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Edging Toward Operational Efficiencies, Business Benefits

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By Sachin Bhalla, VP – Secure Power Division, India and SAARC, Schneider Electric

Organizations are moving workloads to the network edge. The move, in brief, is about analyzing data as quickly as possible. Doing so requires putting computing, networking and storage capabilities as close as possible to the endpoints that generate data, whether they be mobile devices, factory machinery or AI-enabled vehicles. Though there are hosts of challenges facing edge expansions, the benefits should be well worth the effort.

Yet, with all this promise comes the need for additional energy consumption from IT infrastructures. Unfortunately, recent research reveals that few organizations are implementing their sustainability action plans. For organizations seeking to marry operational efficiencies with sustainability efforts, the edge is the place to be.

Monitoring network traffic at the source improves security posture
Healthcare organizations can better scale patient care thanks to telehealth technology advancements. However, the increased use of remote tools has also increased the cyberattack surface of healthcare systems. According to research conducted by the local cybersecurity think tank, CyberPeace Foundation, there were nearly 1.9 million cyberattacks recorded against the healthcare industry in India from January to November of 2022. Most of the data is generated by individual, distributed machines and, in traditional infrastructure, sent back to a centralized data centre for storage and analysis. Protecting that data en route is challenging, and many healthcare providers do not use sophisticated cybersecurity tools, to begin with. With edge computing security solutions, healthcare organizations can analyze the data where it’s generated to quickly mitigate security threats. Remote analysis delivers more optimal network use

Industrial settings illustrate additional benefits of the edge. As in hospital settings, individual pieces of machinery, like oil and gas drills or factory equipment, generate crucial data. Transmitting that information back and forth to centralized data centres taxes the network. Data transfer costs can balloon with the additional bandwidth needs. Any time it takes to send information between locations also creates network latency. In situations where real-time analysis is paramount, any latency can negatively impact operations. Unplanned downtime at data centres or cloud connections compounds both bandwidth and latency issues.

By capturing that information where it’s generated — at the network’s edge — organizations can mitigate these concerns. Analyzing data at the source limits the amount of information sent back to centralized stores, reducing network usage. By analyzing data locally and not repeatedly sending information back and forth across the network, latency issues resolve. And, even if other parts of the network suffer outages, assets running at the edge can still operate and generate data.

Improved energy usage creates sustainable operations
Organizations that invest in edge technology will enjoy security and network-usage improvements. Businesses can also reap the rewards of a third major edge benefit: sustainability.

Enterprises in all industries consume vast quantities of energy. Lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation and asset operation all require reliable power, often around the clock. Cooling alone accounts for 40% of total data centre energy consumption. Transporting data from endpoints to a centralized data center uses energy.

Sensors at the edge and software in network operations centres allow organizations to easily monitor and control energy consumption across all remote sites. Like any data-generating device, these tools constantly produce information about building efficiency, which can then be used to further improve energy usage. Using edge computing may even save 60% of data-transport energy consumption. Smart building technology can yield 5-25% energy savings on HVAC systems and nearly 50% savings for lighting. Optimal use of smart building tools is not possible without the edge.

The edge holds vast business benefits
Cybersecurity, bandwidth savings and sustainability are just three examples of the numerous ways edge investments can unlock new potential. As more enterprises move quickly to distributed IT environments, edge computing technology should also improve apace, creating additional efficiencies.

Concluding thoughts
Operational efficiencies are business goals in and of themselves. More effective operations also lead to reduced costs, improved profitability, better employee safety and an enhanced customer (or patient) experience. So, although “streamlining business intelligence and data analytics” is painted with a broad-brush stroke, edge investments and their major use cases create offer clear and present business benefits all leaders would be wise to pursue.

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