Accelerating digital transformation with Edge Computing: How APC by Schneider Electric ensures success

The speed, reliability and resilience of Edge Computing are the keys to supporting evolving digital transformation opportunities, according to global leader in IT infrastructure, power and cooling, APC by Schneider Electric.

Edge Computing is the most important emerging trend in hybrid IT architecture with strong demand from the education, retail, healthcare, telco, commercial buildings and government sectors, in particular.

APC by Schneider Electric is uniquely qualified to spot IT infrastructure trends: APC has been around since 1981, the same year the first IBM PC was released to market. Three electronic power engineers from MIT started the company in a garage, and it has grown into a global market leader providing physical IT, power, and cooling infrastructure globally ever since.

Schneider Electric’s Pacific Zone Vice President for Secure Power, Joe Craparotta, says while many organisations have now experienced some of the benefits of Cloud migration, achieving the next level of benefit from digital transformation requires higher system performance and reliability than Cloud alone can provide – this is where Edge Computing can deliver.

Edge Computing is the architecture bringing elements of compute, storage and manageability for critical applications as close as required to the the point of processing.

This supports new-generation applications, which are demanding reduced network latency and the ability to rapidly process very large volumes of data. Emerging 5G technology will also depend on very low latency underlying fixed line infrastructure to match its wireless speed.

To support application capability growth and maintain an increasingly critical edge over competitors, businesses must build resiliency through a collaborative Hybrid IT ecosystem, with a proper balance of cloud and edge.

According to Craparotta, Edge Computing enables three key areas:

  1. 1. High system availability:

    Systems located close to the user will continue to operate regardless of whether a WAN or internet connection is performing well. APC’s high density MicroDC systems allow Edge Computing deployments to keep running smoothly even when there are brief or extended power interruptions.
  2. 2. Fast local processing:

    Increasingly, building sensors and IoT devices are generating mountains of data. Much of the heavy duty processing can be offloaded to Cloud data centers, but where insights are needed rapidly to allow building systems to respond to local situations – security via facial recognition for example – Edge Computing allows time sensitive data to be processed without WAN latency.
  3. 3. Cost efficient use of space:

    Rebuilding on-premises data centres in premium real estate that is not Edge-ready can sometimes be a costly exercise. This is especially the case where there are intensive cooling requirements for the high density compute environment in the data centre. However, many organisations have spare cupboards or floor space throughout their buildings where Edge Computing ‘micro data centres’ can more easily be deployed. APC’s proprietary technologies allow a similar level of repeat deployability and manageability as in datacentres.

The industry agrees

The cost of unplanned downtime

$5,600 per minute

The cost of unplanned IT outages according to Gartner
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$148 million

The cost of reimbursements paid by British Airways to passengers after a power system in a datacentre failed, causing all flights out of London Heathrow and Gatwick airports to be cancelled and 75,000 passengers disrupted.
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Average cost of a single incident of downtime in a surface mine
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Industry analyst Gartner’s forecast supports APC’s observations, showing Edge Computing as among the top 10 most important strategic technology trends that CIOs should consider when developing their IT roadmap.

A March 2018 report from Grand View Research predicts the global Edge Computing market will hit $3.24 billion by 2025, with a “phenomenal” compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 41 per cent.

Dell, a key APC partner, has worked with industry to develop a vision for Edge Computing it calls ‘Edge Computing’, describing a methodology of deploying compute resources on-LAN, including the mesh of Internet of Things (IoT) devices proliferating across buildings and campuses.

The “Open Fog” vision – now an IEEE standard – sees the data being constantly collected by these devices and rapidly analysed locally. Results will then be transmitted to other systems at wire speed, but heavier-weight trend analysis will be offloaded to the Cloud.

The world’s leading Cloud providers, Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have bought into this vision, releasing on-premises and edge-ready platforms in Microsoft Azure Stack and Amazon Outpost. Both recognise the need to support businesses in the Cloud and at the Edge.

What’s driving the demand?

Latency < 7 ms latency is needed for high performance applications
Interactivity IoT systems collaborating with each other, staff collaborating with each other and a need for very responsive local systems
Autonomy Company tools and processes that can self-organise, auto-discover, react and make decisions autonomously
Data bandwidth Massive data collection and processing simply isn’t feasible to be constantly transferring to and from cloud
Privacy/security The need to keep personal, sensitive data on-premises to mitigate security risk, and comply with regulations.

