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Edge computing: When to outsource, when to DIY

The edge is being sold to enterprise customers from just about every part of the technology industry, and there’s not always a bright dividing line between “public” options – edge computing sold as a service, with a vendor handling operational data directly – and “private” ones, where a company implements an edge architecture by itself.

There are advantages and challenges to either option, and which is the right edge-computing choice for any particular organization depends on their individual needs, budgets and staffing, among other factors. Here are some considerations.

Challenges of in-house edge computing

The IT-centric approach to edge keeps ownership of edge devices in-house and is likely to appeal to businesses with either strict legal requirements about where their data can be at any given time – a healthcare provider would be a good example – or a low level of institutional comfort for putting that data in the hands of third parties, like utility and manufacturing companies.

Handling things in-house can be challenging, however. For one thing, according to Christian Renaud, IoT practice director for 451 Research, the fact of the matter is that many IT shops lack the requisite expertise to handle an edge deployment on their own.

“We run into a few use cases where the internal IT team can’t handle the edge infrastructure, so handing it off to a vendor makes a lot of sense,” he said. “The challenge is that, with production systems, that’s a whole different ballgame [than IT], so there’s a pretty strict set of requirements in terms of what the OT vendors will let run on other people’s networks.”

The lack of common standards in edge compute limits customers’ ability to build their edge infrastructure using multiple vendors. An organization might not be able to use one vendor’s sensors without also buying its edge compute modules or networking gear, since they’re all part of the same offering.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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