Edge computing is gaining traction across industries thanks to its ability to provide new ways for businesses to maximise operational efficiency, automate core processes and improve overall performance. In essence, edge computing refers to computing that takes place close to the physical location where data is collected and monitored, instead of on a server or in the cloud.
ITWeb, in partnership with Dell Technologies and Intel, conducted an edge computing survey during December/January to investigate whether South African companies are considering infrastructure modernisation to take advantage of edge, 5G and Artificial Intelligence (AI) as well as As-a-Service models.
In a rapidly digitalising world, it comes as no surprise that the overwhelming majority of survey respondents (97%) believe that edge computing is essential to digital transformation. Tony Bartlett, Director Data Centre Compute at Dell Technologies South Africa, says: “We believe edge computing will be heavily sought after in 2022. With a multitude of IoT-enabled applications and their requirements for low latency, autonomy and security, it is becoming critical to get the compute function physically closer to where the data is being generated.”
Security, privacy and regulatory compliance were regarded as the top challenge when planning, deploying and managing edge solutions. Other challenges, listed in order of priority, were: difficulty managing IT operations across multiple environments; lack of expertise to turn analytic insights into actionable outcomes; environmental factors; lack of expertise to align business goals with use case-based solutions; and inability to capture, manage and organise large amounts of data.
5G set to transform IT operations
Almost all of the survey’s respondents (96%) said 5G would transform IT operations within the next three years. Just under a third (30%) of respondents said their organisations had invested in 5G technologies, while 37% said their organisation had plans to invest in 5G technology in the next 18 months.
Asked to rank the most important benefits of 5G, respondents placed the ability to accelerate application and network performance at the top of the list, followed by empowering workers through the use of emerging technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality applications. Next was ranked enabling a hyper-connected world, followed by achieving freedom from hard-wired infrastructure and enabling resilience to augment hardwired networks.
The rise of artificial intelligence
Almost all (99%) of the survey respondents agreed that the rise of AI calls for the development of end-to-end AI strategies and new supporting capabilities in the underlying IT infrastructure.
Asked where their organisation was on its journey towards leveraging AI-driven data analytics as an enabler for digital transformation, 55% said they were in the early stages; 19% said their journey was in progress; and 17% said they were advanced. The majority (89%) of survey respondents agreed that getting the underlying infrastructure right was a key determinant of success as enterprises look to AI to help drive better business decisions.
Bartlett says: “As AI becomes more interwoven with machine learning, it will have the potential to impact all aspects of our lives. Organisations that are not strategically adopting AI may risk being left behind, as increased AI adoption will disrupt markets and change business models, creating new and novel services for consumers.”
Removing limitations with As-a-Service
An as-a-Service approach helps remove limitations from edge deployments. Companies finding value in the data they access outside their data centres are also trying to figure out how to make the most use of it. With as-a-Service, companies can put their infrastructure where they get the most value from it and use only the resources they need.
Commenting on the fact that 81% of respondents are considering shifting their IT strategy from a traditional capex procurement model to an As-a-Service model, Bartlett says: “The benefits of an As-a-Service model are clear: increased IT team agility, simplified digital transformation and decreased low-value IT work.”
The primary reason for changing to an As-a-Service model was cited as cost, followed by reducing the burden on IT resources, accelerating solution time to value, increasing budget flexibility and improving user experiences.
While managing the server refresh cycle is critical to operating at peak efficiency, just over a third (38%) of respondents said their organisation planned to implement a server refresh to optimise its operations in the next 18 months. A quarter (25%) didn’t have any such plans in place. Bartlett says: “Having access to a portfolio of servers that are optimised for the latest technological advances and integrate easily into server clusters would help enable seamless scaling while still performing efficiently.”
The way of the future
In conclusion, Bartlett says: “As we move into 2022, we expect these platforms to become more capable and pervasive. We are already seeing most edge workloads – and even most public cloud edge architectures – shift to software-defined architectures. This combination of modern edge platforms and software-defined edge systems will become the dominant way to build and deploy edge systems in the multi-cloud world.”