Enterprise Edge Computing Model – Part 1: Common Attributes

What the Edge Requires.

An Edge environment exhibits attributes that differentiates it from other environments such as cloud or on-premise data centers.  Products used to enable enterprise Edge computing must ensure that the attributes are met. The following are seven common attributes specific to Enterprise Edge Computing.

Each attribute area contains values that fulfill the attribute. The values are needed to meet the attributes. The following is a list of the Edge common attributes, the values and supporting value details.

Lights Out 

  • Locations function without local human resources
    • IT skills and resources optimized 
    • IT personnel placed where the business needs them
    • Edge locations added without requiring an increase in skills and resources 
  • Locations monitored and controlled remotely 
    • Edge managed and monitored using tools that do not require local support
    • Edge facilities monitored and managed as an holistic environment
    • Change at the Edge managed, monitored and guided remotely 
  • Edge environment and infrastructure monitored in real-time, no blind spots
    • Software applications, databases, networks, infrastructure and environment monitored in-line with Edge service delivery 
    • Physical access and local activity monitored 
    • Software, database, hardware and environment monitoring unified to show overall Edge status 

High Performance

  • High performing data communication to/from the highly distributed Edge environment 
    • Edge software, environment and infrastructure performance monitored to support the end-to-end IT service delivery metrics 
    • Environmental conditions at the Edge aligned with the impact on IT services 
    • Edge performance evaluated against SLA’s and cross Edge facility comparisons
  • Edge equipment fully supported without requiring customization
    • Service performance efficiencies delivered through the elimination of custom work  
    • Personnel performance increased through the elimination of manual activity and the unification of monitored data 
    • Environment performance delivered by unifying disparate conditions and automatically evaluating the impact on the IT services delivered at the Edge 
  • High availability, no single point of failure 
    • Edge environment has high-availability and failover built in to mitigate the risk of failure
    • Edge status information delivered even when outages to the infrastructure and environment occur 
    • Monitoring tools do not stop working when the Edge experiences network or power degradation

Remote Control

  • Remote control and monitoring of IT assets and environmental systems
    • Infrastructure, software and environmental systems controlled and monitored without requiring local personnel
    • Edge infrastructure and environmental systems that do not have remote monitoring capabilities are monitored with solutions that can integrate with them
    • Conditions requiring a human presence at the Edge facility are enabled through monitoring and supported with remote guidance
  • Environmental conditions monitored with alerts created when exceptions are detected
    • Conditions are consolidated to provide an overall environmental Edge state
    • Environmental conditions are correlated to provide cause and impact data 
    • Environmental monitoring is integrated with service management solutions
  • Asset movement and access to facility monitored and tracked
    • Assets are tracked in in real-time to their physical (actual) location
    • Network outages and power disruption should not prevent assets from being tracked 
    • Environmental conditions are associated with the impacted assets 

Secure

  • Connectivity to and within Edge secured in-line with industry and corporate policy 
    • Edge environment managed against change management policy and controls 
    • Physical changes at the Edge accomplished under remote supervision to reduce risk 
    • Change activity recorded and logged 
  • Edge management tools provide and enforce access permissions for different roles 
    • Edge tools must have roles-based access 
    • Edge monitoring dashboards customized around roles 
    • Monitoring and reporting data delivered with access controls and granular permissions
  • Real-world view of physical access and subsequent activity at all Edge locations
    • Controlled and monitored access to Edge locations 
    • Recorded video of Edge facility activity 
    • Alerts created when movement is detected

End User / Consumer Focused

  • Consumer experience captured and used to measure Edge success
    • Constant feedback on application availability, performance and response times
    • Issues managed in-line with SLA’s with feedback on responsiveness and impact 
    • Tools ensure business activity is factored into real-time Edge status monitoring
  • Edge managed and supported in-line with the business service levels
    • Performance and availability managed in-line with service levels
    • Environment and infrastructure relationships mapped to manage environmental impact on business assets  
    • Support priorities dynamically adjust inline with business activity
  • Continual location comparisons enable efficiency and performance change and identify and eliminate issues and weaknesses
    • Enterprise Edge performance evaluated to assess high and low performing locations  
    • Edge infrastructure and environmental system comparisons assessed to identify high and low performing vendor equipment  
    • Location capacity and consumption monitored to identify areas of improvement and optimization 

Heterogeneous

  • Edge managed consistently irrespective of technology type or vendor
    • Holistic Enterprise Edge infrastructure and environmental conditions monitored   
    • Information normalized from multiple sources 
    • Edge state known with issues addressed using a single source of truth 
  • Out-of-the-box management support for all Edge systems
    • Edge systems managed and monitored without customization 
    • Out of the box support for all new and updated Edge equipment 
    • No migration impact when changing Edge systems 
  • Elimination/abstraction of proprietary hardware monitoring 
    • Single source of truth across all infrastructure and environmental systems
    • Monitoring data normalized and reported  
    • Elimination of multiple displays and dashboards  

