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Edge computing is one of the most innovative aspects of modern networking. It involves using technology to process data locally, as close to the edge – an organization’s applications – as possible to reduce latency, improve and enable real-time decisions to be made at that point.

In the Internet of Things (IoT), many triggers are processed instantaneously to control a system, leading to exponential growth in the volume of data being processed. However, only the trigger data needs to be captured for transmission.

For example, when a visitor to a hospital accidentally enters a restricted area, it can trigger an automated alert to the security team. But the actual video stream from the restricted area won’t be sent to the cloud. That would be expensive and a waste of resources.

Connecting the edge

Operational technology – installed to manage industrial equipment, for example – used to be isolated from the internet and may have run for long periods without security upgrades or other updates.

The advent of artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT has changed that by connecting these “solution islands” on the edge to the cloud in real time.

This has led to the development of smarter and more efficient solutions but also created risks, introducing a need for near-real-time security and software update strategies for these edge applications.

In addition to such security measures, organizations have to protect their data to meet privacy requirements and comply with global data residency and localization regulations.

Delivering data securely to the edge of the world’s oilfields

An example of how edge computing can be used in organizations that work across multiple locations is Schlumberger, the oilfield services company that supplies the energy industry globally.

They use the cloud for their drilling-management software and partnered with NTT to deploy localized versions of that software on the edge in countries where legislation prohibits data crossing borders. They also wanted their data closer to their oil wells and operators, so it could be accessed even in remote areas lacking a stable network connection.

We provided an Azure Stack Hub solution that allows their software to operate exactly as it would in the public cloud. It delivered both the functionality of the public cloud and excellent data security, and the technology could be installed and maintained far from direct support.

The complexity of edge computing

For multinational organizations, this can be a daunting transition to make as they often manage a range of bespoke solutions involving dozens of vendors, all with different update schedules and patching policies.

Beyond data governance and security compliance, which were also central issues in the Schlumberger scenario, other complexities include:

  • A lack of skill that keeps organizations from setting up edge computing, managing it and tying it into their legacy applications and the public cloud
  • A connectivity map that may include myriad locations with a range of connection types sourced from different service providers – so when there’s a problem, the organization has to open multiple support tickets
  • Time to market, because it can take a long time for organizations to connect and optimize these systems by themselves or with the involvement of multiple providers – and time equals money

This is where NTT makes a real difference by providing full global governance and management support across an organization’s edge and cloud ecosystem, all through a single support network.

We don’t stop at supplying the hardware and creating the technical environment; we also manage the solution so our clients benefit from a full-stack, end-to-end service.

Support is also streamlined. Our clients contact one support team who then feed their requirements to the right part of our business, such as global networks or cloud. It’s a big benefit for an organization to follow a single route for troubleshooting in this highly complex environment.

In short: what we deliver to our edge computing clients

  • Streamlined security processes: We look after patching and updates, which helps mitigate the risks involved in doing those updates yourself. That's part of the managed service we offer.
  • Maintenance upgrades and break/fix support: We handle all of these.
  • Single line of support: We provide a single point of contact for all aspects of edge computing, whether it’s private 5G or the infrastructure side.

Read more about NTT’s Edge as a Service.

Doug Underwood is Senior Development Engineering Director at NTT. This article includes contributions by Luke Foster, Vice President of Product Management at NTT, and Richard Leca, Senior Product Manager at NTT.