Source: adapted from Gartner (The Future Shape of Edge Computing: Five Imperatives, June 2018)

Data-driven decision making with AI predictive logic is becoming a priority for most businesses, as are smart spaces in buildings that recognise who is in them and configure themselves accordingly for better occupancy efficiency and staff satisfaction. Immersive augmented/virtual/mixed reality experiences are also in the mix with demanding infrastructure requirements.

A common theme between these trends is large amounts of data being generated locally and a need for very fast system performance. For Edge Computing, especially where arrays of sensors are supporting VR/AR/MR, applications benefit from network transmission delay (latency) of less than 1ms. That’s a practical impossibility with Cloud-only architecture which necessarily has to traverse longer WAN links, out to the internet and back.

These technical requirements underpin very human needs which shape customer purchasing habits, APC General Manager Joseph Vijay explains. “Every one of us is now looking for personalised experiences in every context.

“Whether in education or retail, we have gone from segmenting markets into male/female, age groups, backgrounds, to individually targeted profiles and experiences on a per-person basis.

“This level of extreme targeting makes experiences – whether in retail or education – much more relevant and once we get a taste of that we want it everywhere.

“If we can’t get it from a supplier, we move on to one who can,” Vijay says.

These demands can be catered for through Edge Computing deployments that provide very fast compute resources with low network latency, but with the repeat deployability and manageability of data centre environments.

The challenge for clients

Edge Computing offers distinct benefits – super low latency between the system and the user, absolute control of the environment, and uptime protection against internet outages.

However, it also presents a new set of challenges for IT. The high uptime businesses have become accustomed to tier 4 datacentres – 99.995% availability – equates to just 26 minutes of downtime per year. But Edge Computing deployments are unlikely to be anywhere near that without careful planning. Even a single percentage point drop equates to 3.65 days of downtime per year – a serious risk to continuity of systems.

Edge Computing deployments need to be remotely manageable, both logically and physically secure, rapidly and repeatedly deployable, and most of all, reliable – including having stable power sources that won’t go down when a contractor is working on the lifts and trips a circuit breaker.

When choosing a power and automation vendor to support an Edge Computing deployment, an APC partner can advise you of the full, end-to-end infrastructure requirements. This is possible because you won’t be buying from a UPS box mover; you’ll be dealing with an organisation that is trained in the full solution design for datacentres, including software, deployment techniques, monitoring, management, services and hardware.

When you buy an APC by Schneider Electric solution, you can be confident that the solution has been built with IT in mind from the ground up, with a powerful single pane of glass view of all systems and unparalleled integration with automation tools.

Buying an Edge Computing solution

The key to effectively buying Edge Computing solutions is to ensure you look at your company’s bigger picture.

“Edge Computing is part of a broader digital hybrid IT strategy, which includes Cloud,” explains APC’s Beau Alderson.

Alderson recommends not falling into the trap of choosing a product and asking for a quote, as it may not meet the full infrastructure requirement of a micro data centre.

Your APC reseller may discuss with you:

  • Where are you generating data?
  • What are you using it for?
  • How are you being accountable for that data complying with regulations?
  • How are you securing that data?
  • How are you doing the data governance?
  • How are you visualising the data and making decisions on it?
  • Are you doing it efficiently?

Although this line of questions may appear much broader than the original scope, they will help your APC partner consider all aspects of designing your Edge Computing solution.

For example, during this discussion, you may identify that you have a system that is generating 2GB of data per hour, and this may help you and the APC vendor determine whether that system is suitable for migration to Cloud, or whether the data would be better stored locally.

If it’s the latter, the level of application availability will need to be considered, because this will point towards the right level of hardware redundancy, power support, monitoring and management.

Likewise, an APC partner can help reduce your liability as an IT team by recommending a centralised management and asset reporting solution.

This broad-ranging solution design approach can deliver a much better outcome for your organisation, with a clear view of assets, lower risk position and proactive monitoring and action.

Bringing reliability to immersive education

It’s not just the corporate world that’s taking advantage of the benefits of Edge Computing. The university lecture theatre of past decades is rapidly becoming obsolete. Educational institutions are embracing the challenge of delivering education in a more engaging, immersive way, anytime, anywhere.

