Brought to you by Stratus Technologies
By Edward Chow, vice-president, Asia-Pacific sales & services, Stratus
After months of recovery from the pandemic, the new year has started with an uncertain outlook amid record inflation and concerns of a looming recession.
At the same time, there is a sense that the world has come out of the past three years’ unprecedented events with new opportunities and changing landscape that can no longer be unwound.
There are new ways of running a business and operating a factory floor. Hybrid work is here to stay, while digital connections are a norm for meetings and other forms of communications.
In many ways, edge computing has become vital to many of today’s digital operations, interactions, and transactions. By delivering intelligence and smarts where the “action” is, be it at a port where minerals are transported or at a control center where an autonomous train is being managed, it is critical to so many aspects of today’s digital economy.
Here are four progressive trends where edge computing will continue to accelerate the digital efforts of businesses in 2023:
1. Operational Technology (OT) and IT convergence continues to evolve
Though it has been happening in the past year or so, the convergence of operational technology (OT) and IT will continue to evolve in new ways that impact the way businesses use edge computing in 2023.
Already, there are more IT cybersecurity requirements being incorporated into the OT space. In many cases, these are still being handled by the OT staff instead of the IT team members, so the OT staff has to be comfortable and knowledgeable in deploying cybersecurity solutions in OT assets.
At the same time, new roles are being developed and staff are taking on new responsibilities. It may take a while for best practices to evolve, but they certainly are in the works.
While there is often still a divide in the ownership of assets between OT and IT teams, skillset transfers are allowing more open and secure transfer of data between the two groups, boosting innovation on both sides. The line between OT and IT will become less distinct and people with both OT and IT skillsets will likely be most sought after.
Businesses realise that both perspectives from the OT and IT teams are important. They help to deliver systems that meet operational requirements while ensuring security, interoperability, and maintainability. In 2023, the OT and IT functions will merge closer together and that could mean both risk and opportunity for businesses.
2. Edge systems to carry out multiple tasks
Edge computing systems are taking up many different workloads today, with customers seeking to set up cybersecurity, wireless management and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) at the edge.
With this in mind, many businesses are beginning to see the advantages of containerisation and workload consolidation. This means having a single, more powerful machine at the edge to handle multiple workloads with virtualisation without any performance impact.
Instead of many small edge devices handling different tasks, it is far easier to have a few larger devices to carry out multiple tasks. In other words, there is less hardware to maintain and care for, resulting in lower operation cost.
At the same time, centralised monitoring and control operation will be increasingly common for more effective business management. To project such mission critical operation, a resilient system will be a pre-requisite for solid business execution, even at the edge.
3. Automation is key and its implementation will take time
While automation has been a key theme in recent years, its adoption has taken time. In 2023, two big questions will face businesses: First, whether they have automation infrastructure that is healthy or one that’s grown out of control; second, whether there is sufficient automation for the business to scale.
The type of automation matters too. Automation often exists to help an operator avoid physically walking around a facility as much, for example. However, in the new year, bigger gains may be had in augmenting and streamlining the operators’ decision-making process.
Many tools are being deployed that help guide the operator to make smarter decisions and help elevate the production output yield regardless of the experience level of the operator.
Automation projects previously justified during the pandemic to reduce worker density on the factory floor will evolve into a necessity for businesses to stay competitive.
4. Sustainability through advanced analytics
Analytics have been an important workload on edge computing systems in recent years, as businesses seek to make sense of the data that their operations environment is telling them.
What may be increasingly interesting in 2023 is the use of analytics gathered at the edge to boost the sustainability efforts that businesses are placing heavy emphasis on.
Analytics at the edge tells a business whether it is running a facility at its optimal temperature or if a machine is producing a product using the optimal amount of raw material. Any deviation from the ideal operating parameter will create unnecessary wastage.
At the same time, a modern edge computing setup that uses less hardware (one powerful server instead of seven older ones to do multiple jobs) not only reduces the footprint of resources deployed but also the energy consumption over time.
In manufacturing, in particular, the automation and modernisation of the edge analytics could also drive greater resilience and efficiency, which in turn reduces waste and cost which result in lower prices at a time when inflation is top-of-mind.
Change is hard but…
As 2023 begins, one common worry is that the digitalisation efforts in the past three years might start to slow down. Some businesses are considering the impact of connectivity, reliability and latency in their existing setups and are wondering what the next correct step is.
What businesses should remember, however, is that change takes time. The benefits of a technology solution may take a while to realize after it has been implemented.
It is safe to say that the pace of transformation, at least when it comes to edge computing, would vary from industry to industry, business to business in the new year. Nevertheless, the forward direction of transformation is certain and the speed of transformation will separate the leaders from the followers.
It is still smarter to embrace new, enabling technologies such as edge computing earlier rather than later, because they enable first movers to take advantage of their lessons learnt and propel ahead of the competition.
In 2023, those businesses that continue their transformation efforts with renewed pace are the ones that have greater flexibility and agility to maneuver in the turbulent market ahead.