It is well known by now that Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT) will require the enterprise to push data processing and storage to the edge. With potentially billions of devices streaming data 24/7, there is no practical way to shore up centralized resources to handle the load.
But what form should these edge upgrades take? And how is the enterprise supposed to manage processing centers distributed across the globe when it has enough trouble managing the equipment within its own data center?
One way is to leverage cloud and colocation facilities that are located near the sources of data. For colo provider Equinix, this is called an Interconnection Oriented Architecture (IOA), which the company recently upgraded with the Data Hub. As a preconfigured power/compute solution, the Data Hub enables localized storage and processing while maintaining access to both cloud-based and data center resources through ties to the company’s Performance Hub and Cloud Exchange platforms. In this way, the platform is able to leverage the scale and power of the cloud while still enabling the real-time analytics and rapid turn-around required for Big Data and IoT applications. At the same time, it provides the enterprise with centralized management and control capabilities, including the ability to update edge configurations to suit new data patterns and sources.
Some experts are already calling this “fog computing,” says Dataconomy’s Hannah Augur, by virtue of its ability to push the cloud closer to the consumer, or ground, layer. This is a more integrated approach than simply connecting cloud resources to the edge because it pushes more of the processing load to the cloud gateway where it can dispense services more quickly and cheaply. And since the value of IoT data will diminish over time, and in many cases quite rapidly, the faster an enterprise can capture and analyze data, the more it will be able to capitalize on opportunities before they vanish. It also introduces a number of security advantages by virtue of its ability to detect potential threats long before they get close to critical systems.
To gain this level of functionality, says Red Hat’s Bryan Che, you’ll have to push not just processing power but full intelligence to all three tiers of the IoT infrastructure: devices, gateways and the data center. On the device layer, you’ll need to cope with a wide variety of devices, operating environments and data types, while the data center will need new backend cloud connectivity to handle the data that does require centralized processing. A more intelligent gateway, however, acts as the hub of the IoT environment, not only providing analytics and other services but supporting device management and automation as well.
Edge resources will also need to be aggregated from time to time, says InformationWeek’s Charles Babcock, which means the new generation of distributed databases will need to know how to navigate multiple hardware architectures and interfaces. While many IoT projects will fit comfortably within 512 bytes of RAM, some will need a bit more support. This means they will have to accommodate both structured and unstructured data on very little memory, and will likely require self-tuning, self-healing, automated recovery and other autonomous functions. And the stakes get even higher once the enterprise moves past simple data querying and interpretation to predictive analytics and automated event response.
An intelligent edge is the key to deriving value from Big Data. By pushing processors as close to users as possible, the enterprise will be able to deliver the highest quality results in the shortest amount of time, all without overloading centralized resources in a flood of data.
As hard as it may be to accept, if you have not yet taken steps to shore up the edge for the IoT, you’re already way behind the curve.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.