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Red Hat takes you closer to the edge

Why an open model is critical for innovation and differentiation

Sponsored feature Service providers and enterprises have realized that it is more efficient to process their data as close to where it is needed, at the "edge".

The edge could be a factory, college or hospital, or it could be on the nearest point of the mobile network an organization uses.

Edge computing enables organizations to drive operational efficiency and resiliency and improve consumer experiences. Other benefits include data security and compliance. It is quicker to process data, and make critical decisions faster, in near real time in critical operations, by managing it closer to the point where it is needed. This is rather than sending everything to be processed in the cloud first, and then receiving it back again with the results. 

You probably don't want your core ops to be dependent on connectivity or cloud based services So, by using edge computing you mitigate intermittent connectivity and network latency (delay), enable quicker decisions, maintain services and reduce the amount of network traffic generated by the organization. This in turn may reduce your network capacity costs.

The issue of latency is particularly critical with time-sensitive applications. Think of driverless vehicles, for instance. Do you really want your car to send every query - e.g. when it comes up to a stop sign, 'sees' a pedestrian crossing the road  -  to a distant data center, before getting back an answer? When instead the query could be dealt with by a server located in a nearby mobile base station or even in the car itself.

Alternatively, when your customers walk into your department store with their smartphones, edge computing can be used on site to track consumer behavior in real time and in depth and use on-site analytics and ML to dynamically create and display new offers to drive in-store sales and create new value-added services. Organizations need quick decisions, at the edge.

The Evolving edge

These examples are among a rapidly increasing number of scenarios leveraging modern edge compute platforms. Analyst house IDC, for instance, has identified more than 150 use cases for edge computing across various industries and domains. The companies that can offer the most efficient, scalable and adaptable systems to support data and deliver answers, between organizations and their staff or customers, will win.

For its 2022 Global Tech Outlook report, Red Hat surveyed 1,340 IT leaders and decision makers to better understand the types of infrastructure on which they are running their applications. The respondents mostly worked at companies with more than $100 million in revenue.

The annual report found that 28 percent of all companies were considering edge computing  deployments over the next 12 months. When looking at particular industries though, edge interest is a lot higher, with 42 percent of telecom service providers, for instance, considering increased usage of edge computing over the next 12 months.

5G edge

Maybe this should not be surprising though, as mobile operators continue their transformation journeys by  disaggregating software from hardware, many are adopting cloud radio access networks (RANs) and Open RAN standards to increase the flexibility, scalability and efficiency of their RANs. This will help them deliver improved 5G broadband speeds, latency and device densities to enhance customer experiences -- and often that of the services they deliver to their customers. In addition, edge computing offers opportunities to deliver innovative services to their consumer and business customers.

Edge value

The value of the edge market is certainly clear from telecoms research and consulting firm STL Partners. It says the growth in the number of connected devices, as well as the need for higher levels of automation, operational efficiency and cost reduction, will drive the adoption of edge computing across many use cases and verticals over the next ten years.

This will result, it says, in increased spend across the value chain. The total edge computing addressable market will grow from $10 billion in 2020 to $543 billion in 2030, at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 49 percent over the period, says STL. The total value chain breaks into five main components, which are hardware, connectivity, applications, integration and support.

The edge is not an app

Of the key importance of the edge, Shane Madigan, Senior Principal Portfolio Marketing Manager for edge computing at Red Hat, says: "While those of us in the IT industry  are talking about the edge like it is new, it is not new to our customers. The edge is where companies do business. At Red Hat, edge is a continuation of our open hybrid cloud strategy, allowing customers' business needs to dictate where they deploy key business applications." 

"The important thing is how firms' are now approaching edge computing to successfully achieve digital transformation. The edge existed before the pandemic, but the pandemic was a driver to deliver more business agility and better services to customers."

So, from this digital transformation and the move to deliver agility and improved services, what are some operational benefits from a successful edge strategy?

"You should expect faster decision-making, improved operational efficiency, a better customer experience and tighter data security, for instance," says Madigan.

Faster decision-making is possible from making the decisions using analytics, event driven automation or even artificial intelligence at the point where they are needed, as previously mentioned. An improved edge customer experience, says Madigan, can clearly be demonstrated in retail, where customer movements can be better tracked, targeted digital signage can be displayed, and customers can be encouraged to buy things through an omnichannel platform.

He adds that improved operations and processes are seen at the edge with predictive maintenance, efficient health diagnoses and automotive monitoring, for example. And when it comes to data security: "Companies don't want sensitive or proprietary data from their core operations going into the public cloud where it could be compromised, they want it close and fully secured."

Open edge

Like a lot of new technology developments these days, open architectures are seen as the best way to allow organizations and their developer partners to improve their platforms and services. Enterprises are moving away from less agile and more costly and monolithic software packages that are proprietary, and which potentially lock in users. Many companies would rather mix and match the software they use by choosing open source. This allows the company to build a solution which best meets the needs of their organization while differentiating from the competition. For example, organizations continue to adopt container technologies, and look to open source container management and orchestration software like Kubernetes, to support their open hybrid cloud strategies. 

Open source edge solutions are key to driving development, improving productivity and easing the management of operations, as they better support the integration between services, and usually prove to be more scalable and cost-efficient.

Madigan says: "Open source helps customers drive innovation where it is most important -. at the edge. The reason for this is  because open source is a meritocracy where the best ideas win and come together across industries. Open source allows companies to both engage best-of-breed solution and domain experts while also driving in-house innovation to create an edge solution which best meets the needs of their business while differentiating from their competition." 

Operational consistency from edge to core to cloud allows organizations to simplify their operations, minimize the need for new skill-sets and utilize existing resources, says Red Hat. Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat OpenShift provide common infrastructure that can stretch across organizations' IT and OT (operational technology) systems. They are designed to run anywhere - from edge computing sites to core data centers to the public cloud - while delivering a consistent operations and management experience.

When organizations extend hybrid cloud infrastructure to edge locations, management and automation need to scale across hundreds or thousands of edge compute nodes, often distributed globally. Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, Red Hat Smart Management and Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management for Kubernetes have out-of-the-box integrations, that help organizations build and manage both their highly distributed IT infrastructure and their applications. In addition, Red Hat Application Services helps organizations integrate their IT and OT systems horizontally or vertically with back-end enterprise applications in their core IT infrastructure.

This piece outlines the importance of the edge as firms adopt open hybrid cloud architectures. In the second and third features that follow this one, we will drill down further into how companies can prepare for and deploy strategies to take full advantage of the evolving edge.

Sponsored by Red Hat.

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