Universities are providing courses to global audiences online through video conferencing, virtual reality applications, multi-team collaborations across diverse locations, and through mobile devices.

“With greater complexity, and mobility the new normal, comes an imperative to deliver reliably. Lecture theatres may have been uninspiring but at least four walls and a set of chairs are reliable,” says Vishal Nayak, Schneider Electric National Sales Manager, Secure Power.

“Complex educational technology can provide educational outcomes that far exceed ‘old school’ teaching, but also carry the risk of disenchanting students altogether if the systems fail.”

“Education has a key advantage other segments don’t always have: campus space. Locating systems on site can make great economic sense given availability of space. That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s space available for a whole new datacentre, but there are plenty of nooks and crannies to accommodate a locked cabinet of equipment – perfect for an Edge Computing ‘micro datacentre’ deployment,” Nayak explains.

Providing reliable power, security and remote manageability are key challenges, which an IT-focused power and automation vendor such as APC by Schneider Electric can allow your clients to deliver smoothly and at the right pace.

Success Story: Murdoch University

Murdoch University’s School of Engineering and IT wanted to deliver an immersive learning experience for students, available 24 hours a day, providing a learning environment that would emulate best-in-class production IT infrastructure. This capability would allow the school to stand out amongst other institutions in Western Australia.

Digital transformation of healthcare

Healthcare is not an industry that embraces “disruption” as much as other industries. The slower pace of digital transformation in health is for good reason – uninterrupted, people-focused patient care is the priority, with no room for mistakes, necessitating a cautious approach to change.

But that doesn’t mean health isn’t changing – and in fact, with the looming challenge of an ageing population stressing healthcare resources, it’s becoming pressing to find more efficient ways of working.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently reported that the number of people over 85 years old – by far the most expensive segment of the population from a healthcare perspective – will double in the next 25 years.

There is pressure for healthcare to catch up with other segments that are reaping the benefits of digital transformation. Having the right design for critical infrastructure has never been more important.

"The most advanced hospitals now receive patient data from helicopters while in-flight to allow the right medical staff to be at the helipad to receive the patient, while ambulances transmit vital statistics en-route for doctors to assess before a patient arrives,” says Vishal Nayak, Schneider Electric National Sales Manager, Secure Power.

“In situations where lost minutes can equate to a rapidly declining chance of survival, these kinds of systems clearly improve patient care,” he explains.

Sunshine Coast Hospital in Queensland has begun using robots to dispense medications in its pharmacy while another type of robot transports food, waste and laundry throughout the hospital’s kilometres of service corridors. This kind of innovative thinking allows operational expenditure previously committed to administrative and orderly tasks to be redirected to direct patient care.

It’s not just frontline healthcare that is increasingly relying on digital technology: Imaging systems are now fully digital in most centres; doctors retrieve patient imaging all over the hospital campus and from home. Many providers are now using contract radiologists around the world to interpret scans, allowing the workload to ‘chase the sun’. While these systems have global reach, local performance is extremely important – slow system response times directly equate to lower patient care throughout.

The costs of IT outages in healthcare are staggering. A major hospital – such as Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, with more than 3000 staff – spent more than $50,000 per hour in staffing costs in FY18. When staff work more slowly than usual, as they are forced to revert to increasingly unfamiliar manual processes, patient queues increase sharply. And as more staff are brought in to cope with the backlog, budgets are likely to come under pressure.

“Edge Computing can enable hospitals to deliver responsive healthcare based on current information from patient sensors without relying on centralised datacentres or transit times to and from Cloud resources,” says APC’s Nayak.

“Like everything in healthcare, reliability and predictability in Edge Computing is paramount – people’s lives literally depend on it. That’s why it’s essential to choose a vendor like APC by Schneider Electric that works closely with IT teams and has unparalleled national and international coverage and expertise to quickly respond to healthcare needs,” Nayak explains.

Success Story: Boehringer Ingelheim

When one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies needed to consolidate three Australian offices to one, it it consulted APC on how best to deploy a high performance Edge Computing environment.

Read how Boehringer Ingelheim and APC by Schneider Computing consolidated five server racks down to two with greater control and resilience.

