Digital transformation opportunities are continuing to evolve, according to global leader in IT infrastructure, power and cooling, APC by Schneider Electric. Faster, more reliable systems, and resilient edge computing deployments are going to be needed.
Edge computing is the most important emerging trend in hybrid IT architecture for 2019/20, with strong demand across segments in particular from clients in education, retail, healthcare, telco, commercial buildings and government, according to APC by Schneider Electric.
The company is highly qualified to spot IT infrastructure trends: APC has been around since 1981, the same year the first PC was released to market. Three electronic power engineers from MIT started the company in a garage, and it has grown into a global market leader providing physical IT, power, and cooling infrastructure globally ever since.
Schneider Electric Pacific Zone Vice President for Secure Power, Joe Craparotta, says while many organisations have now experienced some of the benefits of cloud migration, achieving the next level of benefit from digital transformation requires higher system performance and reliability than cloud alone can provide – and this is where edge computing can deliver.
Edge computing is the architecture bringing elements of compute, storage and manageability for critical applications as close as required to the point of processing to support the ever changing digital landscape.
The new generation of applications are demanding reduced network latency and the ability to rapidly process very large volumes of data. Emerging 5G technology will also depend on very low latency underlying fixed line infrastructure to match its wireless speed.
It’s important to note that Edge Computing is not related to the headaches of the early 2000s where ‘shadow IT’ created by end users proliferated around company environments, ultimately becoming a headache for IT to have to bring back under control. Instead, edge computing provides a model for ‘micro datacentres’ to be dotted throughout your organisation, with repeatable deployability and manageability, as part of a coherent hybrid cloud strategy.
To support application capability growth and maintain an increasingly critical edge over competitors, businesses must build resiliency through a collaborative Hybrid IT ecosystem, with a proper balance of cloud and edge.
According to Craparotta, edge computing enables three key areas:
1. High system availability:Systems located close to the user will continue to operate regardless of whether a WAN or internet connection is performing well. APC’s high density MicroDC systems allow edge computing deployments to keep running smoothly even when there are brief or extended power interruptions.
2. Fast local processing:Increasingly, building sensors and IoT devices are generating mountains of data. Much of the heavy duty processing can be offloaded to cloud data centers, but where insights are needed rapidly to allow building systems to respond to local situations – security via facial recognition for example – edge computing allows time sensitive data to be processed without WAN latency.
3. Cost efficient use of space:Rebuilding on-premises data centres in premium real estate that is not Edge-ready can sometimes be a costly exercise. This is especially the case where there are intensive cooling requirements for the high density compute environment in the data centre. However, many organisations have spare cupboards or floor space throughout their buildings where edge computing ‘micro data centres’ can more easily be deployed. APC’s proprietary technologies allow a similar level of repeat deployability and manageability as in datacentres.
The industry agrees
The cost of unplanned downtime
$5,600 per minute
The cost of unplanned IT outages according to Gartner
The cost in passenger reimbursements British Airways paid after a power system in a data centre failed, causing all flights out of London Heathrow and Gatwick airports to be cancelled and 75,000 passengers disrupted
Average cost of a single incident of downtime in a surface mine
Average cost to repair reputational brand damage for a large enterprise
Industry analyst Gartner’s forecast supports APC’s observations, showing edge computing as among the top 10 most important strategic technology trends that CIOs should consider when developing their IT roadmap.
Networking heavyweight, Cisco, has developed a vision for edge computing it calls ‘fog computing’. This describes a methodology of deploying compute resources on-LAN, including the mesh of Internet of Things (IoT) devices proliferating across buildings and campuses.
Cisco’s vision sees the data that is constantly collected by these devices being rapidly analysed locally. The results are then transmitted to other systems at wire speed and heavier-weight trend analysis offloaded to the cloud.
The world’s largest cloud providers, Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS), have bought into this vision, releasing on-premises and edge-ready platforms in Microsoft Azure Stack and Amazon Outpost, both recognising the need to support businesses both in the cloud and at the Edge.
What’s driving the demand?
|Latency||< 7 ms latency is needed for high performance applications|
|Interactivity||IoT systems collaborating with each other, staff collaborating with each other and a need for very responsive local systems|
|Autonomy||Company tools and processes that can self-organise, auto-discover, react and make decisions autonomously|
|Data bandwidth||Massive data collection and processing simply isn’t feasible to be constantly transferring to and from cloud|
|Privacy/security||The need to keep personal, sensitive data on-premises to mitigate security risk, and comply with regulations.|
Source: adapted from Gartner (The Future Shape of Edge Computing: Five Imperatives, June 2018)
Data-driven decision making with AI predictive logic is becoming a priority for most businesses, as are smart spaces in buildings that recognise who is in them and configure themselves accordingly for much better occupancy efficiency and staff satisfaction. Immersive augmented/virtual/mixed reality experiences are also in the mix with demanding infrastructure requirements.
