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The Edge is the “Last Mile” for Digital Transformation 

The Edge is the “Last Mile” for Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is not new – but it’s never been more dire than it is in a post-pandemic world, where IT leaders are managing hybrid or fully remote work environments.

According to a Deloitte study, more than three quarters of respondents said that digital technologies helped them cope through the hardest periods of the pandemic and more than 60 percent said that businesses that don’t digitize in the next five years will become obsolete.

The success of digital transformation hinges upon the IT organization, which in turn is seeing its function significantly broadening. In addition to ensuring continuous operations of existing systems, there are new digital transformation demands such as new customer experiences, enhanced security and privacy and deployment of applications outside of the data center (also known as the edge). All of these challenges are formidable, but the edge is distinct in the fact that it is harder to manage applications remotely and these applications have no tolerance or interruption or downtime. So, some of an organizations most sensitive applications are deployed in places where IT has some of the hardest operational challenges. For example, to underscore how much is at stake at the Edge, ITIC’s 12th annual 2021 Hourly Cost of Downtime Survey, more than 40 percent of businesses said that an hour of unplanned downtime cost between $1 and $5 million.

For IT leaders looking to supercharge their digital transformation initiatives – and who also crave reliability and security – edge computing is the last mile. But, it also poses its challenges. For IT to drive impactful organizational change, it needs to work hand in glove with OT.

Fixing the fractured relationship between IT and OT 

If we look at edge in the context of manufacturing, there is a real opportunity to use edge technology to improve the supply chain issues that have been plaguing us since the beginning of the pandemic. However, as companies aim to redefine their businesses through digitization, IT and OT sit at the center of rolling out the strategies and executing against them. And that’s where things get a bit dicey.

These two groups have historically not been aligned: OT manages the machines and critical systems at the heart of operations, while IT ensures the security and efficiency of supporting enterprise systems. But now the two organizations sit at the epicenter of digitization, especially as it relates to automation and advanced analytics. Increasingly, their shared priority is to drive greater productivity and responsiveness across the organization in order to drive performance and resilience in the face of unpredictable change.

Despite past differences, IT and OT teams must collaborate to help companies achieve business goals, remain competitive, and be profitable. Modernizing the plant floor, or any edge environment within a company’s operations, requires IT and OT to achieve consensus and develop a coordinated plan for leveraging both cloud and edge infrastructure models. These cross functional teams will need to move past structured traditional IT infrastructures as they have proven to be inefficient at addressing latency, flexibility, and manageability of applications – and data access and loss requirements – from the cloud to the edge and from edge to the cloud. By eliminating any territorialism and working together, IT and OT can bridge gaps and create solutions that put systems and data to work in a manner that makes their company more productive and resilient in any condition.

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Through flexibility and reliability, edge delivers transformative success 

Manufacturers are responsible for continuous, safe, reliable, and compliant operations while addressing demand pressures, environmental concerns, theft, and even cybersecurity threats. Digitalization strategies and resulting solutions should effectively serve this goal. Here are three results edge technologies are delivering to digital transformation efforts.

Simplified management of advanced technologies 

Selecting an edge computing platform based on inherent redundancy and virtualization will enable the deployment of advanced analytics to include Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). AI and ML require real-time data collection and analysis processed at the edge. The edge platform then becomes part of the critical asset infrastructure, further requiring platform resiliency.

Turning data into insights faster 

Data and advanced analytics offer tremendous opportunities for unlocking business value.

More and more, people are focused on data rather than applications. That’s a major shift in mindset which, in part, is being driven by the explosive growth in data as a result of the increase in computing intelligence at the edge, closer to production processes.

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Increased productivity, quality and safety 

By leveraging edge computing, manufacturing companies can automate hundreds of processes that were previously done manually. Through automation, companies can reallocate workers and have them focus on more strategic initiatives. Automation also reduces the likelihood of error and, in this new day and age where facilities risk closures due to new COVID variants, it makes it easier for employees to do their work remotely.

As digital transformation strategies mature and businesses become more aggressive in how they apply AI and ML, it will be edge computing that drives success. To get there, though, will require IT and OT leaders to effectively manage the convergence of edge capabilities and digital transformation.

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