How to Frame an Edge IT Landscape to Power Your Digital Business

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Data and application workload traffic is increasingly congregating around an enterprise’s digital edge, where there is a high density of commerce, people and digital ecosystems. In most cases, companies can increase performance, reduce security risks and decrease capital and operational expenses by placing IT infrastructure where data is being created and consumed, rather than backhauling it to a centralized data center for processing, cloud access and security services.

This why in his recent IDC Perspective, “Edge IT: The Engine Powering Digital Transformation,” Richard Villars provides business leaders, CIOs and IT professionals with a road map to “develop expertise in assessing, deploying, and managing information technology (IT) at increasingly ‘smart’ edge locations.” This makes a lot of sense to us at Equinix. As a leading global provider of interconnection and colocation data centers, this is exactly the direction that we see our customers taking by moving their IT infrastructures to the edge to improve customer quality of experience while reducing risk and cost.

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In fact, IDC reports in its Enterprise Datacenter Survey, 2017 that 46% of survey respondents plan to use colocation data centers as part of their IT edge deployment strategy, with 23.2% using a hybrid IT model and 22.8% using a pure colocation provider model:

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IDC’s model of the edge IT landscape shows multiple types of devices spread out in multiple, global locations. For our customers, we see a high concentration of edge IT in dense metropolitan areas around the world.

IDC maps out the edge IT landscape as a set of interrelated, interconnected rings that can vary by device type, depth and density, as shown in the diagram below. The “core” represent digital capabilities, such as cloud, network and application services.

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It is important to note that not all individual digital solutions and services require each of these rings to be viable within a digital business. For example, in smart traffic systems, connected vehicles (systems and sensors) would share location and telemetry data systems directly with core cloud resources and services, as shown in the diagram below. The data gathered from these systems and sensors can be more efficiently and effectively analyzed when it is proximate to those core cloud services that provide the compute processing or storage capacity.

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Shaping edge IT and interconnection requirements

Understanding the role that each ring potentially plays across a broad range of solutions and services, and assessing how each will shape edge IT and interconnection requirements is critical to deploying a successful edge IT strategy. IDC recommends considering if the technology assets within each ring are deployed more as “operational technology” (OT) or IT.

The key difference is that OT solutions are much more likely to be designed, built, and managed like embedded systems (e.g., kiosks, clinical systems, and manufacturing robots), even if they are created using the same compute, storage, and network building blocks as IT. According to IDC, OT solutions have “project-based consumption patterns dominated by the system/device/thing manufacturer, integrator, or provider,” while IT solutions are “increasingly being consumed in pay-as-you-go/pay-as-you-use and cloudlike models regardless of location.”

OT and IT co-exist at edge IT locations and their integration requires an interconnection-first strategy for the best possible outcome as a digital business. We’ve seen examples of this with customers such as Ford Motor Company. In a presentation at Equinix’s 2016 Analyst Day Customer Panel, Jack Wright, Ford’s Manager of Global Network Planning, spoke about how the multinational automotive manufacturer leveraged an Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™) strategy to optimize its global network to interconnect digital business partners and cloud technologies. An IOA framework enables companies in any industry to effectively and efficiently place IT at the edge for greater performance.

An IOA strategy also maps into what we believe is one of the many of the IDC report’s critical recommendations for a successful digital transformation: IT organizations need to optimize interconnection between applications and resources within their core in different data centers. By doing this, enterprises can leverage proximate, low-latency connection between OT and IT solutions and services.

Learn more about deploying edge IT to power your company’s digital transformation by reading the IDC Perspective, “Edge IT: The Engine Powering Digital Transformation.”

 

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