It’s time for change: A new era at the edge

For years various industries have been restricted in their ability to process big data sets due to the limited bandwidth available for use in national infrastructure. Yet, the advent of 5G and fibre optic techniques that have expanded capability up to 800G have changed everything.

The days of processing at a centralised data centre are at an end, says Matt Valentine, managing director, Aruba UK&I. Driven by the explosion of data that is now freely available to us, we can access data across the whole network in real time it is this data that is being processed at the fringes, or rather the Edge.

This shift to the Edge is set to open up a myriad new opportunities and revenue streams. Not only this but intelligent Edge systems have the potential to power real-time analysis and provide actionable insights that can boost operational efficiency and accelerate innovation.

As we move towards a world that is increasingly geared towards seamless, personalised experiences, the Edge will be critical in enabling organisations to take the next step of their digital transformation.

It’s important to note that the move to the Edge is but a fledging trend, although one that is expected to grow exponentially in only a few years. But before we get to that point, there is a lot to be done firstly, we must look at where we are today. This was a key theme behind one of Aruba’s latest reports that delved into current perceptions from key IT decision makers, with results showing the huge potential for a future at the Edge.

The edge is real but getting there might take time

72% of IT Decision Makers (ITDMs) globally are already using Edge technologies, with a further 16% planning to do so in the immediate future. However, as many as 82% believe the need for an integrated system at the Edge is an urgent one.

Business need to remain patient as it will take a while for the results of these investments to be realised. Currently, only a small minority (9%) said they were within six months of being able to act on most of the data collected from their network. In contrast, we found that the vast majority (54%) estimated they were a year away. 

Overcoming the data deluge

The volume of data organisations generate has in recent years only grown and with it, the value it holds. Data provides companies with an ever increasingly detailed views of their customers’ needs, wants and behaviours, and with this comes the vital need to be able decipher said data to devise business strategies.

Matt Valentine

Yet, from our research, we found that a third of ITDMs surveyed globally said that ‘there is too much data for our systems to handle’, with 28% suggesting they cannot process the data quick enough to take action on the insights it provides. Alongside this, over a fifth (23%) also highlighted problems with budget, a lack of skills, and an inability to collect data from so many different sources.

That being said, our results also showed that ITDMs are thinking more broadly about the potential use cases of the Edge. As they grapple with this growth within their networks, they are consistently looking towards the cost and latency benefits of Edge technologies with a significant number looking to the Edge to support organisational agility, not just efficiency, and fuel the creation of new products, services, and revenue streams.

Cost, skills and security at the edge

Perhaps unsurprisingly, cost was a prevalent concern amongst respondents, as were a shortage of specialist data skills and fears over new security threats.

In fact, almost every organisation (92%) believe they are missing at least some skills, such as AI, analytical or technical, that are needed in order for their organisations to fully unlock the value of data. Alongside this, over half of respondents (57%) said that the implication of connecting high volumes of devices at the Edge had made or would make their business more vulnerable. Despite this, 47% also identified improved security as one of the biggest benefits of capturing data from user devices.

From life in the cloud to life on the edge

The shift to the Edge may very well be a work in progress for many organisations but that’s for good reason. It is a critical step that companies must take sooner, rather than later, in order to set themselves up for the next stage of their digital transformation journey.

Harnessing insights at the Edge offers businesses the opportunity to revolutionise their approach to data and unlock its true value. Ultimately, those that can store, process and analyse data at the Edge, will be better equipped to optimise their existing business model, and over time, develop innovative products, services and experiences that will not only augment but transform their offerings for customers.

The author is Matt Valentine, managing director, Aruba UK&I.

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