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Mobile technology drives edge computing forward

The shift toward edge computing is happening in organizations everywhere, and mobility is at the center of the evolution. IT shops can take advantage of life on the edge.

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With ample processing power; nearly ubiquitous connectivity; and new data sources such as GPS, cameras and sensors, mobility has redefined edge computing.

In previous years, the networking and telecom industry constantly debated how much intelligence should reside at the edge -- that is, how much data should be processed as close as possible to its original source. It wasn't possible to handle a majority of data locally, however, because endpoints weren't powerful enough to operate on their own. Today's edge computing doesn't assume a set of dumb devices that require a connection to a central location.

The internet of things (IoT) promises to add even more connected devices and sensors to the mix, giving organizations more opportunities to take advantage of edge computing. Analytics, security and business process reinvention will be the keys to these new IT strategies.

Analyze this

Mobile and IoT devices create large volumes of data. To turn this data into useful information, IT needs to determine where to store and analyze it. Businesses must build a two-pronged strategy that supports analyzing data in motion (streaming data) and data at rest (in the cloud or on premises).

Today's edge computing doesn't assume a set of dumb devices that require a connection to a central location.

It's time-consuming and expensive to haul large volumes of data back to a centralized location. It makes more sense to analyze most of a company's data on the endpoint where it's created, especially if employees need immediate insights. IT must categorize data according to volume, velocity, variety and required time to insight. Based on these categories, IT can decide how frequently it needs to move data and the best type of analytics to use.

Secure gateways

With mobile and IoT growing by leaps and bounds, companies will need to design security mechanisms that can run on a wide range of devices, from smartphones and tablets to wearables and connected sensors. Not all of these devices will have the processing power to run security software.

For such devices, IT can add an edge computing gateway that runs security and analytics functions closer to where the data is generated. Just as in the past, a security strategy must extend beyond devices to support networks and applications as well. Sadly, there's no single product that a company can buy to guarantee security from the device through to the application. Companies should evaluate tools such as unified management suites, threat detection services and virtualization-based offerings to secure data.

Right data, right time

Existing business applications and workflows weren't designed with today's vast volumes of data in mind. With these new data sources, companies have the ability to create right-time experiences, a set of workflows that deliver the required information at the proper time to a person's device of choice.

Instead of adapting or replicating existing PC workflows to new device types, real-time experiences provide context by taking advantage of mobile and IoT data. Leading companies will create workflows that are also adaptive, learning and predictive. To take existing processes to the next level, organizations should combine in-house app development with the cloud using software as a service, platform as a service and machine learning tools.

The next stage in mobile networking: A CIO quiz

Think you know what the future holds for the intersection of mobility and networking? Review our recent coverage and then take our quiz to test your knowledge of mobile network technology.

Edge computing requires companies to think differently about how to collect, analyze, secure and manage devices and data. If a company takes the time to rebuild its existing workflows to make use of new information from edge devices, it can create a sustainable competitive advantage.

Next Steps

What IT needs to know about edge data centers

Edge computing is not without its challenges

How edge devices complicate the cloud

This was last published in May 2017

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