In September, Jason Andersen presents “A Push Towards the Network Edge: A Stepwise Approach to Digital Transformation” at the 2018 Smart Industry Conference. Today the vice president of business line management with conference presenting sponsor Stratus Technologies previews his presentation and touches on edge infrastructure and interoperability. Take a look…
Smart Industry: Why is edge computing playing an increasingly critical role as the IIoT matures? Conference. Today the vice president of business line management with conference presenting sponsor Stratus Technologies previews his presentation and touches on edge infrastructure and interoperability. Take a look…
Jason: It’s the combination of two big things. The first is the need for more connectivity between the edge and the rest of the business. This is being facilitated by a growing number of cloud solutions. But after a few years of trying, I think the market has finally understood that there is a need for a new type of infrastructure that enables both on- and off-premise processing of industrial data. And this is what edge computing is all about.
The connectivity challenge is amplified by the second issue, which is the fact that existing control infrastructures are aging—fast. Companies can no longer afford to ignore the inefficiency of those systems. For these companies, edge computing can quickly become a critical part of a successful IIoT strategy, as it allows you to push intelligence to the edge—closer to where production processes are happening. We believe that edge computing is the best way to unlock the advances in business efficiency and agility that IIoT promises, in real time.
Smart Industry: Do business leaders understand they can take a stepwise approach to replacing production systems?
Jason: I think they understand that there are solutions and options, but they are realistic that it is a big task. Although many industrial companies are envisioning an IIoT-enabled future, most are still dependent on their legacy infrastructure and therefore struggling with how to make the transition. And many of the potential solutions come from the world of enterprise IT, such as virtualization and interoperability. While these are very viable technologies, they come with a perception of more costs and complexity at the edge, which could easily overwhelm their OT resources. So, it’s a people and technology challenge. Therefore, I would argue that it’s not a misconception slowing executives down; it’s a need for solutions that are designed for the edge but leverage the best and most relevant attributes of enterprise IT.
Smart Industry: Why do you place such emphasis on interoperability in this process?
Jason: Interoperability refers to the ways that systems can best exchange and utilize information. When industrial environments are not interoperable, they often experience siloed data stores. Pair that with the challenge of outdated applications living on old hardware, and you have a real problem. These issues increase the number of single points of failure and make it exponentially more difficult to integrate any data needed for more advanced analysis and analytics. To allow for interoperability, new industry-standard and edge-optimized systems need to be added to the environment to allow for more seamless sharing and consolidating of data.
Smart Industry: What is "simple edge infrastructure" and why is it key to a successful digital transformation?
Jason: Simple edge infrastructure is just that—simple. It is easy to deploy, can be remotely managed and offer continuous availability. In fact, according to a recent market report from ARC Advisory Group, 91 percent of industrial automation users think that having better systems and connectivity at the edge will enable improved real-time decision making. This technology is key because, in addition to real-time, decision-making capabilities, it allows companies to act quickly and keep mission-critical applications up and running.
Smart Industry: What most excites you about opportunities with edge computing?
Jason: Three things really excite me. The first is the idea that edge technology could be consumerized. Some of these edge devices and platforms will have to be as simple as a gaming console and I think we are getting there on that front. Secondly, I’m most excited to see how industrial technologies evolve and emerge in new frontiers, such as smart cities or energy, since that is even more remote than the plant floor or supply chain. Lastly, I am really excited to see what happens at the edge next. A couple years ago, I was getting some funny looks when I said that this was the next disruptive area in computing. Seeing companies like Microsoft and Amazon getting involved, it’s starting to get real and very exciting.