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Aruba research: Value from data depends on the edge

06 Nov 2020

The ability of organisations to realise business value from data increasingly depends on their capacity to collect, process, store and analyse it at the edge, suggests new research from HPE’s Aruba.

According to the global study of 2,400 IT decision-makers (ITDMs), 72% of Australian ITDMs are already actively using edge technologies to deliver new outcomes, with another 16% planning to do so in the next year. 

There is also a growing recognition (78%) of the urgency around the need to implement integrated systems to handle data at the edge.  

Moreover, the maturity of a company’s deployment at the edge is strongly correlated with its ability to derive value from the data collected from devices. 

Globally, 78% of ITDMs in production deployment with edge technologies said they were in a position to use this data to improve business decisions or processes. 

That compares with just 42% of ITDMs who are only at the pilot stage and 31% who are planning pilots in the next year.   

“With massive volumes of data generated from user and IoT devices, this research shows that Australian IT leaders are seeking better ways of handling and learning from their data at the edge. Companies today need an edge infrastructure that unifies all network domains into a single management pane, automates and self-heals network issues, as well as monitors all devices on the network to ensure they remain secure," says Aruba APAC solutions and systems engineering product director Mark Verbloot.

"Harnessing insights at the edge is an opportunity for businesses to revolutionise their approach to data and unlock its value. Backed by an AI-based problem resolution to automatically and continuously optimise network performance, organisations can process, store and analyse data at the edge and will be able to use that data to develop innovative products, services and experiences that will not only augment but transform their offerings for customers and employees." 

The survey findings form part of a report entitled, At the Edge of Change: Navigating the New Data Era, that assesses the implications of the shift in data processing from cloud to edge, how ITDMs are responding to this trend, the opportunities the edge presents for a number of major industries and the critical role networking plays in this transformation.

Key findings reveal

Drowning in data

The benefits of edge technologies are becoming increasingly important as ITDMs grapple with the growing amounts of data generated within their networks and look towards the cost and latency advantages of storing and processing it at the edge.

  • 34% of Australian ITDMs said “there is too much data for our systems to handle” and 32% stated that “we don’t have a way to integrate so many different data formats.”
     
  • Locally, over a quarter also highlighted problems with poor data quality (30%), ability to quickly process data in order to take decisive action (30%) and not possessing the skills to analyse the data/build and deploy analytical models (27%).
     
  • More than half (58%) of ITDMs in Australia recognise “serious issues faster” as a result of optimising machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) on their networks. 

Efficiency, new experiences rank at top

ITDMs cite a variety of benefits from capturing and analysing data at the edge, from operational efficiencies to the opportunity to create new products, services and revenue streams.  

  • 57% of Australian ITDMs highlighted “improving workforce productivity” as one of the biggest benefits of capturing and acting upon data from user devices, closely followed by 56% citing “improved operational efficiency and costs”.
     
  • In parallel, 49% of Australian respondents believe the data increases security measures, 44% cited the opportunity to improve agility and 44% highlighted the potential for personalised service delivery.
     
  • ITDMs are focused on utilising the edge to improve safety, visibility and customer experience. By sector in Australia, the most popular edge use cases were allowing secure machine, employee, and contractor access over one commonly shared network in industrial (88%), allowing payment via multiple devices in retail (60%) and improving campus safety with location-aware and IoT solutions in education (50%).

Cost, skill and security concerns

While ITDMs show a growing interest in processing and analysing data at the edge, they are also concerned about various barriers to adoption.

  • 37% of Australian ITDMs pointed to a lack of agility in current IT systems and difficulty integrating with legacy technologies with regard to edge technologies as top concerns.
     
  • Locally, analytic skills (44%) ranked highest in terms of areas of expertise that companies are lacking, closely followed by the need of AI and Machine Learning skills (38%) in order to unlock and maximise the true value of data.  |
     
  • Overall, there were mixed feelings about the security implications of the edge. While 66% of Australian ITDMs said that connecting IoT or user devices at the edge had made or would make their businesses more vulnerable, 49% identified improved security as one of the biggest benefits of capturing data from user devices.

Edge to cloud

As businesses continue to increase their dependence upon data, it is critical that it is analysed and processed at the source of collection reliably and securely. Traditional network architectures and operational processes built to support the cloud and mobility era need to adapt to these new requirements.

As organisations move ahead to build an edge infrastructure, there are a few key concepts to keep in mind for a successful implementation:

  • Unify – The edge incorporates all network domains including wired, wireless and SD-WAN; and all locations including Campus, Branch, Data Center and Remote Worker environments. Network operations teams should only consider solutions that can manage all domains and locations from a cloud-native, single pane of glass that can centralise and correlate all cross-domain events and operations.
     
  • Automate – Network uptime and performance are critical at the edge. Network operations teams should only consider solutions that provide reliable, highly accurate and specific AI-powered insights, and automation that can resolve issues more quickly – before they impact the business or users.
     
  • Protect – The proliferation of IoT devices generating the data that fuels new business outcomes also presents new security challenges. Network operations teams should consider solutions that use AI to detect, classify and continuously monitor these devices and work seamlessly with access control solutions to automatically place devices in centralised policies that ensure they remain secure and only communicate with predetermined resources.