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Security, staffing land atop IT's edge computing challenges

Edge computing is a new way for data center admins to process data closer to the source, but it comes with challenges around security and staffing that organizations must address head-on.

LAS VEGAS -- Business initiatives that generate a lot of data -- from the internet of things to augmented reality -- are driving the need for edge computing, but there are many challenges involved in its implementation.

Edge computing is a network topology that encourages data processing on hardware close to the source of that data. But IT must still grapple with similar issues to those in traditional data centers -- and, with edge, those issues can be magnified.

At Gartner's IT Infrastructure, Operations and Cloud Strategies Conference, admins discussed edge computing challenges and how they tackled them.

Data center admins used to only be responsible for the data that landed in their data center, but now that paradigm is breaking down due to edge computing and cloud services, said Mike Matchett, principal IT industry analyst at Small World Big Data in Boxborough, Mass.

By 2022, more than half of enterprise data will be created and processed outside of the data center, according to Gartner.

"Data is going to be everywhere, and IT is still responsible for it," Matchett said.

Security and regulatory issues

Data regulatory and compliance issues are top edge computing challenges for data center admins. Many edge devices can't be secured, such as medical devices or IoT devices like smart refrigerators, said Joe Skorupa, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, in a session at the conference.

Matchett compared edge computing challenges around security to remote office or branch office (ROBO) data center deployments.

"Edge computing is taking ROBO a step further," he said. "Rather than 400 branches, though, there might be 40,000 edge devices that still need to be in IT governance."

The IT department at LivaNova PLC, a medical device manufacturer in Houston, is considering edge computing, but it is concerned about compliance because the organization deals with patients' personal healthcare data. LivaNova builds medical devices and their applications and provides support.

"We have to be very careful," said Chris Moschella, director of infrastructure and operations at LivaNova. "All of that has to go through medical certification by the government."

Organizational edge computing challenges

Organizational and staffing issues also plague IT admins in the early stages of edge computing.

The County of San Mateo in California is beginning an edge deployment to upgrade to smart regions using IoT sensors.

"Very often, the technical ability to do something exists already, but the challenge is to get the leadership and organization in alignment, with everybody marching in the same direction," said Jack Mulqueeney, a business analyst working for the county.

One consumer goods manufacturer struggled to deploy a series of micro data centers to achieve edge computing in its manufacturing plants, according to a director of computing services at the company, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

"It's a facilities drain," he said. "You've got a single technician that might be on site and he's got to have helping hands to get everything to run."

The company used a managed services provider to preconfigure the data centers because it was difficult for internal IT staff to set up the racks in the facility.

"It was too hard to have detailed cabling diagrams for folks that might have never racked a data center component before," the director said.

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