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Business resiliency and the Edge; How CIOs are embracing decentralised computing to better business outcomes

This year has provided CIOs with the opportunity to refocus on resiliency and digital transformation – enabling them to “get back to basics” in some ways and prepare the IT environment for the next decade.

Analyst, Gartner, forecasts that Australian enterprise IT spending will grow 3.6 per cent in 2021, as organisations prepare for the inevitable upturn in the economy and new market opportunities. According to a KPMG report, “History has shown that companies that take a strategic future-focused investment approach during times of unrest were better placed when the global economy rebounded.”

It’s a complicated situation revolving around diverse demands. Global leader in IT infrastructure, power, and cooling, APC by Schneider Electric, says that Edge computing is a key driver in building the IT ecosystem for the new normal.

“We are living in unusually challenging times,” Schneider Electric Pacific Zone’s Vice President of Secure Power, Joe Craparotta, said at the company’s recent Virtual Innovation Day event. “While we need to continue to adjust to the new reality, I want to encourage everybody to remember that we are also empowered to create what the new normal will be.”

CIOs need to invest in key applications such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) but they require reduced network latency and the ability to rapidly process large volumes of data. Meanwhile, emerging 5G technology will also depend on very low latency underlying fixed line infrastructure to match its wireless speed.

To address these challenges and opportunities, Edge computing enables three key areas:

  1. 1. Fast local processing:

    Sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) devices generate mountains of data and AI applications process from huge pools of data in real time. Much of the heavy duty processing for these applications can be offloaded to Cloud data centres, but where insights are needed rapidly to allow building systems to respond to local situations – for example, the AI underpinning security via facial recognition – Edge computing allows time sensitive data to be processed without any WAN latency.
  2. 2. Cost efficient use of space:

    Rebuilding on-premises data centres in premium real estate that is not Edge ready can be costly particularly when there are intensive cooling requirements for the high-density compute environment in the data centre. However, many organisations have spare cupboards or floor space within their offices where Edge computing micro data centres’ can more easily be deployed. APC’s proprietary technologies allow a similar level of repeat deployability and manageability as in data centres.
  3. 3. Resilience:

    At a time where business continuity is a critical priority for organisations, the decentralised flexibility behind Edge computing is enabling organisations to maximise their remote working capabilities. Edge computing allows more data to be processed locally, minimising the impact of the shift to remote work on the network, and enabling remote employees to continue seamless interaction with the data. Systems located close to the user will continue to operate regardless of whether a WAN or internet connection is performing well. APC’s high density Micro Data Centre Systems allow Edge computing deployments to keep running smoothly even when there are brief or extended power interruptions.

The industry agrees

The APC 2020 TRA survey found that:

Edge computing enables innovation

IoT (12% enterprise IoT, 11% industrial IoT), automation (11%), and AI (8%) are the three most common technologies being deployed on Edge computing applications.

Edge computing saves enterprises money

Reduced IT costs (36%) and reduced operational costs (28%) were the top two benefits that enterprises have derived from Edge computing.

The channel has a critical role to play

“We’re too busy moving apps and data to the cloud” (25%) and “We don’t have the skills” (18%) are the two most commonly cited “rank-1” barriers to Edge computing projects.

Enterprises are willing to invest

31% of enterprises have built new data centres for their Edge computing applications.

(Source: APC 2020 TRA survey)

Edge computing affords enterprises new opportunities for innovation, while also helping them to get their costs under control. This is a transformation exercise that is strategically focused on resilience and providing a foundation for the future. While the market has been disrupted and budgets constrained, organisations are looking to Edge computing as a way of future-readying their environment for the post-pandemic bounce.

Addressing risk

CIOs cannot avoid the pressing need to invest in AI, IoT, 5G and real-time data analytics. And therefore Edge computing will be on the radar of all CIOs. Across all sectors, the disruptive businesses are taking a leadership position in these areas, and this is generating such value for the customer and/or end user that it is being standarised.

