6 Ways to Improve Availability for Edge Computing

Apr 19, 2019 | Insights

No matter your definition of edge computing, the purpose is to bring processing power closer to the devices that communicate with it. For the purpose of this blog post, “the edge” is any storage or processing equipment that is not in a data center, i.e. computer equipment or machinery in your office, warehouse, or factory that stores or processes data from computers or network-enabled devices nearby.

A company’s IT infrastructure today is increasingly spread out geographically. Many companies have their own data center, colocation footprints, resources in cloud data centers, and IT equipment in offices or factory environments. The more the Internet of things grows, the more equipment there will be in edge locations.

The Uptime Institute reports failures occurring at companies that believed they had a solid resiliency strategy because they did not fully comprehend their vulnerabilities due to these dispersed IT environments. While most data centers provide high availability and guarantee companies no more than a few hours of downtime (or less) per year, this is usually not the case with equipment at the edge. When your company calculates availability, do they take into account storage or compute resources that are not in the data center? What would it mean if these resources were unavailable for a few hours or a few days? Here are a few ways to improve reliability and availability at the edge.

Set Up Direct and Redundant Cloud Connectivity
Does your office equipment or machinery rely on cloud connectivity to perform routine tasks? If this data is transported from your office or factory across the public Internet, it is not as efficient or as secure as it could be. Not only is direct connectivity more secure, it is also more efficient. If part of your infrastructure is in the cloud, consider a direct connection from your edge location to your cloud provider. Another option is to access this direct connection through your data center provider.

Run all Connectivity through the Data Center
Since your data center should have redundant power, multiple layers of security and redundant network in place, your connection will be more secure and more reliable if it comes from your data center. To increase this reliability, install redundant point-to-point connections between your edge locations and your data centers. If your data center deployment is connected to the cloud, you can use these connections to take advantage of direct cloud connectivity as well.

Have a Backup Power Source on Site
Many offices and factories have a backup power source, such as diesel generators, that will automatically start up when utility power fails. However, in this kind of environment, the transition to backup power will not be seamless for IT equipment, especially if no one is around to manage it. Make sure someone on your infrastructure team will be alerted if you lose primary power and that they can quickly get to the site to help restart equipment. If every minute of this edge computing equipment being offline means a substantial cost to your organization, think about moving it into a nearby data center. If that isn’t possible, consider using an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) or a micro data center to protect your equipment from power interruptions.

Improve Edge Security
Is your office server room or edge computing equipment in an area anyone can access? If this equipment were compromised, how much would it cost? Consider installing an access-control system and video camera to protect this infrastructure.

Another thing to keep in mind to protect your edge, and your organization as a whole, is basic cybersecurity when it comes to network-enabled devices. If your company has new printers, factory equipment, drilling equipment, or any other type of gear that connects to the Internet, not only could data on this equipment be easily accessed, it could be abducted to conduct a large-scale attack, as was the case with the Dyn attack last year. Make sure your devices are secured with more than just a factory password or something easy to guess. Also, remember to update these devices. Setting them and forgetting them can put your company at risk.

Document Applications & Interconnectivity
Do you know where all your data is stored and where each application is running? With applications and data spread across multiple clouds and edge environments, businesses are losing sight of their full IT environment. By documenting the location of all data storage, applications and interconnectivity, you may discover that an important application is not as protected as you thought it was. Make that connection or application more resilient before it breaks.

Develop a Failover Plan & Test
When new data centers are commissioned, utility power is cut to ensure that all backup systems in place function properly. Do the same in your edge locations. Develop a test plan to simulate failure scenarios with respect to the resources on which your application depends. Then “pull the plug” to make sure everything continues to operate as planned.