Simplify and secure operations at the edge

The shift to decentralized IT environments and why only a dedicated edge management platform can solve it

Commissioned There was a point in the not too distant past when enterprises relied heavily on a model where many processes ran only in data centers or cloud environments, but that's no longer the case.

The demand for real-time decision-making, instant data insights, and ultra-low latency applications has since rocketed. And with compute and sensors smaller and less expensive than ever before, there has been a massive surge in the volume of data, creating a significant opportunity for organizations that can harness and capitalize on their edge data.

According to Statista, the subsequent amount of digital data created worldwide is poised to reach over 180 zettabyes by 2025. This leaves organizations facing the daunting task of not only managing and storing all those bits and bytes, but also processing and extracting valuable insight from them in real-time, too.

Many modern enterprises are running specific workloads right at the point of data creation. According to a 2022 IDG/Foundry report, the United States is already witnessing a substantial shift towards edge computing, with an average of 35 percent of computing resources now strategically positioned in more remote hosting sites it reckons.

Asia Pacific spending on edge is forecasted to be $43.7 billion in 2023, an increase of 17 percent over 2022, according to IDC's latest Worldwide Edge Spending Guide. Enterprise and service provider spending on hardware, software, and services for edge solutions is forecast to sustain this pace of growth through 2027 when spending will reach nearly $81 billion.

This need stems primarily from reducing latency, the need to deliver real-time insights, ensuring seamless operations in distributed environments, and meeting stringent security, performance, and data governance requirements. Moving data and applications to the edge helps enterprises address these needs as it brings computing power closer to the end user or device and the applications and data they need to access, whether they are based in a remote office, a manufacturing plant, a retail store, the base of a cell tower, or even an individual IoT or mobile device.

Edge computing done right offers some significant advantages – including less network traffic, faster data processing and analysis, lower cost of data management and increased application efficiency – but it cannot be denied that it also introduces some challenges too.

The edge has unique challenges

In its survey of over 1,850 operations and IT decision makers from across the globe, Dell Technologies found that edge computing has strong appeal in various industries. Of those it polled, 94 percent worked for organizations already planning to invest in edge computing. However, some of those same respondents also reported concerns about the security of the data and applications they stored in distributed hosting locations and worries about how to simplify the complexities that come with scaling, deploying and managing their edge compute infrastructure.

The fact that each of those locations can also have distinct software, hardware, deployment, and monitoring configurations can render operational management much more complex too, as Gartner has stated, more so as they begin to generate and transmit more data of their own. Scaling edge operations often requires organizations to address issues like device provisioning, software updates, security, and data synchronization across a diverse range of endpoints, all while maintaining real-time and low-latency processing.

Security is another big concern with edge infrastructure. The decentralized approach to compute creates a much larger footprint, both digital and physical, which translates into an expanded attack surface exposed to cyber threats.

Traditional security defenses tend to be designed for centralized data centers, so they are not always suitable for edge deployments. This leaves enterprises with the requirement to establish more robust security protocols to secure sensitive data at the edge while simultaneously maintaining efficiency in their edge operations by not applying additional layers of user and device verification and interrogation.

To date, there has been no good way to solve these issues. The edge has grown in an organic manner, one use case at a time, leading to silos. Dell believes that it shouldn't be so complex, expensive, and time consuming to manage an edge estate at scale.

The road to better edge management

Addressing these unique challenges calls for a new way to enable organizations to scale at the edge. In 2023, Dell introduced a first of its kind edge operations software platform called Dell NativeEdge, that can help organizations simplify, optimize, and secure edge operations at scale.

Imagine being able to build and operate your edge from a single management interface, to deploy applications and infrastructure to remote locations in a zero touch, zero trust manner. For day 2 operations, imagine being able to monitor and update, deploy patches across applications, and update configurations through a unified management platform, in a way that an IT department can see what goes on in their distributed edge estate without actually having to be there.

Additional features such as secure zero-touch device provisioning, a hardened and secure edge operating system, and granular security controls built on Zero-Trust, have been included to ensure continuous attestation and validation of devices, users, networks, and applications so that users or devices gets in without a thorough check beforehand.

