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Three trends that will shift the edge-computing industry

Oct. 11, 2022

Edge computing is a technology that has been on the market for several years but has recently seen rapid adoption as businesses are finding unique new use cases. Since the platform operates outside the data center, sometimes on the plant floor close to where the data is collected and used for real-time decision-making, industry experts are forecasting that the technology will continue to see massive expansion.

In fact, new data from Stratus Technologies and Espalier (formerly Boston Analytics) highlights key use cases and verticals projected to drive edge-computing adoption, with the industry projected to grow by almost $10 billion through 2026. Industries like supply chain, oil and gas, digital manufacturing, and life sciences will drive edge computing’s growth as they adopt the technology to reduce latency, ensure uptime and expand operations outside the plant floor.

However, as more organizations invest in edge-computing platforms, it’s important that they understand where the technology is today and what the future of it looks like, so executives and employees can make informed decisions with their data. As demand for edge-computing platforms grows significantly, businesses should look to understand key industry trends when they are selecting the right platform for their business. Three trends that the edge-computing industry is currently experiencing include the need for more capacity, an increase in data storage and an IT trickle-down effect. Let’s explore…

The need for more capacity

Recently, edge-computing users have been looking for platforms that offer more capacity while reducing their infrastructure without disrupting operations, and several factors are playing a role in driving this need. First is the pent-up demand stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The manufacturing industry was one of the biggest victims of supply chain delays caused by the pandemic, and there has been an increased demand for goods across the board. Businesses with complex supply chains in the manufacturing industry experienced the most challenges, as their production is vulnerable to disruption due to shortages and inputs from other businesses.

As companies adjust following more than two years of disruptions, they are starting to deliver more goods and looking to digitally transform through platforms (like edge computing) to enhance operations and remain competitive. As a result, data volume has increased as more data is being collected and stored by smart devices, and edge-computing users need more capacity to make the most informed decisions to drive business results.

Next, data frequency, the notion that data is being collected from devices and programmable logic controllers (PLCs) in shorter intervals, is pushing processing, networking and memory requirements. Also, the combination of new workloads to satisfy new requirements around analytics and digital twins is driving the need for more memory and virtualization. With IT standardization, along with the addition of IT tools for security, backup and remote monitoring is driving the need for more memory, processing, virtualization and containerization, as these tools may not have been required before. Pent-up demand following the pandemic is creating increased data volume, coupled with greater  data frequency, workload diversity and IT standardization. This is the perfect storm for creating a need for more data capacity. And with the need for more data capacity, edge-computing users are also looking for better ways to store their data.

The demand for more data storage

Along with the need for more data capacity comes an increased demand for more data storage. As edge computing has scaled, so too has the amount of data, providing businesses with the opportunity to get more value from their data than ever before. Tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) enable users to create more actionable data so they can make better decisions to improve operations. With an influx in the amount of data being collected, edge-computing users need to find new ways to manage and store that data.

By storing data locally, applications can continue to operate in the case of unplanned downtime. Increasing data-storage capabilities will also enable organizations greater visibility into assessing macro trends and data analytics, enabling them to act smarter and faster. As a result, businesses can leverage real-time data to create actionable results.

The IT trickle-down effect

Edge-computing users have also been experiencing an IT trickle-down effect, meaning that enterprise demand has trickled down from the top, and users need capabilities in smaller sites. The value of the data and the ability to share that data offsite enables organizations to make more agile or real-time decisions, a trend that will continue into the foreseeable future. However, in the past, the computing and data resources were segregated with minimal or no contact with other sites. Additionally, the compute workloads onsite were basic and limited in scope. The new requirements are creating new demand for secure connectivity and data sharing.

This new factor is leading to the IT trickle-down effect, and with it comes several ramifications at the edge, most notably an increased focus on cybersecurity. When there is the risk of a single device compromising an entire organization, businesses need to be armed with the right resources to ensure continuous operations. More importantly, several new considerations come to light, including the responsibility for buying and operating this new infrastructure, and questions about the technology’s lifecycle and maintenance policies. As the lines between IT and OT teams blur, an edge-computing platform can help businesses focus their efforts on sustainability, manageability, and serviceability, rather than commodity IT computing.

As businesses continue to digitally transform, edge-computing platforms will be critical for ensuring uptime and providing key insights and visibility into daily processes at the location where products are being made, and customers are being served. With increased capacity and data storage, businesses across industries such as digital manufacturing, oil and gas, and life sciences are thriving by investing in edge-computing platforms that enable maximized operational efficiency and “always on” availability.

By Jason Andersen, Stratus Technologies vice president of business line management