Networking, collaboration and edge computing are concepts associated with campuses, branches, warehouses, manufacturing plants and other operational locations. The services the relevant network provides are critical to implementing innovative solutions and concepts such as edge computing and IoT.

Therefore, I view managed networking and managed edge services as being closely related. For that reason, we include edge computing, IoT and private 5G in our definition of edge as a service. Edge as a service is specifically focused on providing organizations with the services required to collect data from the point of origin and land it at the point of consumption.

The rate and level of edge as a service adoption are driven by each client’s reality. Innovative services give clients the ability to increase profitability, decrease costs, reduce risks and enhance regulatory compliance, among other things.

Edge unlocks the real-time gemba

“Gemba” is a Japanese word that means the place where action is taking place, often used to refer to areas where true value creation is happening. Examples include manufacturing lines, shop floors, warehouses and even trucks in the context of transportation and logistics operations.

The key concept of edge as a service is to extend the digital ability that organizations use to manage their corporate space beyond the carpeted space to various other spaces – whether it’s paved, tarred, grassland or even harsh land spaces. Extending their digital capabilities enables decision-makers to make real-time decisions based on gemba data. But the true value lies in the consistency of the gemba data, and it is for this reason that we include proven managed-service processes and platforms to maximize the value that clients can extract continuously.

Let’s take manufacturing as an example. A key challenge in this industry is the difference between planned production and actual production. The time it takes to identify and address causes of under- or overproduction of a quality product can typically have a significant impact on the profitability of a production line.

Gemba visibility is crucial to address this. Investing in edge-as-a-service managed services is essential to provide real-time insight to skilled individuals, enabling them to increase the production line’s short interval control capability. Additional use cases include enhancing sustainability, cost management, waste management and safety.

Digitalization and automation are journeys

For NTT DATA, edge as a service includes a plethora of capabilities that we’ve brought together to allow clients to take a pragmatic approach to how they digitalize and automate. It is important to recognize that technology is not the only thing to consider when it comes to digitalization and automation. There are several other factors to consider, such as socioeconomic impact, change management and regulatory requirements.

Organizations should engage with a partner to plan their digitalization journey as far as possible and execute it together.

Digitalization and automation should be approached as a single journey and not as separate projects. The most successful engagements are with clients who have a hypothesis that can be tested with edge as a service. We help these clients compile a list of tasks that need to be completed to prove their hypothesis. Using an iterative approach, we take the learnings we gain along our shared journey and we jointly adjust or pivot.

A great example of the value of the agile journey approach over that of a fixed project approach was revealed during COVID-19. The agile approach allowed us to pivot with our clients to remain aligned with different priorities and business challenges. It is also important to look at the investment being made through the lens of value-aligned investment rather than the total cost of ownership.

Edge as a service is a new way of doing things

In my experience, operational teams often spend a lot of time performing tasks that do not directly contribute to their key performance indicators (KPIs). Some of these tasks include collecting data to support root-cause analysis after something has gone wrong, or capturing information on paper only to spend more time capturing the same information on a system at a later stage.

Edge as a service provides real-time visibility to decision-makers and subject-matter experts, so operational teams can focus on their core tasks. When issues arise, resolving them doesn’t consume additional time and effort. Subject-matter experts and decision-makers have access to concise information, with clear provenance, allowing them to identify the cause – be it technology, process or human error.

Simplifying network support processes with digitalization and automation

When you add more devices in distributed locations, you add complexity, and by digitalizing you inevitably increase the estate to be managed. You need a robust approach to ensure your network continues to deliver the quality and consistent service required to satisfy all business requirements.

NTT DATA’s Sentient Platform for Network Transformation (SPEKTRA) is the next generation of our global services platform for our Managed Networks solutions. SPEKTRA simplifies managing the environment by leveraging AIOps, predictive analytics and automation techniques.

