In my recent strategy talk at Schneider Electric’s Global Innovation Summit in Barcelona, I touched on how our increasingly digital world is driving the need for a massive transformation in how we deploy and manage IT. We continue to see an increase in both the number of IoT connected devices and the amount of data generated from consumer and business applications. Our dependency on these technologies to power our digital economy is a clear reminder that the digital transformation affects us all.
Think about how many times a day we interact with a connected device, sensor, or application. During my strategy talk, I shared about a recent experience where I left home without my smartphone. As part of my morning routine, I normally stop into my local coffee shop to purchase coffee using my phone. On that morning, I couldn’t pay for my coffee as I’d left my phone at home and my wallet in the car – not a great morning for me. As it turned out, the point of sale reader in the coffee shop was down and couldn’t be fixed. The coffee shop owner gave me my coffee for free and I watched as he did the same for other customers. On one hand, I had gotten a free cup of coffee and on the other, I was struck by the amount of lost revenue the coffee shop owner was racking up because their technology was down. This is one example of how we’re interacting with technology on a regular basis but there are countless others, especially in the retail space. It’s also an example of the critical edge IT supporting applications.
The Challenges of the Edge
The edge is a challenge in many respects…even its definition. My favorite definition of the edge comes from The Infrastructure Masons where it’s defined as, “an edge location is a computing enclosure/space/facility geographically dispersed to be physically closer to the point of origin of data or a user base.” At Schneider, we’ve worked to define where the edge is and see three major edge computing segments:
- Commercial: retail, healthcare, finance, and education
- Industrial: oil & gas, mining, automotive, and manufacturing
- Telco: central offices, cell towers, base stations, and building tops
One of the challenges of the edge is the measures which were taken to drive resiliency in traditional data center environments have not been deployed in edge environments. As a result, we are seeing the same consistent challenges across the three edge computing segments:
- Poor resiliency
- Lack of remote monitoring and management
- Lack of standardization and integration
- Large number of sites with limited IT staff
One big takeaway from Innovation Summit Barcelona is the challenges of the edge are resonating with customers, particularly end-users, who are realizing the technology at the edge is more important than it used to be. There are some applications where the latency or downtime of edge technology isn’t an issue – think artificial intelligence used in some retails chains to gain better insights into consumer behavior. In other applications, such as the technology used to operate and update autonomous vehicles or for transacting in financial services, the reliability of IT at the edge becomes mission critical.
A three-step formula to solve the challenges of the edge
We do see some answers to these challenges and at Schneider, we have defined a three-step formula to empower the digital transformation of our customers:
- Adoption of integrated systems: Integrated systems offer a convenient form factor for customers deploying an edge environment. The compute, networking, power, and storage equipment can be contained within a single enclosure. Schneider’s 6U Wall Mount EcoStruxure Micro Data Center is the first of its kind in the industry. It can safely be wall mounted, eliminating the need for floor space, and is 60% less intrusive than traditional wall mount enclosures.
- Incorporation of cloud-based management solutions: When you have all this scattered IT, you need to have visibility into the performance of the equipment. A cloud-based solution, like Ecostruxure IT, allows you to collect and analyze massive amounts of data, remotely monitor and manage all your sites, scale management systems, and achieve better performance with predictive capability.
- Leverage an ecosystem of partners: At Schneider, we understand that we can’t solve the challenges of the edge alone. No company can. Solving the challenges of the edge requires strong partnership and collaboration from OEMs, system integrators, and managed service providers. Collectively, we can do a lot of good if we work together in a very organized way.
The digital transformation is happening in surprising places
The edge is my favorite topic to talk about currently because it represents an exciting transformation for the industry. In our business, a transformation of this magnitude is rarely seen. In the last 30 years, there’s only been two comparable transformations – the proliferation of the personal PC in the 1980’s and the rise of data centers in the 1990’s.
During Innovation Summit Barcelona, I had the pleasure of having Fernando Villa, Director of Building and Technology of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, join me on stage. The Sagrada Familia is a Roman Catholic basilica in Barcelona and is best known for two reasons: 1). it was designed by world-renown architect, Antoni Gaudi, and 2). the basilica is still under construction with expected completion in 2026.
The Sagrada Familia is operational and receives 16,000 visitors per day. To the surprise of the audience, Fernando shared that an edge data center was deployed in the basilica, enabling ongoing construction and cultural and religious activities. Edge applications like drones, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality have been deployed to monitor capacity control and security and enable 3D printing and modeling. The partnership between Schneider and Sagrada Familia is a local example of the far-reaching impact of the digital transformation.
The edge does present its share of challenges, but these challenges are solvable. With our three-step formula, we’re empowering the digital transformation of our customers as they take on the edge. Discover how we’ve partnered with the Sagrada Familia Construction Board to deploy an edge data center in the 137-year-old basilica.
This blog post belongs to a series from Innovation Summit Barcelona 2019, a two-day event that brings together more than 3,500 industry professionals, solution experts, and IoT leaders to discuss global trends, generate bold ideas and foster the digital economy.
To know more about Innovation Summit Barcelona 2019, check the other blog posts from this series: