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Why Covid-19 has accelerated the need for Edge Computing

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/ Supphachai Salaeman)

Plans are starting to be drawn up for businesses around the UK to make a return to the office, but in the meantime CEOs and business leaders need to decide what the future of work and business continuity should look like going forward.

Companies are quickly finding that investing in technology is the key to ensuring employees are able to stay connected as well as maintain access to the content, documents and data they need to do their jobs. But as the ‘remote revolution’ continues to surge, consumers and companies alike are looking for new ways to help provide for their needs during isolation. However, one silver lining of this lockdown is that it may have a positive long-lasting effect on the way businesses conduct themselves in the future.

The Covid-19 outbreak has been the ultimate litmus test for remote working technologies, accelerating uptake of many technologies that can better enable remote working, and highlighting the need for Edge computing.

What is edge computing?

Edge computing involves bridging the gap between server and user. Gartner defines edge computing as part of a distributed computing topology, whereby information processing is located close to the ‘edge’- where things and people produce or consume this information. This means computation and data storage are brought close to the devices where it’s being gathered.

The end result of this is that businesses are gifted with no latency issues, and more crucially in these difficult times where stringency is needed, businesses can save money by processing their data locally as opposed to using a central or cloud-based location. For many businesses, the cost savings are a significant factor in driving the deployment of edge computing architecture, given that the costs in bandwidth otherwise can be considerably higher.

Is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) the future?

Businesses trying to stay ahead of the curve with innovative technology to improve remote working are deploying Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Used for the hosting of desktop environments on a central server, most of the processing in VDI is server-based, which means expensive hardware isn’t needed. VDI access can be made from anywhere using any device; personal PCs can be used to connect, saving IT budgets on upgrading physical assets and technology. This provides a remote desktop experience, reducing the amount of bandwidth consumption across the network and allowing applications to run within the secure limits of the business network, which also provides a more responsive experience for the end-user.

The necessity for in-office working is quickly becoming obsolete as companies worldwide invest in setting up VDI ‘farms’ for their workers that allow full access to company servers as well as maintain connectivity.

From a security perspective, it creates a break where users log in to the edge, protecting the organisation and ensuring updates are consistently deployed to all end users.

Turning to a cascade of centralised, distributed and edge for greater agility

As the schedule for the easing of lockdown measures remains up in the air, businesses are turning to a more sustainable remote working method. Thankfully VDI gives businesses much-needed flexibility in being able to hyperscale as demand flexes, create non-production environments and the ability to instantly test, since most VDIs are hosted in the cloud. As such, businesses can minimise spend on new devices since device management is in the hands of the workers, and companies don’t manage physical assets.

Businesses can open themselves up to a huge influx of edge related capabilities. This flexibility allows for an increase in productivity that is especially key during the pandemic, unified by a network interconnection platform.

This technological approach brings businesses towards a consistent edge that is accessible via the internet. Consequently, no matter whether your business consists of multiple people in a central office location, or a few individuals geographically distant - or somewhere in the middle - all that will be required is an internet connection to make the short journey to the VDI farm.

The finite nature of the internet

The movement of people out of offices and into their homes for work has driven employees to rely greatly on VPN technology to access their work servers. Businesses are quickly coming to find that this technology was never designed to handle this much traffic. 

On average, a company's VPN access can withhold around 10-15 per cent of its employees accessing at one time. However, we’re witnessing massive spikes in internet usage both internally on company servers, as well as with companies such as Virgin Media struggling to cope with the raised level of traffic on a day to day basis. It is evident, therefore, that the internet is a finite resource and is being saturated.

Reducing the reliance on the internet to connect a company’s infrastructure is crucial if businesses want to maintain smooth operations, and that should start and end with growing an edge-centric platform for the company.

Where businesses go from here

A growing number of businesses are now looking towards a BYOD (Bring your own Device) policy that helps lessen the need for spending on hardware devices company-wide. This enables workers to use their personal devices from home, and that - combined with Edge computing and VDI - makes for a less expensive, and more flexible working operation.

More importantly, culture has changed - and this shift has been further catalysed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic sending most of the UK workforce home.

It is clear that the future of work has changed, which will mean businesses must implement up-to-date edge computing. IT leaders will over time learn to adapt their strategies to deliver optimum results in an environment in which edge computing is most effective and as such, early adopters will reap the most success.

With businesses implementing an Edge Network Interconnected Platform (ENIP), they’re then able to construct their edge from the inside out, and therefore better able to customise the needs of their system as and when they see fit, and thereby to react with increased agility to changing business needs, without compromising their own security.

Justin Day, CEO and Co-founder, Cloud Gateway