By George T Hilliard
In my last blog, we discussed the concept of workload consolidation, which I described as the ability to provide higher performance and more functions with less hardware in an embedded/industrial system. As the IoT moves more into that same industrial space, we now want to take on Edge computing. As always, let’s first level-set and define what is meant by Edge computing, because it can take on different definitions depending who you’re talking to (and what type of components or systems they supply).
To a board/system supplier like WINSYSTEMS, the Edge is defined at the computing platform that makes the majority of the on-premise decisions. It connects to the end node at one end and the Cloud (or Fog network) at the other end. The end node could be a simple sensor, camera, etc. And the Cloud is something that’s supplied by the likes of a Google, Amazon, etc.
With all that said, the Edge is one of the best areas for an industrial IoT (IIoT) developer to increase system “intelligence” while minimizing network transmission costs and security vulnerabilities. The benefits of a ramped-up effort at the Edge include a lower latency, immediacy of analytics with corresponding actions for things like predictive maintenance, and immediate access to data.
An Edge-based platform can offer higher levels of security simply because you your data does not need to leave the building if that’s your desire. Even so, data encryption, access control, and use of virtual private network (VPN) tunneling are important elements in protecting data, even in these Edge-based systems.
While I don’t necessarily subscribe to this theory, some predict that Cloud-based computing will be almost entirely replaced by Edge computing at some point. This is simply because the performance of Edge-based computers and the continual cost reductions of attached storage make it an an attractive solution for increasing deterministic performance while reducing network traffic. However, the Cloud platforms also continue to evolve and the amount of data we retain will continue its staggering growth, making the Cloud a viable and necessary option for the foreseeable future.
In addition to the big Cloud providers looking to maintain their foothold in the Cloud space, the telcos are in a similar boat. They make a good business by providing the pipe through which all this data travels. And as 5G rolls out, the ubiquity of the technology takes another huge leap forward.
It should also be noted that many applications actually live in the Cloud, and that allows corporations to run the same applications from one location. Clearly, that makes upgrades simple as you’re only upgrading the software in the Cloud one time, rather than each local instance.
Then there are those who believe that the Edge-Fog combination will be the “be all/end all” to run an IIoT network. That’s because the Fog also pushed data toward the Edge and away from the Cloud. But I’ll save that one for another blog.
Where does WINSYSTEMS fit into this equation? The answer varies, based on your industry/application, which could include energy and utilities, intelligent building control, manufacturing automation, and agriculture, just to name a few.
One defining product in the portfolio is the NET-429 network switch that’s designed for the harsh environments of the factory floor, including in an Edge-based compute scenario. The IEEE 802.1 Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) switch provides the performance needed for time-critical industrial networks, as it features eight 10/100/1000-Mbit/s RJ45 Ethernet ports plus two 1000Base-X SGMII SFP ports. Redundant power inputs add Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) PD support.
Enabled for the latest IEEE 802.1 standards for Quality of Service (QoS), it includes advanced prioritization and timing features to provide guaranteed delivery of time-sensitive data. A host of integrated security features and low-power (down to 6 W) operation round out the specifications.