Commercial buildings: next-level smart spaces

If the last decade was marked by a revolution in energy efficiency in commercial buildings, then this decade is the era of ‘smart space’, where buildings intelligently respond according to who is in them and what they need. There is also a growing expectation and responsibility to constuct ‘green buildings’ that are sustainable, efficient and reliable.

Why should building users have to touch a swipe card to open a door? The data needed to identify them is literally written all over their faces – the most advanced building security systems now perform facial recognition on people as they walk towards a door and unlock it automatically.

Why should meeting rooms remain booked if the attendees don’t show up? Motion sensors and smart room scheduling systems can clear bookings to free up meeting rooms from ‘ghost’ meetings for people who really need them. And in a heavily used hotdesk environment, it needn’t be a challenge to find a desk – or a colleague – as smartphone apps that work with desk beacons can make both tasks effortless.

“However, the success of these kinds of systems depends on system responsiveness – people are unlikely to be satisfied with a delay that’s materially longer than what was involved in extending their swipe card lanyard toward an RFID reader,” warns Vishal Nayak, Schneider Electric National Sales Manager, Secure Power. “If a meeting room booking or desk allocation systems don’t work flawlessly every time, IT is going to hear about it – loudly, and often.”

“The common denominator between these requirements is that responsiveness, resilience, monitoring and automation is extremely important for success. Deplyoying an Edge Computing model can improve system responsiveness, and an IT-focused power and automation vendor like APC by Schneider Electric can make the resilience, automation and monitoring possible,” Nayak says.

Success Story: Tuggeranong Office Park

Tuggeranong Office Park in Canberra wanted to build an office park free of legacy building management systems. The end result? Airmaster built a new type of Building Services Network (BSN) using pure Ethernet to bring together services such as BMS, security, lighting control and energy metering.

Read how APC by Schneider Electric ensures a stable, failsafe and resilient network for the day-to-day running of Tuggeranong Office Park

The clash between digital transformation and the power economy

The power economy is rapidly rising to be as important as digital transformation itself, as power costs continue to rise across Australia. Some corporate sites have seen price rises of up to 200 per cent within the space of 12 months.

“Tackling power costs is like peeling an onion – there are many layers that need to be considered, including grid power supplier contracts, renewable energy options (both remote and on-site), energy efficiency of appliances, and automation to minimise power utilisation when appropriate,” says Joe Craparotta, Vice President - IT Business, Strategic Customers & Segments at Schneider Electric.

"APC’s association with its parent company, Schneider Electric, gives it insight into the power efficiency of tens of thousands of different specific device combinations, to help advise on the lowest power consumption solutions overall,” Craparotta explains.

“For example, APC can help you understand the impact of allowing IT air conditioning temperatures to rise slightly, and what this will mean for energy consumption contrasted with appliance efficiency and reliability. APC can also help your clients’ IT teams select the most power efficient combination of appliances for different use cases.

“Where power grid reliability is suboptimal, APC can advise on multi-layered power continuity strategies. This is especially important given the frequency of extreme weather events, intense development in city areas, and once-in-a-generation changes to baseload power generation, which continue to challenge power stability,” Craparotta concludes.

APC by Schneider Electric: Power Born out of IT

Since its establishment in 1981 by three engineers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, APC has been IT-first. This means it understands the IT world, who the vendors are, how they interface, and what goes into infrastructure design decisions and how Edge Computing has an advantage.

APC by Schneider Electric is part of shaping the future of IT strategy, with a full set of infrastructure, monitoring and management tools that integrate tightly with IT.

APC software is not only able to predict the life cycle of APC’s own devices, but also of other vendors’ IT infrastructure, including servers, storage and networking appliances. This is because it gathers real-life data from clients all around the world, allowing this data to be analysed to accurately predict failure of different specific models of equipment in your environment.

As such, APC clients can be confident using their appliances for longer and replacing them just before they fail, rather than performing calendarised, non-targeted preventative maintenance.

All of these IT capabilities mean partnering with APC by Schneider Electric can help customers make richer business and technology decisions.

Finally, APC by Schneider Electric’s channel partners are its super power – in Australia, APC by Schneider Electric has more than 4000 IT resellers, more than 1000 system integrators, and 34,000 electricians. This scale empowers clients to get support on demand from experts accredited in specific niches without delay.

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