InterviewsOutlook

Outlook 2021: Edge Computing Will Be Big This Year

Dalia El Hendy, the Vice President for the Gulf for the Secure Power Division at Schneider Electric, speaks about the challenges faced in 2020 and the opportunities to look forward to, in 2021

How was 2020 for the industry and your company?
It’s not been an easy year, that goes without saying. However, there’s been an increased focus on digital investments, and we’ve seen many projects being sped up. We’ve also worked closely with our channel partners to help them adapt as well, be it through increased emphasis on health and safety, or pivoting to focus on growth areas.

What sort of opportunities did 2020 bring along?
Digital transformation is impacting all industries as organizations are leveraging technology to drive new innovation, improve business agility, and streamline operations. New business opportunities and capabilities are being unlocked as organizations digitize their operational models. Enterprises are striving to undertake the critical initiatives required to modernize their facilities and infrastructure: specifically, improving productivity, reducing waste, improving energy resiliency, achieving sustainability goals, and, most importantly, protecting people, physical assets, and data.

Did you face any challenges in 2020?
Aside from the biggest concern around health and safety, there have been issues in terms of supply chains in the technology space. There have also been challenges when it comes to getting workers on-site and handling emergency situations. It’s taken an incredible amount of dedication from our teams, partners, and customers to work through all of these challenges.

What were your key achievements in 2020?
We’ve invested in our RMA facilities, to improve our customer service. We’ve worked with customers and partners on new data center models, that allow them to deploy faster, use less energy, and operate more sustainably. And we’ve worked for hand in hand with our partners on the issues that we’ve faced, which is the achievement that I’m proudest of. This year has been a reminder of why the channel is so important to us; our partners truly are an extension of the company.

What promises does 2021 bring along?
As estimated by the International Data Corporation (IDC), investment in technologies enabling smart cities in the Middle East and Africa region is expected to hit the $2.30 billion mark by 2021. The ever-increasing urban population has resulted in growing energy demands, coupled with the advent of new technology and the need for smart cities that improve systems and create sustainable and reliable infrastructure.

The integration of smart solutions that promote the efficient use of resources and data plays a crucial role in this drive towards smart cities while improving safety, mobility, and overall well-being. Building cities integrated with next-generation technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) requires a huge investment, starting with creating a suitable infrastructure that supports current advancements.

Do you see opportunities in the regional markets with new markets opening up?
In the digital transformation journey, enterprises are faced with the dual challenges of innovating their operations and maintaining their existing infrastructure IT and data center infrastructure are key to supporting the shift to digital business. All companies need to be able to transform their operations with technology and frequently find that focusing on IT challenges detracts from their core business.

Along the digital transformation journey, the most frequently cited barrier is the challenge of integrating and supporting old and new infrastructure. Experienced services firms like Schneider Electric are able to assist customers through a comprehensive and scalable service portfolio—one that addresses resources, people, and processes through all stages of the life cycle.

According to you, which technologies will be in demand in 2021?
Understanding equipment performance is increasingly important, especially to mission-critical facilities. To accelerate progress in improving facility resiliency, digital services such as remote monitoring and analysis that leverage IoT, edge, and other technologies are emerging as a path to understanding equipment performance and shifting to condition-based maintenance

What will be your key focus areas for 2021?
Our major focus is Edge Computing – this is where enterprises will increase their spend the most over the coming decade. By 2025 there will be 80 billion connected devices, that will generate 180 trillion data Gigabytes and companies will spend 232 billion dollars on artificial intelligence to cater to and manage all this data.

We’re already seeing budgets being diverted to spending on emerging technologies that will help them make the best of these increasing data streams. We also expect more enterprises will be utilizing technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotic process automation over the coming five years, thanks to the roll-out of enabler technologies such as 5G.

These technologies are highly dependent on low latency and high bandwidth. At SE we have designed our best-in-class edge solutions starting from a very simple form for a Micro DC that can fit at any given operational working space.

The leading system integrators will focus on developing Edge solutions that are addressing customer-centric needs. And that’ll be an important part of our channel strategy in 2021, to help equip our partners with the tools and the outlook they need to sell more Edge solutions through the channel.

Do you plan to enter new markets or add new products/applications to your portfolio in 2021?
There’s going to be an increasing interest in remote solutions, to help run and maintain IT infrastructure. We’re going to continue promoting remote software and services to our channel partners and customers.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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