High Scale

  • Management scales to hundreds or thousands of different size locations
    • Edge environment scale managed without impact or an increase in complexity 
    • Edge environment scale managed without service degradation 
    • Maps and dashboards allow scale to be accomplished without impacting visualization and an ease of understanding 
  • Locations added and removed without impacting business 
    • Change accomplished without an impact on IT services
    • Management abstraction allows freedom of choice for Edge systems
    • New Edge systems and locations added with low cost, low impact and no additional skills 
  • Performance delivered consistently across all locations 
    • Performance of Edge monitoring unaffected by growth within Edge locations 
    • Performance of Edge monitoring unaffected by growth of Edge locations 
    • Monitoring performance not impacted by Edge systems diversity 

Edge Computing products are designed to meet the requirements of the Edge with functionality that meets common Edge attributes.

Common Edge AttributesEdge Solution Requirement 
Lights Out 
Locations function without local human resources. Locations monitored and controlled remotely. 
Edge environment and infrastructure monitored in real-time, no blind spots.
Single, trusted view of all remote Edge locations. Edge monitoring delivered even if the network is having issues. Remote control of servers, networks and the physical infrastructure.
Automation used where possible to remove, local, manual activity.
The ability to provide remote guided maintenance and support to personnel visiting the Edge facility.
Live video of the Edge facility triggered upon activity being detected.  
High Performance
High performing data communication to/from the highly distributed.
Edge environment fully supported without requiring customization.
High availability, no single point of failure.
Solution architecture developed to collect, process and log massive amounts of data, at scale, without a performance impact across entire Edge infrastructure. Continuous processing of all asset location data providing immediate awareness and tracking of movement activity. Continuous processing of all key environmental conditions providing immediate awareness of the impact and root-cause of issuesIntegration with service management solutions ensuring support service levels are met.
Remote Control
Remote control and monitoring of IT assets and environmental systems.
Environmental conditions monitored with alerts created when exceptions are detected.
Edge asset movement tracked.
Access to facility monitored and tracked.
Products monitor infrastructure health, motion detection, asset movement, facility access and environment change.
Control to all Edge and data center locations
Low/no touch technology delivering a holistic view of the Edge infrastructure environment and computer equipment even when there’s an impact on the remote locations power and network. 
Secure
Connectivity to and within each Edge location secured in-line with industry and corporate policy.
Role based management tools permissions.
Real-world view of physical access and subsequent activity at all Edge locations.
A single, trusted source, to monitor access at Edge locations, recording activities and providing video and alerts when racks are opened and/or assets are moved. Scheduled maintenance activity monitored and guided remotely. Real-time monitoring of systems, networks and databases. Holistic view of all security issues and automated checks on other locations to check for similar issues or patterns.
End User / Consumer Focused
Consumer experience captured and used to measure Edge success. Edge managed and supported in-line with the business service levels. Continual location comparisons enable efficiency and performance change and identify and eliminate issues and weaknesses
Infrastructure and environmental tracked to show variations from normal conditions high-lighting potential business impacting issues.
Edge locations monitored holistically with data that allow comparisons to be made between poor and well performing locations.  
Infrastructure, applications and environmental issue impacts managed in line with business severity.  Environmental conditions mapped directly with the business assets effected allowing business impact to be assessed and remediated in-line with SLA’s.
Heterogeneous
Edge managed consistently irrespective of technology type or vendor.
Out-of-the-box management support for all Edge systems.
Monitoring of all types of software, database
and hardware. 
Provides an abstraction layer, monitoring, collecting and processing environmental power and cooling data, irrespective of what equipment is used.
Zero-impact, zero-cost monitoring when new environmental equipment is introduced.   
Eliminates the silos that are created when monitoring equipment by type or vendor.
All Edge facility assets tracked agnostically, no customization, no network.   
Integration with all leading Systems, Network, Service Mgmt. and DCIM products providing a comprehensive view of the Edge ensuring SLA’s are met within each function.
High Scale
Management scales to hundreds or thousands of different size locations. Locations added and removed without impacting business. 
Performance delivered consistently across all locations.
Edge environment monitored and viewed holistically and at massive scale without disruption or delay.
Solution architecture developed to manage highly diverse, highly dispersed, environments.
No single point of failure, high-availability required as part of Edge management tool architecture
 

The Edge Common Attributes are table-stakes. A product that does not exhibit the Edge Common Attributes is not an Edge product. Part 2 describes the attributes that can differentiate Edge management products. 