Dell NativeEdge also monitors and secures data from its sources to the various edge applications, whether running on local devices, in data centers, or in the cloud. It employs a range of advanced security measures, including encryption, user access control, a private catalog of applications, network segmentation, and security orchestration to ensure security at edge environments. When these security measures combine with telemetry and analytics, it makes it possible for businesses to continuously audit and evaluate security without spending extra money on experts to physically audit each site, thereby saving costs.

While there are existing tools today that can help with various needs, it is still far too difficult to implement, and NativeEdge helps to address all the constraints at the edge with one solution.

"Our customers in the region are looking to take advantage of the business opportunity presented by rapidly evolving edge capabilities. They are also aware that as the number of use cases at the edge continue to grow, so do the complexities of edge operations," said Chris Kelly, senior vice president, Data Center Sales, Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ), Dell Technologies.

"Dell NativeEdge will enable organizations in APJ to effectively streamline edge deployments and simplify the day-to-day management of a diverse ecosystem of edge technologies. The platform provides a more consistent user experience whilst delivering a secure environment that safeguards data at the source."

Sustainable edge operations require optimized edge hardware

Dell Technologies points out that its commitment to the edge goes beyond software. There is growing demand for hardware solutions that can happily continue to function in the space-constricted and physically harsh operating environments commonly found at edge locations which also have the power and capacity to handle highly specialized workloads.

The company's purpose-built edge servers, accelerated by Intel® Xeon® processors, combine low latency and high performance capabilities in a small rugged footprint, to address these challenges, offering flexible configuration options that allow users to optimize it to suit their unique network and storage requirements for example. With Intel® Advanced Matrix Extensions (Intel® AMX) AI acceleration for edge workloads, use cases can range from improved healthcare imaging to faster retail analytics, traffic monitoring, crowd counting, public safety and security systems, and more.

The Dell PowerEdge servers offer reliable and expertly engineered technology accelerated by 4th Gen Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors and augmented with Intel® Data Center GPU Flex Series for intelligent visual cloud at the edge. The advanced compute servers such as the PowerEdge XR4000, PowerEdge R760 and PowerEdge R660 are designed to meet the demands of dynamic and demanding workloads which can help organizations to gain near-real-time insights with minimal latency, supporting what Dell Technologies calls 'data-driven decision-making'.

Flourishing partner ecosystem

Customer expectations appear to lend weight to those claims. Dell conducted an internal analysis in May 2023 which used internal modeling, nearly 100 customer interviews and a third-party environmental consultant review for methodology validation to examine the potential economic impact of NativeEdge-enabled deployments for a typical manufacturing customer with an average of 25 facilities. It found a three-year investment in NativeEdge managing 75 percent of a manufacturing organization's edge assets showed that a customer could achieve:

 - Up to 130 percent return-on-investment on their Dell NativeEdge deployment.

- A reduction in time required to onboard devices by up to 20 minutes for each edge infrastructure asset managed and a significant reduction to enterprise risk, resulting in cost savings.

- Accelerated edge asset deployment times and a decrease in edge operations costs with zero touch provisioning.

- Savings on transportation costs by decreasing the need for site-support dispatches, helping to reduce travel time as well as carbon dioxide emissions by up to 14 metric tons.

Customers across various industries could achieve similar impacts and benefits of NativeEdge (actual results may vary).

Collaboration is the key

No IT vendor operates in isolation and ideally they must rely on effective collaboration with its hardware, software, and service partners to deliver the best solution. Dell Technologies' Edge Partner Certification Program is designed to help customers and partners cooperate to improve their edge deployments. Under this arrangement, ISVs and other channel partners can engage in direct collaboration with Dell engineers within a dedicated lab environment and will have the opportunity to test and validate their software applications on Dell NativeEdge before delivering them to customers.

Certified partners will be rewarded with several benefits, including access to self-certified labs and the latest edge hardware, goals and roadmaps, possible customer and partner referrals, and executive sponsorship.

You can read more about how Dell NativeEdge can help organizations optimize their edge operations here.

To learn more about Dell's Edge Solutions, check out these resources:

5 Ways to Drive Innovation at the Edge

Dell NativeEdge Platform Brief

Securely Scale Edge Operations to Power Any Use Case with Dell NativeEdge

Customer Story: Eaton Optimizes Edge Investments for Success with Dell NativeEdge

Brought to you by Dell Technologies and Intel.

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