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A Q&A on Edge Computing: Blurring the Lines Between Devices and Data Center

Posted by Mike Fitch on Aug 30, 2021 6:04:40 PM

Today, IoT-connected devices outnumber the human population and is expected to triple it by 2030. The amount of data being created, processed and stored is putting a strain on traditional data centers and the organizations/individuals that rely on the cloud for their compute power. 

As a result, edge computing was born, moving the processing and storage of data further from the central data center and closer to the device itself. There are countless use cases and benefits (speed, efficiency, security) for making the move to edge computing as a key part of an enterprise’s IT strategy.

To get more information straight from the source, we sat down with Kevin Kennedy, senior vice president of Edge Solutions at Tech Data, to discuss all things edge and where the opportunity lies for our channel partners.

This article is a transcript of an interview conversation. The content has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Let’s talk basics; how do you define edge computing?

If I’m explaining edge solutions to a friend or family member, you have your iPhone, something that you carry around in your pocket at all times. That can be construed as an edge device. It’s all about being connected anywhere at any time, no matter what. It’s the ease of being able to tap into data that traditionally we would have had to have waited for a report, or we had to go physically pick it up from a central data center. Now, we’ve got access to that data on something we’re carrying around every day. It extends to smart appliances and other devices living at the edge of the network.

Are there specific industries or markets where edge computing is transforming businesses?

There are very few industries not taking advantage of edge solutions. If I had to narrow it down, I think of things as a consumer that are really relatable. Examples like:

  • The smart home where you’ve got appliances identifying problems and contacting the manufacturer when there’s some sort of defect and all of a sudden you have a package with a new part with a repairperson coming, all before you even realized there was a problem.
  • Connectivity within your automobile where it’s monitoring all of the different sensors. It’s letting you know when you have an issue, when you need a tune-up or when other part replacements or services may be due.
  • Financial organizations, including online banking, where the data gets pushed to you as a result of your consumer behavior so that you can know what is going on in your accounts at all times.
  • Healthcare institutions are building equipment that feeds data back to doctors so that they can do real-time analytics and diagnoses.

From a business perspective, all of these markets are leveraging different devices, sensors and technologies that are part of a strategy to make their products or outcomes more efficient, effective and productive. As a result, it’s transforming the way we’re working today.

What does “edge to enterprise” mean to you?

Not only do we, as Tech Data, expect to offer the most robust product portfolio that takes us from the edge through the enterprise data center, but we also have other components that are critical to the success of that infrastructure. We have integration centers where we can build out custom solutions, including infrastructure and the services around it, and then deliver and implement it with the end user customer. We have also introduced a whole new value add with Tech Data Capital and Tech-as-a-Service (TaaS), allowing our partners to offer traditional leasing arrangements, recurring revenue or a consumption scenario. In that aspect, Tech Data has an unparalleled value proposition in this whole enterprise conversation because it’s bigger than just the infrastructure. Certainly we represent all of the leading OEMs in both infrastructure software, and all of the latest next-gen technologies, but then we also can wrap those solutions with the services, integration and financing to bring it all together in a way that’s easily consumable for the partner and end user customer.

How do edge solutions support the current demand for next-gen technologies like cloud, IoT and security?

Edge is inextricably tied to all of these next-gen technologies:

  • Cloud – Using devices to access data that resides on the cloud
  • IoT – Utilizing sensors that are built into appliances, hospital beds or other products or devices and then feeding data back to an analyst or data center and then back to the user or consumer who is going to be able to utilize that data.
  • Security – The overarching umbrella of all edge devices. We talk a lot about security in the data center, but how much more do we need security on edge devices? If organizations have employees with their own laptops and mobility devices that are accessing a secure network to access secure data, how much more critical does the security around those devices become?

Each of these things are so complementary with what we’ve traditionally talked about relative to data center. Most of these are also applicable to edge solutions and are critically important in the next-gen conversation. I can’t overemphasize the importance of security in edge devices, similarly to the way we acknowledge that same necessity around the data center.

Where do you see the future of edge computing heading?

We’re going to see a proliferation of edge devices both commercially and with consumers. There will be an increased need for data analytics that work in real-time from your device to go solve business problems or develop a business outcome. It’s going to be more and more pervasive, especially as we continue to see a distributed workforce. One of the advantages of the pandemic was the realization that we could all be as productive, or in some cases even more productive, working in this distributed environment, working out of our homes, regardless of where those are located. All that means is that we have to have a fast, secure network with superior connectivity, as well as the required infrastructure and devices to be able to do our jobs well, and the security to ensure that we’re not making ourselves susceptible to any kind of cybercrime or hacking scheme. This continued growth and proliferation positions Tech Data exceptionally well for helping our partners solve problems and create successful business outcomes and profitable engagements.

What are the main things our partners need to know about edge solutions?

I will leave off with the fact that we’re going to continue to see a convergence of all this technology. Our historical way of thinking about things in boxes around data center/advanced solutions and endpoint/edge solutions is rapidly changing and we’re going to continue to see those lines blur. Now, we need to focus on solving business outcomes, developing opportunities, driving for more efficiencies and more productivity. As a result, we’re going to start to build out solutions that are no longer going to be classified as advanced or edge, they’re just going to be solutions and we’re going to leverage the components that used to sit in each of those boxes. Within that solution, you’re going to have data center components and device components, but we’re delivering a more efficient, effective outcome for our customers, taking advantage of all that exists, whether it’s networking, device connectivity, data center infrastructure or leveraging cloud, IoT and security. This will create an environment where we’re able to communicate and do business together more effectively, no matter where we’re sitting or living. Connection from anywhere at any time in any place.

For more information on how you can work with Tech Data for your edge solutions needs, visit the Edge Solutions Hub.

Tags: Cloud Computing, IoT Devices, Edge Computing, Edge Solutions