We monitor not only our clients’ networks but also the services running on top of the networks and how applications experience the network, giving clients much-needed observability into how well their services and applications perform. We work across the stack, from what the client sees outside the environment to what’s inside the environment. Automated network management and operations offer scalability.

SPEKTRA’s capabilities enable faster issue detection and resolution than manual monitoring, providing engineers with a tool that streamlines this process.

SPEKTRA simplifies managing the environment by leveraging AIOps, predictive analytics and automation techniques

For example, in the IT/OT environment, predictive analysis and analytics as well as vulnerability detection can prevent or at least minimize network outages, which directly affect production and the distribution of goods.

Network availability becomes more and more critical as digitalization increases. Let me use a hypothetical example of the impact a network outage can have on a beverage manufacturer’s business if it occurs during a peak period such as the summer holidays.

Maintaining the production flow is important to the manufacturer to control the cost of production while maximizing their ability to take advantage of the increased sales opportunity. Let’s say the network in the warehouse fails, forcing the pickers to revert to a manual, paper-based process. This will reduce the manufacturer’s ability to get products picked and dispatched in good time, causing delivery delays and possibly a slowdown in production due to warehouse space constraints.

The stores that sell beverages, on the other hand, still face increased consumer demand. They will offer consumers competing products so they don’t miss out on the increased demand, opening the door for competitors to take advantage.

Generating value within a connected branch environment

Edge as a service is not only relevant in the manufacturing environment. It is just as relevant in branches and chain stores. There is a multiplier effect in these environments that can convert a small positive business outcome at one site into a massive business outcome.

One such example can be found when using gemba data to increase distribution channel and stockholding efficiency.

Real-time visibility of distribution flows eliminates the need for distributed stock storage and optimization. This, in turn, lowers the cost of maintaining stock. Additionally, real-time visibility of stock helps optimize logistics and enables branches to transport stock from one branch to another.

So, if there’s low stock at one branch and higher stock in another, and you consider your rate of sale, you can use the route that trucks take between branches to redistribute the stock between branches. This increase in transportation and stockholding efficiency can enhance cash flow.

Considerations when journeying to edge as a service

When we look at edge as a service, it often includes some OT and IT convergence. As real-time data becomes increasingly important to businesses, we see the requirement for OT and IT to work together much closer than before, adding a layer of complexity.

Working closer together involves infrastructure, connectivity, security, people and operational processes. Organizations should be aware of this increasing complexity.

Additionally, when we talk about automation, we encounter use cases that challenge “traditional” connectivity and device selection.

One such example is collaborative robots or “cobots”. They are used in scenarios where robots can help humans be more productive while optimizing the human worker’s health and safety. In these scenarios, it is important to ensure that the cobots are always connected and can react in microseconds to avoid collisions with humans – and other autonomous objects.

New use cases emerge as the technology is used

As clients use edge as a service, more use cases emerge, leading to the need for flexibility to prioritize data flow and control the destination of specific data streams.

The network and its management must be able to handle multiple data flows traversing shared infrastructure while prioritizing specific data to the application layer over other data. A practical example of this can be found in the healthcare sector: a nurse calling from a mobile device must be prioritized over the media streaming traffic traversing the same network.

It should also be mentioned that the IoT approach, which we include in our edge-as-a-service definition, should be designed based on loosely coupled modular architecture principles wrapped with integrated managed services. This approach maximizes the sustainability of the developed capabilities.

Why choose NTT DATA

Our platform-based approach allows us to maintain a common foundation across multiple clients and industries. While differentiation is essential, it shouldn’t lead to excessive customization, as that can affect sustainability and maintainability.

Collaborate with us on this journey. We bring a large collection of edge-as-a-service capabilities underpinned by SPEKTRA, our platform for sustainable network management digitalization and automation.

We’d appreciate the opportunity to engage with you to get insight into your specific challenges and hypotheses. Let’s work together and leverage our assets, technical expertise and services to realize the next chapter in your journey.


Read more about NTT DATA’s Edge as a Service to see how we can help you deliver new business outcomes.