart of all technology innovation, those who get it right, will devour market share. This is why Microsoft Azure now offers a whole new set of capabilities and features far superior to its competitors. The fact that more than 95% of Fortune 500 companies use Azure speaks for itself.”
Axiz offers Azure to its partners, and has the skills to help them realise the numerous benefits of the platform, which simply cannot be realised without a good hyperscale partner, he says. “Think about resources. Today’s world is an ‘everything instantly’ one. Organisations need speed to deliver, and the require vast amounts of data capacity. At the very core, hyperscale is built on three pillars of speed – build, deploy and respond, and it can help businesses deliver on all of these. However, hyperscale needs to be executed and deployed in phases, and this is one area where having a good partner is key, as they will not only help you plan to improve your time to value, but help navigate your organisation through deployment, ensuring that your business has the appropriate services and the space needed to expand.”
And because organisations can’t afford any downtime, a good hyperscale partner will ensure that your environment is kept up and running and is resilient, says Mphephu. A good partner will have the necessary experience in delivering hyperscale deployments, and will have proven themselves, by having a true understanding of the points of failure to avoid, and an appreciation of what challenges hyperscale providers face.
Another major benefit of having the right hyperscale partner, is visibility. “We all know the old adage, you can’t manage what you can’t see, and in a hyperscale environment, visibility is crucial. Too many people trying to manage such a vast ecosystem is asking for trouble, but at the same time, it is crucial that the right people know what is going on in the data centre at all times. To avoid a bad management situation, a hyperscale provider will be able to deliver upon a service-based integrated technology that gives your organisation the appropriate optics and controls that to boost performance through a single pane of glass,” Mphephu continues.
Next, he says, is flexibility. “There’s no point in adopting hyperscale if you don’t have the agility and flexibility needed to scale up and down as required, or if you are locked into a contract that doesn’t meet your needs. It is not an exact science, it is not always possible to predict exactly how much capacity the organisation needs now, never mind how much it might need in two years time. Finding out what works and what doesn’t can take time, and a good hyperscale partner will work with your business, and scale and grow with you, as well as give you a flexible contract.”
Finally, in terms of cost savings, it’s no good jumping on the bandwagon without understanding the true cost of ownership (TCO). It’s not a question of an upfront expense, or even knowing exactly what you’re in for on a monthly basis financially into perpetuity. “It is crucial to work with a hyperscale partner who can help align your business strategy with your hyperscale needs,” concludes Mphephu.