Developing an environment that can adopt these technologies will allow the CIO to align the IT environment with the overall enterprise vision, however, the deployment of such solutions needs to be carefully strategized to account for risk. While Edge computing is a proven technology with wide application to an enterprises’ resiliency, it does come with a heightened risk of outages. As the IT environment becomes more dispersed and the computing is done at the Edge, an outage at any point within the diverse environment will cause disruption to business. By comparison, a centralised IT approach only needs to mitigate against outages from the single location.

From a business continuity perspective, Australian organisations face costs that can rapidly outweigh the benefits if the environment is not managed against the risk of outage. Enterprises need robust remote monitoring tools to secure the success of those solutions. Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure IT solution provides for holistic monitoring across on-premise, in the cloud and at the Edge. It’s a vendor-neutral solution that provides 24/7 monitoring and alerts for critical equipment – find out more (and take advantage of a free trial) here.

The challenge facing CIOs

Edge computing offers distinct benefits for organisations grappling with a “new normal” of work and changing requirements around resilience. The more geographically disperse and reliant on end point devices an organisation is in enabling its staff to undertake work, the greater the return from Edge computing solutions.

This needs to be carefully structured, planned for, and managed. CIOs require 99.995% availability, which means just 26 minutes of downtime per year, and the same level of redundancy and availability at the Edge that they would expect from Cloud services from their enterprise providers. Such levels of availability in Edge computing deployments are unlikely without careful planning.

Such deployments need to be remotely manageable, as the “new normal” means the IT team will not have physical access to the devices handling much of the compute. They also need to be logically and physically secure, rapidly and repeatedly deployable to those remote locations, and, most importantly, reliable. This includes having stable power sources that won’t go down even when the remote location experiences a general power outage.

APC provides a powerful set of capabilities to CIOs and their IT organisations with a single pane of glass view of all systems and unparalleled integration with automation tools.

Considerations in Edge computing adoption

CIOs are increasingly tasked with leveraging IT to provide for the strategic needs of the organisation, and that means they need to match the right IT solution to the application that the enterprise wants to use. Given that enterprises are looking to IoT, AI and real-time analytics to build dynamic and agile businesses, CIOs need to find a solution that delivers these applications. That solution is Edge computing.

For Edge computing to work, CIOs need to consider the gamut of data, power, security and user considerations, and consider the following questions:

  • Where are you generating data?
  • What are you using it for?
  • What role does technology play in your business continuity strategy?
  • How are you being accountable for that data complying with regulations – particularly where remote access is concerned?
  • How are you securing that data?
  • How are you managing data governance?
  • How are you visualising the data and making decisions on it?
  • What role is IoT, automation and AI playing in your organisation, and what role would you like to see it play?
  • Is your intention to maintain remote and flexible work into the future?

“Most businesses including ourselves have prioritised our people’s safety and quickly executed remote work initiatives during these past months and in response to this global emergency,” Schneider Election General Manager – Channel, Alliances and Operations, Joseph Vijay, says. “Most BCP and DR plans will have factored in some levels of contingency to enable remote working but typically not contemplated 100 per cent of their staff working remotely so there is bound to be unplanned load that has been placed on business systems and networks. If left unaddressed this situation can place the organisation at risk of delivering a poor experience for staff and customers.”

These challenges cannot be addressed via product-driven solutions. Understanding the wider picture, strategic opportunity, and risks involved, in such rapid transformation is key in developing a leading approach to Edge computing transformation.

Maintaining quality utilities across a State

For organisations that operate across a disperse geographical environment, Edge computing is a natural solution, as it allows for each satellite site to operate at maximum efficiency and resiliency in ensuring continuity of service from the site itself.

Utilities are an excellent example of this in action. Australia has a geographically disperse population. Every town and all of its residents need to be serviced with a broad range of utilities. State utilities providers have to maintain a large number of facilities and locations, and each of these need to be in continual operation.

