The Edge of Tomorrow

Thought Leadership and Insight from Kevin Brown, Schneider Electric’s IT Division SVP of Innovation and CTO.


How do you define Edge?

In our view, the “edge” simply refers to any data center away from the large centralized data centers and near where compute and storage are consumed or used by local IoT devices and users.

We see the world moving towards a hybrid computing architecture that includes large centralized cloud data centers, smaller regional edge data centers, and even smaller, local edge micro data center sites.

This environment presents unique management challenges that, we believe, require a cloud-based software management architecture to thrive in this complex ecosystem.


 What are the key factors making a location key for edge data centre deployment?

One reason a location becomes key for deploying edge compute is when you’re delivering an application or service that requires low network latency to people or machines local to that site.

Many applications are highly dependent on having low latency…or being high speed.

Having to send lots of data out to a distant centralized cloud data center may not be practical.

Application performance may become unacceptable to users – think content distribution networks like Netflix or financial trading applications.

In these cases, it comes down to user experience.

However, in other cases, too much latency can even be life threatening – think autonomous cars, automated traffic controls, and manufacturing robots to name a few.

Kevin Brown, SVP Innovation and CTO, IT Division at Schneider Electric

In some cases, the key factor comes down to the cost of network bandwidth.

With the cost of sensors and network connectivity being so low, the volumes of data collected by local devices is exploding.

Combine that with advances made in data analytics, automation, and artificial intelligence, and this data has become very valuable.

The increasing value of device data is driving this IoT world where everything is connected and continuously collecting data.

It may make more financial sense to process, clean, and store this data locally than it would be to send it to a distant data center.

Regardless of sensitivity to latency and cost, the fundamental driver for having compute at the edge of the network really comes down to the desire to benefit from digitization.

Adding compute and network connectivity to every “thing” and to virtually every aspect of our society is dramatically impacting society’s productivity, efficiency, and wellbeing.

Compute everywhere is our future.


 What trends do you see as pivotal for the growth of the sector?

As alluded to above, a further reduction in the cost of sensors, compute, and network connectivity will continue to drive the IoT trend everywhere.

The digitization of industrial processes and manufacturing is certainly a key driver for growth of edge computing.

Brick and mortar retail deployment of IT to provide in-store digital experiences is another.

Deployment of 5G mobile networks, however, may have the biggest impact on the growth of the edge compute market.

5G offers the promise of sub-millisecond latency, a speed necessary to take many of the world’s tech dreams to the next level such as autonomous vehicles, robotic surgeries, virtual reality, and the management of distributed energy sources.

5G will enable a world of incredibly high data speeds for vast numbers of users all while improving reliability and security in an energy efficient manner.

5G’s communication architecture requires the deployment of hundreds of thousands of mini communication clouds and antennae to make all of this come to fruition.

So not only will 5G networks help drive the larger edge compute market by enabling edge applications to do even more, the deployment of 5G itself will be a significant edge compute application driving the overall market.


 How do you think the industry can attract more young talent into a career in IT infrastructure?

I think one way to attract more talent is through well organized and developed corporate internships.

By developing engaging and challenging projects for students to own and work through alongside industry experts and leaders, the industry will attract new talent.

Schneider Electric takes our internship program very seriously and it has yielded remarkable results.

Another way to attract new talent is through partnerships with University IT & Engineering departments for the purpose of conducting joint research.