Technology “hype” sometimes serves as a justification for companies that fear being left behind by their peers. We’ve seen this with cloud infrastructure as countless companies have moved from data centers to the cloud without well-defined use cases. Many ended up frustrated that they were paying more for no real benefits. Likewise, organizations racing to move to edge computing and networking may face a similar fate.
The only way to confirm a potential move to the edge is to start with the business. Technology should facilitate, not justify, the strategy you define. How do you know if your use case deserves priority? There are several high-level questions worth asking, and you should only make the move if the answer to all of them is yes. Once you’ve justified the move, there are a few critical steps to making the transition to edge a reality.
Four questions to assess your edge fitness
1. Is your policy centrally managed?
Unlike both traditional data centers and the cloud, edge separates policy creation and enforcement. As a result, it aligns well with use cases for which a central authority defines policy and then sends it to multiple end sites, each of which implements that policy in a unique, context-driven way. For example, many fast food restaurant chains operate under this model, where the central authority is the corporation and each edge is a separate franchise. If the policy is not managed centrally, then the effort required to prepare and operate each end location outweighs any potential benefits.
2. Is your use case fully remote and autonomous? A valid end-use case requires operations at the edge to continue even when there is no active connection to the central infrastructure. You won’t get much value out of the edge if you have to move data centrally to store, process, and make decisions for the edge. It should be noted that while this means that Edge is excellent for many production scenarios, it also disqualifies some use cases that originally It seems as logical deployment cases for edge technologies. These include retail chains without the flexibility to implement centrally dictated protocols and mobile applications that rely on centrally located servers.
3. Does your use case apply to the same edge in each case? The benefits of the edge depend on the central infrastructure needing to issue only one set of instructions across the edge. Suppose, however, that each edge is different and requires a new set of instructions. In this case, there is no performance improvement associated with moving to an edge, as the need to instruct each edge individually is too time-consuming.
4. Are your data streaming and porting costs related to your data lake? Do you have data streaming and feedback costs in your data lake or at the edge? If costs are tied to moving data from the edge, then moving processes to the edge can help reduce costs significantly. If carrying costs are not a significant concern, this may limit the value you derive from the use case.
How to start on the edge
Once you’ve established that your use case meets the edge, you need to prioritize overcoming several significant logistical challenges. These include convincing key stakeholders that the move to the edge is worthwhile, ensuring your company can effectively troubleshoot problems at the edge, and preparing your network to support a distributed footprint.
As you begin the conversation around the edge with critical stakeholders, frame the move as a natural evolution of your company’s long-term digital transformation. The same argument played a key role in the move to the cloud, where it was framed as a natural extension of the data center, turning a CapEx investment into an OpEx investment. Now with perk you expand where your computer can live, but it’s still your computer and will live in footprints you already occupy.
Review how your company’s communications maintain the edge. If something goes wrong at the edge, who learns about it and who fixes it? If you need to outsource IT support, you need to enable IT to handle the problem as efficiently as possible. They don’t need to know the analytics of every device, just the ones that aren’t working. Finding ways to reset the data you need improves efficiency while reducing transfer costs.
In terms of preparing your network for the edge, there are three layers to review for readiness. The first is the exposure layer, which defines how people connect to the network (ie DNS). The second layer is the technologies that connect the various infrastructure components (such as VPN and Anycast). The third layer, often overlooked, is a central inventory source for your infrastructure. Even if you create excellent policies, they won’t be effective if your understanding of your network is inaccurate.
Even if Edge doesn’t fit every use case, it’s a useful transition for many companies. When you have an answer to why you’re moving to the edge, along with a solid plan, it can benefit both the company and users by significantly reducing porting costs, streamlining the logistics of enforcing a centrally defined policy at each edge location, and providing a faster and more reliable user experience.