Enterprise Edge Computing Model – Introduction

This is to introduce the Enterprise Edge Computing Model. The goal is to provide a foundational understanding of Enterprise Edge computing requirements, objective values, product relevance and positioning. The model serves to help enterprise organizations evaluate, assess and plan an Edge progression path.

Introduction

Edge computing changes how IT services are delivered, and this has changed how products are chosen, delivered and used. Enterprise Edge computing demands management products are evaluated on more than features and functions.

The impact of Edge computing is transformational. It requires IT organizations to evaluate how they are organized, the changes in process, the relevance of existing technology and most importantly, the ability to deliver business value.  The immediate challenge for Edge computing is it is diverse, confusing and undefined. Describing it in high-level abstract or generic terms is worthless as it provides little clarity and promotes vendor ‘edge washing’ where all products can be creatively positioned to address Edge.

The enterprise Edge computing model has been made possible through discussion and input with enterprise companies, analysts and industry experts.

The focus for the Enterprise Edge Computing Model is enterprise organizations that have multiple IT remote locations. The remote locations can be referred to as ‘Lights Out’ Edge datacenter consisting of a small equipment rack in multiple remote locations or multiple large distributed data centers. For many enterprises, Edge computing environments are diverse, non-standard, requiring new organizational models, sophisticated software application architectures and a high level of abstraction to visualize, deliver low touch control and the ability to scale and manage a heterogenous, mix of equipment. 

The three Enterprise Edge Computing Model posts deliver the following content:

  1. Enterprise Computing Edge Model – Common Attributes
  2. Enterprise Computing Edge Model – Product Values
  3. Enterprise Computing Edge Model – Edge Transformation

Enterprise Edge Computing Challenges and Opportunity

 Each Enterprise Edge computing use-case type (Different Flavors of Edge Computing) presents different challenges and opportunities. As mission critical applications and data are spread to the Edge it introduces scale and performance challenges requiring Edge solutions to function efficiently and reliably no matter how many Edge instances a client introduces. Each Edge computing use-case has its own unique challenges and opportunities, but the following are, to varying degrees, common to each Edge computing type. 

Scale

  • Challenges: The number and distribution of Edge computing locations makes administration, monitoring, data management, security, status understanding and visualization of the Edge a challenge both technically and organizationally.  
  • Opportunity: New intelligent software architectures are needed that holistically manage highly distributed heterogeneous environments, accomplished by collecting, unifying and processing data from a wide range of sources. This management abstracted layer delivers simplified ‘low touch’ monitoring and administration to eliminate the need for human interaction. 

Performance

  • Challenges: Monitoring and managing the Edge performance to/from the consumer/end-point and to/from the Edge to the cloud/data center. 
  • Opportunity: Technology providing an end-to-end view, internal to, and to/from the Edge. This includes transactional performance to the end-point, the data flow from the Edge to the Cloud / Data Center and the performance of the data repositories in all locations. 

Control

  • Challenges: Edge locations run ‘lights out’ resulting in challenges to manage physical access, control IT equipment, manage the environment (power/cooling), track equipment and assess, isolate and remediate issues especially when the network is impacted or unavailable. 
  • Opportunity: Motion detection with low/no touch technology providing a holistic view and control of the Edge infrastructure environment and computer equipment that can function, at acceptable levels, even when there’s an impact on the power and network.

Security

  • Challenges: Aspects of control (access), and all areas of access, threat and data security.
  • Opportunity:  Security solutions providing a unified view of physical, network, access and data, with automated responses or a security service that provides ‘total’ security without needing the client’s involvement. 

Organization

  • Challenges: Managing Edge, the same way as a traditional data center with different teams responsible for ‘slices’ of the infrastructure creates significant inefficiencies in respect to support, costs, skills, resources and business availability. 
  • Opportunity: Technology that views the Edge holistically, consolidates and unifies data from multiple sources, turning data into information that is relevant to multiple roles. Providing mechanisms for collaboration and information sharing ensuring everyone responsible for the Edge is aware of Edge state. Advanced correlation, AI and analytics used to make information actionable and support automated activities.  

Heterogeneity 

  • Challenges: Infrastructure diversity (different IT and environment equipment) creates fragmented visualization, control and management resulting in high costs (including: skills, resources, resolution time) and the creation of Edge equipment ‘silo’s’.  Complexity will increase exponentially with every custom Edge location added. 
  • Opportunity: Technology is required that views, manages, monitors and processes data from multiple Edge sources providing holistic Edge management without creating equipment or domain silos. Accomplished with products that manage ‘above’ the individual Edge components, integrating, abstracting, processing data, irrespective of what equipment is used. This allows enterprises to choose equipment from multiple vendors without impeding the business or Edge efficiency. The technology allows enterprises to change without impact, evaluate and compare different vendors equipment, have the information to negotiate price and support and avoid vendor ‘lock-in’. 

