Turning your edge installations into mini-data centers, without the headaches
In technology today there’s a great deal of enthusiasm for new capabilities that relies on massive increases in the amount of data. If we take two commonly-quoted examples of what is considered “cutting edge”, artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT, we see that both technologies rely on the movement and processing of huge amounts of data.
AI requires a cognitive processing function which is reliant on masses of information for an initial learning phase, plus a constant stream of data for attenuation of results. IoT (and its more practically-minded cousin, IIoT) produces masses of data, but for it to be useful, it needs to be assimilated, moved, processed and results drawn out.
In either case, we’re talking about gigabytes per second, petabytes per month, and zettabytes a year. Such quantities of information are literally unimaginable. Back in the days of the first CD ROMS, the oft-quoted figure was that a single disk could hold the equivalent of 300,000 text pages. When DVD arrived, its capacity was measured in multiples of libraries. In terms of the amounts of data processed by a small CDN or a modest IIoT deployment, such quantities of zeroes and ones are tiny. But as businesses (and consumers) take on more and more of a digital element of their processes (and lives) the quantities of information that are shipped, processed and used are growing at a massive rate.
There are two stumbling blocks on this seemingly inexorable rise in data quantities for the modern organization. The first is that the infrastructure on which this mass of traffic relies was not designed with these types of quantities in mind – the emergence of IP v6 as the heir to the limited IP pool of IP v4 is a testament to the 20th-century mindset of the internet’s designers.
The second drawback is that as businesses and individuals become more reliant on technology, its failure becomes more severe as a threat. Perhaps twenty years ago, a server crash in the in-house rackmount could be repaired via retrieval of tape backups. Today, however, in the always-on, right-now mentality, immediate failover facilities stocked by 30-second snapshots of disk states are pretty much considered the minimum.
In short then, not only are we overloading our infrastructure, we’re ever more reliant on both the creaking infrastructure and the information it (failingly) supports.
Organizations of every size are therefore looking to new solution providers to help them with how to get over these virtual speed-bumps in the road. Some solutions talk about how they help companies get “through the bottlenecks” of infrastructure issue, but that type of solution usually only acts as a sticking plaster. What business-focused organizations need is the wherewithal to pursue projects, new markets and work on getting new business, yet have the safety net of an infrastructure that’s reliable and scalable – without having to give it too much thought. Focusing on business growth is the most important thing, rather than being distracted (in terms of attention as well as monetarily) by whether the infrastructure can keep pace and support the company.
Luckily, the same types of technological breakthrough that have brought us 5G, miniaturization of system-on-chip systems, new communication methods like LoRa, Bluetooth 4 and 5G wireless, mean that we can also benefit from software abstraction of networks and infrastructure. Rather than having to rip out infrastructure hardware and replace from scratch, new intelligently-managed services allow a vendor-independent infrastructure to be created that removes from end-users the everyday practicalities of networks and networked facilities.
Ensuring resiliency, scalability, and fitness for purpose is the raison d’etre of a new generation of managed service providers. Their toolbox may include, but will not be limited to ensuring safe and bandwidth-efficient data interchange, smart storage technologies that de-duplicate on the fly, ensuring constant and glitch-less power supply, backup and disaster recovery facilities that are good for the immediate rollback of failing systems, and pro-active systems monitoring to spot potential failure points.
Each of those example aspects encapsulate highly sophisticated (and intelligent) technology in hardware and software. But the business’s job is to concentrate on its growth and efficiency; let the managed service providers take care of the details.
Here at Tech Wire Asia, we’re looking at three providers of these types of IT services that cater to business-focused organizations. The companies detailed below exist to maintain your technology infrastructure, without creating bottlenecks or speed humps in the road to progression and growth. How they achieve this varies in each use case, but we recommend their consideration if your infrastructure needs to support your growing organization.
Now under the umbrella of industrial giant Schneider Electric, APC provides companies with distributed edge deployments with the technologies, capability, and means for each to become a virtual “mini data center”. The company’s innovative cloud-based platforms provide a management oversight facility that gives visibility into distributed network nodes across the globe in real time. Under today’s always-on, work-anywhere mentality, the dashboard and monitors of these platforms can be done via a mobile, tablet, or from a central data center or head office.
This type of solution allows companies to reduce the reliance on IT staff and resources at each edge node, and the solutions’ capabilities extend, IIoT-like, to allow proactive monitoring and maintenance of equipment, with the intelligent prediction of downtimes of the entire remote technology stack. In this way, companies get a better insight into when systems might need an upgrade or taking down for maintenance.
With the same facilities, organizations will be able to monitor in detail the ways that processes work anywhere in the world: identifying bottlenecks or problem areas at any of hundreds of distant installations becomes a simple task for the organization equipped with APC by Schneider Electric know-how.
With pre-configured hardware and systems ready to deploy, companies will find that they can create repeatable edge deployments, so opening new branches or facilities becomes a cookie-cutter exercise, rather than a logistical nightmare.
Given the experience that the team at APC by Schneider Electric has, they understand that edge-based computing facilities are exposed to a few key physical security risks.
It’s why the company emphasizes on proper physical security in edge data centers, whether the threat is from thieves, fire, or flood. With APC by Schneider Electric, companies can protect their investments with access control mechanisms, real-time audio & video recording, and even monitor sensitive spaces with temperature sensors and humidity detectors.
You can read more about edge-specific technologies and managed services in a distributed computing framework from APC by Schneider Electric by clicking here.
Cisco’s position as the go-to supplier of network infrastructure is perhaps under threat at present, but not due to any deterioration of the company’s quality of products or services. Instead, in an infrastructure market that is becoming more oriented towards convergence and software abstraction of hardware in general, there are new players in the arena with fresh ideas and different technologies.
The company’s size and breadth of offering types mean, of course, that it will have a solution to cover off most eventualities, and in the case of edge-distributed solutions, that’s no exception. For utilities, for example, its Resilient Mesh Network lets companies automate distribution facilities, and means that technology such as smart meters and IIoT on local nodes can feed data back into central control systems. That means that energy companies, for example, can attenuate their offerings at a very granular level, drawing out maximum value for money for consumers and businesses in a very competitive marketplace.
And as edge networks become more complex, the security stance of companies needs to change accordingly. Here, Cisco’s IoT Threat Defense solutions mean that every asset presents the smallest possible profile to the wider world, with low-overhead security solutions that protect business-critical systems, wherever they might be.
Japanese Allied Telesis has a presence right across the world and is ideally placed to offer solutions for companies with a highly diverse spread of offices, outlets, remote nodes or facilities. The company’s WAN management platform provides a single dashboard which covers the whole gamut of network infrastructure devices: switches, firewalls, gateways, aggregators, wireless access points, and so on. The software abstraction of the network creates massive savings for companies, as many of the manual tasks – not limited to technicians plugging in equipment in edge locations – can be achieved in fractions of a second through central control.
In working terms, instead of manual propagation of policy-derived rule-sets to each device, one command propagates out and ‘finds’ every device affected. The company’s adoption of OpenFlow methodologies means that its autonomous management framework (AMF) is manufacturer-agnostic, so the AT platform does not require a “tear down and build again” approach to building cutting-edge technologies. The software can adapt to new endpoint instances as they arrive on the network, rather than having to be reactive to multiple firewall alerts as new devices appear, so the solution is fully ready for and ready to protect, BYOD policies anywhere that the organization’s network exists.
With network engineers having to perform fewer tasks manually, this frees up time to concentrate on business-oriented activities such as automation and scripting, thus helping IT functions to transition to a more strategic, less reactive role.
*Some of the companies featured in this article are commercial partners of Tech Wire Asia