Expert Speak

The Democratisation of the Workplace Through Edge Computing

Written by Rick Vanover, senior director of product strategy at Veeam

It’s been a year and a half 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:

  • DX in businesses is essential
  • 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’s a fairly amorphous concept that has been around since the 1990s, but thanks to the pandemic, it has given rise to edge computing’s dark horse: the remote worker.

The pandemic has hit each market across the Middle East 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 futureproofing the new workplace environment.

Don’t let implementation dictate the outcome
According to Juniper Research, edge computing is on a growth path to $8.3 billion spent globally, in less than five years. This has no doubt been exacerbated with the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) devices. According to a report by AT Kearney Research, the IoT solutions market in the GCC will be worth $11 billion by the year 2025, generating potential value for the economy of nearly $160 billion.

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 is 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 its 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 center 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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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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