Edge computing has allowed each facility a greater degree of autonomy in procurement, deployment, maintenance and operation, however, uptime is also a critical concern for these deployments, and it’s important the utilities provider adequately monitors each site while maintaining service levels in the event that an issue arises.

Success story: SA Water

SA Water wanted a new implementation strategy for key water infrastructure sites including Water Treatment Plants (WTP) and key Edge sites. The solution needed to include runtime requirements of batteries for four hours and eight hours, asset monitoring software, and a modernisation of the IT environment at sites – particularly those in remote areas

Reaching regional Australia

With the shift to remote work and study, regional Australia has been hit hard by a national slowdown in Internet speeds and connectivity. NBN Co has reported an increase in data demand during daytime hours of 70-80 per cent, with regional Australia facing compounded challenges from the infrastructure and inflated costs associated with accessing data centre services.

Building up Australia’s regional economies is a key goal of government at all levels, and was a driving factor in the construction of the NBN. To do so, however, towns need a level of Internet infrastructure the equivalent of that in the cities.

Some towns are finding the solution is Edge computing, with regional co-location services providing direct, seamless access to the cloud at prices comparable to metropolitan data centre services. The challenge in building these facilities and then networking them together has been in securing property that is zoned and construction-ready, with access to power and diverse fibre paths.

Success story: Leading Edge Data Centres

By partnering with Schneider Electric for its data centre equipment expertise, Leading Edge Data Centres has been able to develop a roadmap that will see it open and operate local data centre facilities in Newcastle, Albury, Wagga Wagga, Parkes, Dubbo, Tamworth, Coffs Harbour, Orange, Cessnock, Gosford, and Charlestown in 2020 and 2021, offering local businesses the chance to innovate via Edge computing.

Leveraging the edge to boost healthcare

Due to COVID-19, there has been a major shift in the way healthcare is managed and the experience that has been provided to patients. For aged care providers it has been crucial to transform the entire environment to work better.

Aged care has several technological requirements for providing a leading standard of service. They include network infrastructure, Wi-Fi infrastructure, emergency nurse call systems, clinical nursing stations, and administration environments.

If the technology environment is not resilient there is an unacceptable risk to the health of the patients and residents in aged care. With many facilities struggling under budgetary limitations, however, there is also the opportunity to leverage technology to deliver not just disaster mitigation, but a greater customer experience.

Success story: Oceania Healthcare

By rolling out a Schneider Electric solution, Oceania Healthcare was able to deliver remote monitoring services to maintain the technology environment across all its retirement villages. Not only has this delivered better uptime and highly reliable UPS devices, but it has helped with the comfort and care of residents by managing heating and improving the efficiency and reliability of the nurse call system.

APC by Schneider Electric: Power borne out of IT

Since its establishment in 1981 by three engineers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, APC has been IT-first. This strengthens APC’s understanding of the IT world, who the vendors are, how they interface, and what goes into infrastructure design decisions and how Edge computing has an advantage.

APC is part of shaping the future of IT strategy, with a full set of infrastructure, monitoring and management tools that integrate tightly with IT.

APC software is not only able to predict the life cycle of APC’s own devices, but also of other vendors’ IT infrastructure, including servers, storage and networking appliances. This is because it gathers real-life data from clients worldwide, allowing this data to be analysed to accurately predict failure of different specific models of equipment in your environment.

As such, APC clients can be confident using their appliances for longer and replacing them just before they fail, rather than performing scheduled, non-targeted preventative maintenance.

Finally, APC by Schneider Electric’s channel partners are its super power – in Australia, APC by Schneider Electric has more than 4000 IT resellers, more than 1000 system integrators, and 34,000 electricians. This scale empowers clients to get support on demand from experts accredited in specific niches without delay.

Looking for more information on APC by Schneider Electric’s leading Edge computing solutions?

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