The mini data centers he references are self-contained, stand-alone rack-level systems with compute, storage and network resources. MarketsandMarkets forecasts that these satellite data centers will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26% for the next few years to reach a $8.47 billion market by 2022.
Today, only about 10% of enterprise-generated IoT data is created and processed outside a traditional centralized data center or cloud in an edge location, according to Gartner press release What Edge Computing Means for Infrastructure and Operations Leaders, published in October 2018. But the researcher predicts that the figure will rise rapidly to reach 75% by 2022.
At those volumes, it will be essential to be able to preprocess and possibly filter data that’s not relevant to the application at the edge, with the help of machine learning or AI. Filtering IoT data before forwarding it on to a data center or cloud for further analytics or storage will help reduce the network cost of data transmission while also reducing the cost of processing and storing unnecessary data, noted Bozman.
The Role of the Cloud
The cloud plays an important role for IoT going forward, according to Mike Leone, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group. “It’s better to unite edge data with the cloud to derive insights that aren't real-time,” he said. For example, he said, manufacturers might use the cloud for aggregating and correlating IoT data and workflows across many facilities.
“This could help them learn which sites are more productive, to benchmark them against each other to set standards or to conduct historic data analysis,” he explained.
Bozman and Leone agree that there’s no single, golden data center architecture for all businesses. And some data must be kept within the enterprise to protect it for reasons of privacy, fiduciary requirements and governmental compliance. Still, they said, it’s a given that processing will be divided up in some way between on-premises enterprise data centers—eventually hyperconverged and virtualized—the public cloud and the edge.
Striving for Management and Security Simplicity
The splintering of the data center architecture across premises, edge and public cloud locations means IT now needs the tools to manage these scattered pockets of processing. Having the right tools will ensure that the data makes its way into work flows to aid in decision-making and automated actions.
“Ideally, managing the distributed environment looks like a simple extension of your data center,” says Rajiv Mirani, CTO of cloud platforms at Nutanix.
“You manage it exactly as you would manage things inside your data center. You express intent of what you want done in a central way, and [the system] figures out how to distribute your intentions to the edge as needed.”
Simplicity is the key, Mirani indicated, and while such management systems aren’t available today, “we’re getting there,” he said.
That’s a good thing, because there are going to be piles of data to manage. According to IDC, IoT devices will generate about 90 zettabytes of data by 2025 out of an expected total 175 zettabytes, accounting for more than half of all the world’s data in six short years.
Businesses must also consider security strategies that address the additional risks that IoT endpoints create by opening up billions of new entry points into corporate networks and infrastructures, said Mirani. Centralizing security policies is best, he said—and the simpler they are, the more secure they will be.
“It’s important to be able to create centralized policies in a cookie cutter way, so that every time a new device is introduced you don’t have to secure it separately, which would introduce potential for error and make things less secure,” he said. With a centralized, standard approach to security, network firewall rules, key management and data encryption can be applied in the same way all the way from data center to the edge, he said.
Welcome to the Datasphere
Analyst firm IDC uses the term “datasphere” to refer to a whole spectrum of locations along which data might be generated, processed and analyzed in the years to come. That’s what the traditional data center is morphing into: a distributed set of data processing locations that matches workload demands to the “best” location for processing, analytics and filtering.
Once data centers, edge devices and the public cloud can be managed and secured seamlessly to work in harmony, the benefits of IoT can reach new heights, according to Satyam Vaghani, vice president and general manager of IoT and AI at Nutanix.
“A traffic light could double as a facial recognition node to help catch criminals,” he said. “Smart cities could end traffic jams and parking problems. Smart healthcare could make high-quality care more widely available and possibly more affordable.”
Whatever the IoT application, it means big changes for today’s data centers and for the way business gets done.
“Some businesses want to use IoT to track workflows and find process efficiencies,” said Nutanix’s Goyal. “Others want to automate aspects of their business to improve safety and uptime. But everyone wants to use IoT data not only to run their business, but to make the business run better.”
Joanie Wexler is a Chicago-based independent writer and editor who has spent more than 20 years writing about IT and computer networking technologies, their business potential and implementation considerations.
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