The Different Flavors of Edge Computing

Edge computing is slippery and undefined. The only statement that can be applied to all things Edge is it’s an environment designed to move data processing nearer business operations and the consumer.

The challenge with Edge is it has many variations, with professionals focused on Enterprise computing regarding it as an evolution of the distributed ‘lights out’ data center concept.

No matter how intelligent the end-point all Edge approaches share the same architecture. Core data center(s) with satellite locations that store and process data and interact with end-points. The number of Edge layers varies however, there is no standard Edge definition. There is no standard Edge environment. Edge is defined by each business and enabled by application architecture. 

Edge consists of network gateways, data centers and all things IoT. The purpose of the Edge is to deliver distributed application services, provide intelligence to the end-point, accelerate performance from the ‘core’ or collect and forward data from the Edge end-point sensors and controllers. 

Edge footprint can be the size of sensors and controllers, a small number of network/server racks, a container full of equipment or a large air-conditioned data center.  

Edge common attributes include equipment diversity, distributed remote locations, and ‘lights-out’ with no local support.

Edge Delivers

  • Data-stream acceleration, including real-time data processing without latency. 
  • Smart applications and devices to respond to data almost instantaneously, as its being created, eliminating lag time. 
  • Efficient data processing of large amounts of data processed near the source.
  • Reduced internet bandwidth usage eliminating costs, ensuring applications can be used effectively in remote locations.
  • Data processing without placing it into a public cloud adding a layer of data security
  • Better customer experience

So, What is Edge Computing? 

  • The Edge is a place, it’s where things are, and it’s not the data center or the cloud
  • The Edge will house the IT products that are in data centers and clouds
  • The Edge is not a hardware stack, it is defined by how software is architected and used to deliver business value 
  • Edge computing implementation varies wildly, defined by a broad range of use cases spanning industries and companies within industries
  • Companies will find Edge a major advantage and a major challenge as it changes how IT is delivered and managed
  • Edge didn’t just happen – for many large enterprises distributed IT was already being delivered however, it’s growing and becoming more business critical, demanding increased attention, investment and focus

Edge Computing Market Definition

The absence of an agreed and accepted Edge computing definition demanded we create our own. This has resulted in the Edge computing market being split into three different types of use-case:

  1. Enterprise Edge Computing. Remote ‘Lights Out’ Edge Data Centers.  Industrial Edge (control systems, self-contained environments). This use-case is sometimes referred to as Operational Technology (OT) but this narrative is narrow and just focuses on the unification of Data Center Information Management (DCIM) and systems monitoring.  The Remote ‘Lights Out’ Edge Data Centers use-case is a broad market where most enterprises reside. It is the closest relation to current data center and cloud environments. It can be a small equipment rack in multiple remote locations or multiple large data centers. It is the most diverse, non-standard Edge environment, requiring new organizational models, sophisticated software application architectures and a high level of abstraction to visualize, deliver low touch control and the ability to scale and manage a heterogenous, mix of equipment. 
  2. Container IT Edges. (Self-contain – cell tower, reselling something they failed at a decade ago ‘data center in a box’ – micro-data centers). This is left to the customer’s imagination, but it is where converged systems live. This Edge ‘in a box’ approach consists of a solution stack comprising of one or more of the following; servers, OS, storage, network and optimized power and cooling to support all the equipment in the contained environment. The containers are highly standardized however, customization is available to suit specific Edge requirements with options for additional components. This Edge option will continue to grow as it provides cost effective, scalability and the ability to place an Edge near the consumer no matter where they are.
  3. Internet of Things (IoT), where highly available processors enable real-time analytics for applications that can’t wait too many milliseconds to render decisions. IoT end-points continue to get smarter with greater ability to work independently and make decisions without regular communication with a core platform. They are becoming self-aware, discovering other IoT systems and working together to provide greater value. IoT end-points exist everywhere and can scale to millions of devices. 

The Edge content in this blog site focuses on the first definition. This is Edge Computing not driven directly by IoT or 5G wireless networks. It’s an Edge that for many enterprises has existed for years providing data and communications at remote locations and managed either using local staff or by the IT NOC team. However, the business importance of the remote locations continues to grow as more data and data processing moves to the remote locations that were once managed ‘good enough’. For these enterprises, especially the ones who had spent years optimizing the IT support organization and moved to cloud, the Edge challenge is going to get serious.