Edge computing and the Internet of Things are widely discussed topics that people define in widely varying ways. In ta recent Q&A from Channel Pro SMB, Dr. Tom Bradicich (pictured), vice president and general manager for IoT and Converged Edge Systems at Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett Packard Enterprise, explains exactly what both terms mean, why they matter, and why they’re such important opportunities for integrators.
ChannelPro: How do you define the edge in edge computing?
Bradicich: The edge is simply not the data center. Now that’s very simple, but it’s very profound. The edge is anything that’s not in the data center…The edge could be a manufacturing core. That’s not the data center. The edge could be an oil rig out in the Gulf of Mexico or in the Mediterranean Sea somewhere. That’s not the data center.
To further define the edge, the edge is a place where the things in the IoT reside. If you have thermostats and lights and air conditioning systems in your home and you have appliances in your home, those are things in the IoT, and if they’re connected to a network, then it’s an IoT solution. Where is the edge? Well, the edge is your home.
Again, every one of these edges is unique to a particular application and geography, but they also have the same things in common. Number one, they’re not in the data center. Number two, they’re placed where things reside.
ChannelPro: What is edge computing, specifically in the context of IoT?
Bradicich: Let me define that in the context of the three “Cs” of an IoT solution. The first is connect, the second is compute, and the third is control. We connect things, the T in IoT, to a network…We compute the data from the things, and…then the third “C” is control. The reason end users will put an IoT solution together is to control the things. It is not to connect them, it is not to derive data. Those are means to an end. The actual end goal is to control the things or the business or the enterprise associated with the things.
Now, I have to supplement this with two “Ss.” The first “S” is security. We have security in connectivity, the first “C.” We have security in our compute. We have security in our control systems. Security is extremely important. The second “S” is services. We need to have services to deliver and integrate all three. If you have that as a framework, it really helps your discussion.
ChannelPro: Why are so many organizations applying edge computing to their IoT solutions?
Bradicich: There are seven reasons to compute the data from things at the edge instead of sending the data to the cloud or a data center…The first is latency. How soon would you like to know the object in front of your autonomous car is a garbage bag versus a person? Would you like to send all that data back to the cloud and compute it and then risk it not coming back with the right answer [in time]?
The second one is bandwidth. I have to say this: If you like big data, you’re going to love the IoT edge, because the data from the things at the edge is older, faster, and bigger than all other data types of big data combined…We’re collecting so much data from things that there’s not enough bandwidth to send it to the cloud even if we wanted to.
The third one is cost. Bandwidth is not free. Networking is not free. If you’re going to send everything to the cloud, you’re going to pay for it as well, sometimes significantly.
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Number four is security. If you’re sending all the data across campus, across the city, across an ocean, across a country to a cloud as opposed to computing at the edge, you have a security issue. This is a big deal for people. It’s just more vulnerable.
Number five has to do with duplication. If you store all the data at the edge and you send it all, you’ve got to store it all back at the cloud, and that’s a duplication of some, not all, but some of the resources.
Number six is just reliability. I can’t even make a cell phone call today without saying “can you hear me,” and having the call drop.
Number seven, finally, has to do with compliance and data sovereignty.
ChannelPro: How did your definition of IoT edge computing influence the capabilities of HPE’s Edgeline Systems product line?
Bradicich: I like to say we do for the IoT edge what the smartphone did for the consumer. We integrate multiple functions in one easy to manage system.
What are those multiple functions? For a smartphone, there’s a camera, the phone, the music player, the video player, the wallet, the flashlight, the GPS. What are those functions out at the IoT edge? They’re the IT stuff and the [operational technology, or OT] stuff. The IT stuff is compute, storage, networking, manageability, combined in the same box as OT, which is control systems, data acquisition systems, and industrial networks.
That combination of functions in the Edgeline System has created a new product class that we call Converged Edge Systems…Just like everything in your smartphone is required for you as a person to conduct your life, all those functions are required out at the edge, or we wouldn’t put them all together.
Now why is that beneficial out at the edge? It’s less space. There’s not a lot of space out at the edge. It’s less energy. There’s not a lot of energy when you’re out at the edge. [And] it’s very easy to buy and manage, because it’s one box.
ChannelPro: How relevant are IoT edge computing generally and the Edgeline Systems product family specifically to SMB technology providers?
Bradicich: [SMBs] don’t have a lot of resource. They like the idea of one stop, converged, press one button [and] it works. I’m exaggerating a little bit to make a point here, but they like that idea. The high-volume, big companies, big enterprises, they like the value of buying economies. A small business likes the ease of use of convergence, because they’re only going to buy a couple of them, and they don’t have the resources to apply and to invest in a broad spectrum of functions that are out there in their small factory or in their service centers.