A common theme between these trends is large amounts of data being generated locally and a need for very fast system performance. For fog computing, especially where arrays of sensors are supporting VR/AR/MR, applications benefit from network transmission delay (latency) of less than 1ms. That’s a practical impossibility with cloud-only architecture which necessarily has to traverse longer WAN links, out to the internet and back.
The challenge for CIOs
Edge computing offers distinct benefits – super low latency between the system and the user, absolute control of the environment, and uptime protection against internet outages.
However, it also presents a new set of challenges for IT. The high uptime businesses have become accustomed to in tier 4 datacentres – 99.995 per cent availability – equates to just 26 minutes of downtime per year. But edge computing deployments are unlikely to be anywhere near that without careful planning. Even a single percentage point drop equates to 3.65 days of downtime per year – a serious risk to continuity of systems.
Edge Computing deployments need to be remotely manageable, both logically and physically secure, rapidly and repeatedly deployable and, most of all, reliable, according to Vishal Nayak, Schneider Electric National Sales Manager, Secure Power.
“Businesses need to able to access all the distributed IT sites and make measurable business decisions for any demands during peak and off peak times,” Nayak explains.
“At the same time, the immense growth of Internet of Things (IoT) deployment has seen exponentially increasing data volumes. Edge Computing plays a key role in rapidly processing and analysing data.
“It’s important not to forget the most basic underlying requirement – a stable power source, and the right solution to avoid any electrical overload.”
When choosing a power and automation vendor to support an edge computing deployment, it’s important to select one with a deep understanding of IT requirements, and that isn’t just another UPS vendor.
APC by Schneider Electric was borne out of IT and provides a powerful set of capabilities to CIOs and their IT organisation with a single pane of glass view of all systems and unparalleled integration with automation tools.
Bringing reliability to immersive education
It’s not just the corporate world that’s taking advantage of the benefits of edge computing. The university lecture theatre of past decades is rapidly becoming obsolete. Educational institutions are embracing the challenge of delivering education in a more engaging, immersive way, anytime, anywhere.
With greater complexity and mobility the new normal, comes an imperative to deliver reliably. “Complex educational technology can provide educational outcomes that far exceed ‘old school’ teaching, but also carry the risk of disenchanting students altogether if the systems fail.”
“Lecture theatres encapsulate a reliable experience and if they can be evolved to incorporate Virtual and Augmented Reality experiences, universities can enhance their students experience without compromising reliability, security or privacy.” says Joseph Vijay, APC General Manager, Channel Alliances & Operations.
“Education has a key advantage other segments don’t always have: campus space. Locating systems on site can make great economic sense given availability of space. That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s space available for a whole new datacentre, but there are plenty of nooks and crannies to accommodate a locked cabinet of equipment – perfect for an edge computing ‘micro datacenter’ deployment,” Vijay explains.
Success Story: Murdoch University
Murdoch University’s School of Engineering and IT wanted to deliver an immersive learning experience for students, available 24 hours a day, providing a learning environment that would emulate best-in-class production IT infrastructure. This capability would allow the school to stand out amongst other institutions in Western Australia.
Digital transformation of healthcare
Healthcare is not an industry that embraces “disruption” as much as other industries. The slower pace of digital transformation in health is for good reason – uninterrupted, people-focused patient care is the priority. There is no room for mistakes, necessitating a cautious approach to change.
But this doesn’t mean health isn’t changing – and, in fact, with the looming challenge of an ageing population stressing healthcare resources, it’s becoming pressing to find more efficient ways of working.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently reported the number of people over 85 years old – by far the most expensive segment of the population from a healthcare perspective – will double in the next 25 years.
There is pressure for healthcare to catch up with other segments that are reaping the benefits of digital transformation. Having the right design for critical infrastructure has never been more important.
"The most advanced hospitals now receive patient data from helicopters while in-flight to allow the right medical staff to be at the helipad to receive the patient. Ambulances transmit vital statistics en-route for doctors to assess before a patient arrives. In situations where lost minutes can equate to a rapidly declining chance of survival, these kinds of systems clearly improve patient care," says Vishal Nayak, Schneider Electric National Sales Manager, Secure Power.
Sunshine Coast Hospital in Queensland has started using robots to dispense medications in its pharmacy, along with another type of robot to transport food, waste and laundry throughout the hospital’s kilometres of service corridors. This kind of innovative thinking allows operational expenditure previously committed to administrative and orderly tasks to be redirected to direct patient care.
It’s not just frontline health care that is increasingly relying on digital technology: imaging systems are now fully digital in most centres; doctors retrieve patient imaging all over the hospital campus and from home. Many providers are now using contract radiologists around the world to interpret scans, allowing the workload to ‘chase the sun’. While these systems have global reach, local performance is extremely important – slow system response times directly equate to lower patient care throughout.
