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The Democratisation of the Workplace through Edge Computing

By: Rick Vanover, Senior Director of Product Strategy at Veeam  & Sandeep Bhambure, Vice President and Managing Director, Veeam India and SAARC

It’s been a year since we first learned about Covid-19, but the pressure on businesses to accelerate their digital transformation (DX) efforts has not abated. Of particular note is the rise of the hybrid work model. 

There are two things the pandemic has proven about the ‘new’ workplace: 1) DX in businesses is essential, and 2)  Technology was intrinsic to a transformational overhaul of this scale.

That technology is edge computing: The ability to optimise and extend the capability of cloud computing by bringing computation and data storage closer to the devices where it’s being gathered.  It is a distributed computing paradigm that brings critical information analysis and knowledge storage closer to the location where it is needed. With the growing number of IoT devices along with connected automotive and industrial applications; latency, privacy, and bandwidth become critical limiting factors and edge computing solves this by bringing the intelligence closer to the source. As part of the Digital India initiative, the Government of India planned to give IoT a push in the country. The government has allocated funds worth INR 7,000 crore for the development of 100 smart cities powered by IoT devices. The government intends to control traffic, efficiently use water and power, and collect data using IoT sensors for healthcare and other services. According to NASSCOM, the Indian IoT market is expected to reach USD 15 billion by 2020 and constitute 5% of the global market.

While Edge computing has obvious advantages to catapult the Digital India initiative, the pandemic has revealed another side of the pandemic to us. It has given rise to edge computing’s dark horse: the remote worker.

The pandemic has hit each market across Asia-Pacific differently but a common theme regarding the workplace is that data is increasingly born, created and modified in different places. While the future of work is well and truly here, businesses are still navigating uncharted waters in this space. This begs many questions of decision makers: What’s the best way to capture and protect data? Does my edge approach meet privacy and security needs? 

There has been a significant shift in the approach to remote work and there’s a way that businesses can best set their employees up to ensure business continuity. It lies with edge computing – a key technology to future proofing the new workplace environment.  

The new workplace as we see it today, is remote and can be anywhere in the globe. A number of Indian organizations which were closed to the concept of remote working have now adopted technology to promote it and sustain work. Remote working backed by the technology that can support it has been a savior for a number of organizations in India.

Don’t let implementation dictate the outcome

According to the Valuates Report, the Global Edge Computing Market will grow from USD 2,485.36 million in 2018 to USD 8,854.78 million by the end of 2025 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.90%. This has no doubt been exacerbated with the proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, a trend expected to reach total expenditure of U$398.6 billion by 2023.

As our new workplaces constitute more and more remote points of presence – mobile, tablet, smart speakers – which sees a vast amount of data being generated on the outer edge of computing networks, the task of implementing an edge strategy may fall into the too-hard basket for many, and simply out of reach for some.

However, the key to edge computing success lies in focusing on the outcome, before looking at implementation.

Every business wants to analyse and activate their data, at speed, but the power of edge computing does not mean all data has to be analysed and activated. Rather, it helps businesses ascertain at which aggregation points are best to consume data, preserve it, make inferences from, where analytics is applied, and knowledge is gleaned from. For one business, the impact could simply be installing on-site servers capable of real-time analysis. For another, it could be installing IoT sensors to help transmit data from security cameras. 

Like any technology solution, implementation for the sake of doing so is not going to benefit any business. However, the edge is relevant for any business that has digitally transformed their processes, especially in the last 12 months. Edge computing allows businesses to focus on how to get the most out of their most important data, and in turn, keep up with the pace at which the workplace is transforming.

Securing the edge

An edge strategy doesn’t mean data protection, security and compliance efforts have to be more complicated. Traditionally, endpoint backup has been the most underrated rack of technologies but as the benefits of edge computing gain traction, its use case takes on a whole new level. And the good news is that there isn’t much ‘reinventing the wheel’ involved.

Why? The edge isn’t entirely new – it’s an extension of what we’ve known. As an accelerant of digital transformation, it’s breaking down the data centre walls and pushing cloud capabilities outwards. Businesses need to remember that the edge must be treated as part of hybrid cloud architecture, of which technologies are already being used by employees to provide a seamless and secure IT experience.

Edge computing is critical to ensuring a seamless transition from the traditional workplace setting to the future of work. It is here now, and it’s hybrid. To realise its full potential, businesses must focus on the outcome rather than the implementation of the technology. 

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