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Most organizations see cloud as the primary destination on their IT modernization journey. Yet edge environments—the places where business happens—should also be part of the itinerary as companies transition to data-first businesses.

Companies are shifting significant computing resources away from centralized data centers, whether in the cloud or on premises. The new destination is edge, or closer to where processing real-time data makes for more effective decision-making. Edge examples include locations for a building’s HVAC systems, intelligent cameras keeping tabs on city traffic, or factory floor devices overseeing uptime and product quality.

By the year 2025, IDC predicts there will be an estimated 55.7 billion connected internet of things (IoT) devices on the planet.1 At the same time, more than half of enterprise-managed data is expected to be created and processed outside the data center or cloud.2

Does this shift now make edge computing a key business imperative? We took that question to the CIO Experts Network, a community of IT professionals and technology industry influencers, to learn why edge has stepped into the spotlight and where it fits with digital transformation.

Processing data at the source

What is the primary driver behind the newly empowered edge? A desire to capitalize on burgeoning data resources. The growing number of IoT devices and resulting data processing requires more real-time analytics and data aggregation at the edge, which can complement the existing cloud, says Simeon Stoychev, vice president of information technology at Progress Software.

Edge comes into play to help reduce latency and enable real-time data processing, adds Helen Yu (@YuHelenYu), founder and CEO of Tigon Advisory Corp. Instead of sending data from its point of origin—a factory floor or autonomous car, for example—up to the cloud, it’s far more efficient to perform the data collection and analysis closer to where decisions happen.

“Edge computing has a true power to drive digital transformation as it helps organizations process and make use of meaningful data faster,” says Elitsa Krumova (@Eli_Krumova), a global thought leader and tech influencer.“ This guarantees improved digital experiences, better products and customer service, more efficient business operations, reduced costs, and revenue growth.”

A long list of benefits

The ability to process and analyze data near its source has significant benefits. For starters, organizations can save on storage, processing, and transmission costs. They can also ensure improved operational performance by enabling faster, more reliable, and higher-quality service for real-time (or near-real-time) applications, notes Kieran Gilmurray (@KieranGilmurray), CEO at Digital Automation and Robotics Unlimited. These include video streaming, industrial control systems, and healthcare devices.

“Moving computing closer to the devices generating the data results in faster data processing, removes the step of shipping data for central processing, and frees up valuable network bandwidth,” adds Peter Nichol (@PeterBNichol), chief technology officer at OROCA Innovations. “You might be okay if your financial model took a day to process, but waiting a day for your car to interpret a stop sign or for your video surveillance to notify you that you had a visitor last week doesn’t work.”

Edge computing can also serve as the “meeting point” where enterprises can connect with customers, bringing the products created on the cloud to consumers whether they’re at home or on the move. This is done by supporting mobile devices and software, notes Dipti Parmar (@dipTparmar), chief strategist at Dipti Parmar Consulting and co-founder of 99stairs.

The edge at work

The ability to harness the explosion of data at the edge has bearing for most industries. Take the defense sector, for example, where edge computing and networking solutions packaged in small, ruggedized form factors could transform data into insights. This can accelerate decision-making at the point of need, whether on the battlefield or for field maintenance, says Anthony Verna, senior vice president and general manager of Cubic Mission & Performance Solutions’ Rugged IoT business unit.

In car manufacturing or a parcel sorting warehouse, the data available from plant floor machinery or warehouse assets at the edge can provide comprehensive real-time feedback loops. These insights can enhance the reliability of those systems, flag quality issues, and provide up-to-the-minute status on inventory. This in turn enables an operator or system to take near real-time corrective action, says Tom Allen, founder of the AI Journal.

In airports, IoT capabilities on departure security gates could collect passenger data from myriad airlines, feeding it to highly available systems on the cloud for analysis and insights. This could trigger new marketing and revenue opportunities. “Edge computing becomes an opportunity to make money by driving profits and delivering user experiences that customers want to repeat, whether that’s at an airport or in a restaurant,” says Sawan Joshi, director of information security at Cervest.

In the end, edge computing’s prominent role in digital transformation is an acknowledgement that speed is the new currency of business. “Edge offers computing power at data’s point of origin,” explains Michael Bertha, partner at Metis Strategy. “This allows businesses to autonomously identify new profit pools and respond in near-real-time.”

To learn how HPE GreenLake enables edge deployment, click here.

1 IDC Worldwide Global DataSphere Forecast, 2021–2025: The World Keeps Creating More Data—Now, What Do We Do with It All? March 2021, David Reinsel, John Rydning, John Gantz

2 Predicts 2022: The Distributed Enterprise Drives Computing to the Edge, October 20, 2021, Gartner—Bob Bill and Tom Bittman—ID G00757917