The costs of IT outages in healthcare are staggering. A major hospital – such as Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, with more than 3000 staff – spent more than $50,000 per hour in staffing costs in FY18. When staff work more slowly than usual, as they are forced to revert to increasingly unfamiliar manual processes, patient queues increase sharply and, as more staff are brought in to cope with the backlog, budgets are likely to come under pressure.
Edge computing can enable hospitals to deliver responsive healthcare based on current information from patient sensors without relying on centralised datacentres or transit times to and from cloud resources.
"Like everything in healthcare, reliability and resilience in edge computing is absolutely vital – people’s lives literally depend on it. That’s why it is essential to choose a vendor such as APC by Schneider Electric that works closely with IT teams and has unparalleled national and international coverage and expertise to quickly respond to healthcare needs," Nayak explains.
Success Story: Boehringer Ingelheim
When one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies needed to consolidate three Australian offices into one, it consulted APC on how best to deploy a high performance edge computing environment.
Commercial buildings: next-level smart spaces
If the last decade was the revolution in energy efficiency in commercial buildings, then this decade is the era of ‘smart space’, where buildings intelligently respond according to who is in them and what they need. There is also a growing expectation and responsibility that we build ‘green buildings’ that are sustainable, efficient and reliable.
Why should building users have to touch a swipe card to open a door? The data needed to identify them is literally written all over their faces – the most advanced building security systems now perform facial recognition on people as they walk towards a door and unlock it automatically.
Why should meeting rooms remain booked if the attendees don’t show up? Motion sensors and smart room scheduling systems can clear bookings to free up meeting rooms from ‘ghost’ meetings for people who need them. And in a heavily used hotdesk environment, it needn’t be a challenge to find a desk – or a colleague – as smartphone apps that work with desk beacons can make both tasks effortless.
“However, the success of these kinds of systems depends on system responsiveness and reliability. In a world where time is becoming the critical factor, we all have a low tolerance for delay even if we are impressed with the novelty of the idea,” warns Vishal Nayak, Schneider Electric National Sales Manager, Secure Power. “If a meeting room booking or desk allocation systems don’t work flawlessly every time, the user experience will be compromised and any investment towards innovation will have been in vain.”
“The common denominator between these requirements is that responsiveness, resilience and the ability to detect a problem before it results in an incident is vital for success. Enhancing an Edge deployment with the right infrastructure solution from an IT-focused power and automation vendor like APC by Schneider Electric can make all the difference,” Nayak says.
Success Story: Tuggeranong Office Park
Tuggeranong Office Park in Canberra wanted to build an office park free of legacy building management systems. The end result? Airmaster built a new type of Building Services Network (BSN) using pure Ethernet to bring together services such as BMS, security, lighting control, energy metering and more.
The clash between digital transformation and the power economy
The power economy is rapidly rising to be as important as digital transformation itself, as power costs continue to rise across Australia. Some corporate sites have seen price rises of up to 200 per cent within 12 months.
"There are many layers that need to be considered when tackling power costs including grid power supplier contracts, renewable energy options (both remote and on-site), energy efficiency of appliances, and automation to minimise power utilisation when appropriate," says Joe Craparotta, Vice President - IT Business, Strategic Customers & Segments at Schneider Electric.
"APC’s association with its parent company, Schneider Electric, gives it insight into the power efficiency of tens of thousands of different specific device combinations, to help advise on the lowest power consumption solutions overall,” Craparotta explains.
For example, APC can help users understand the impact of allowing IT air conditioning temperatures to rise slightly, and what means for energy consumption contrasted with appliance efficiency and reliability. APC can also help clients’ IT teams select the most power efficient combination of appliances for different use cases.
"Where power grid reliability is suboptimal, APC can advise on multi-layered power continuity strategies. This is especially important given the frequency of extreme weather events, intense development in city areas, and once-in-a-generation changes to baseload power generation, which continue to challenge power stability,” Craparotta concludes.
APC by Schneider Electric: Power Born out of IT
Since its establishment in 1981 by three engineers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, APC has been IT-first. This means it understands the IT world, who the vendors are, how they interface, and what goes into infrastructure design decisions and how edge computing has an advantage.
APC by Schneider Electric is part of shaping the future of IT strategy, with a full set of infrastructure, monitoring and management tools that integrate tightly with IT.
APC software is not only able to predict the life cycle of APC’s own devices, but also of other vendors’ IT infrastructure, including servers, storage and networking appliances. This is because it gathers real-life data from clients around the world, allowing it to be analysed to accurately predict failure of different specific models of equipment in your environment.
This means APC clients can confidently use their appliances for longer and replace them just before they fail, rather than having to perform calendarised, non-targeted preventative maintenance.
All of these IT capabilities mean by partnering with APC by Schneider Electric, you can help customers make richer business and technology decisions.
Finally, APC by Schneider Electric’s channel partners are its super power – in Australia, APC by Schneider Electric has more than 4000 IT resellers, more than 1000 system integrators, and 34,000 electricians. This scale empowers clients to get support on demand from experts accredited in specific niches without delay.