Edge computing is gaining steam as an enterprise IT strategy with organizations looking to push storage and analytics closer to where data is gathered, as in IoT networks. But it\u2019s got its challenges.\n\nTech Spotlight: Edge Computing\n\nProving the value of analytics on the edge (CIO)\nThe cutting edge of healthcare: How edge computing will transform medicine (Computerworld)\nSecuring the edge: 4 trends to watch (CSO)\nHow to choose a cloud IoT platform (InfoWorld)\nEdge computing: 5 potential pitfalls (Network World)\n\n\nIts potential upsides are undeniable, including improved latency as well as reduced WAN bandwidth and transmission costs. As a result, enterprises are embracing it. Revenues in the edge-computing market were $4.68 billion in 2020 and are expected to reach $61.14 billion by 2028, according to a May 2021 report by Grand View Research.\nBut the edge is also fraught with potential difficulties, and companies need to be prepared to address them if they expect to reap the benefits. Here are some of the hurdles organizations could face when deploying edge computing, some of which might not be obvious.\nChoosing the best approach\nBecause edge computing is still relatively new there\u2019s no established base of success stories or metrics that prove its worth to IT decision makers.\n\u201cI think the one of the biggest challenges for edge decisions right now that no one really talks about is that there is very little real-world performance data available to help drive edge-deployment decisions,\u201d says Jennifer Cooke, research director, edge strategies, at IDC.\nPlus, there are many options to pick from\u2014on-prem, hosted on-prem, managed by ISPs or cloud providers\u2014and sorting through them may be beyond the capabilities of many enterprises.\n\u201cThere\u2019s a myriad of choices out there, but it's often overwhelming for organizations to navigate,\u201d Cooke says. \u201cThe reality is that edge solutions require a lot of coordination across different providers\u2014from the database and applications to the infrastructure and then the connectivity.\u00a0For this reason, many organizations are turning to partners to assemble the ecosystem for them.\u201d\nAs part of the process, these organizations should seek edge-integration partners that can quantify the increased performance and cost reductions that vendors tout.\n\u201cI\u2019ve also observed a recent shift from a [do-it-yourself] attitude on edge deployments to accepting that it\u2019s often better to lean on partners to manage edge resources,\u201d Cooke says. \u201cThe pandemic actually accelerated this trend, showing organizations that remote monitoring and leaning on partners for management actually worked pretty well.\u201d\nSecurity risks and expertise\nAs with anything else related to IT, the edge has its own set of security threats and vulnerabilities.\n\u201cHow does an organization fully consider the many layers and subsegments and achieve a zero-trust environment?\u201d says Matt Kimball, senior analyst,\u00a0data center, at\u00a0Moor Insights & Strategy.\n\u201cThis has to include infrastructure, networking, the full software stack, and the integration of all these different elements with each other, the cloud, and management and monitoring consoles,\u201d Kimball says. \u201cThis market segment is so layered and in some ways so nichey that CISOs and IT executives need to invest heavily in the people that are tasked with designing and implementing a holistic strategy. And those people are hard to find.\u201d\nThe security risks that organizations should keep in mind before formulating an edge strategy include the potentially enormous number of IoT devices and supporting infrastructure the edge requires, as well as the massive volumes of data they generate\u2014all of which need to be defended to protect data and the network.\nSome vendors provide tools to help bolster edge security, Kimball says. \u201cBut again, the challenge is finding the people that can make sense of all of these challenges, competing solutions, and design a zero-trust environment\u2014one that is fully integrated from the device to the edge to the cloud to the data center,\u201d he says.\nSupporting data management and analytics\nBeing able to analyze data at the edge and draw insights from the analytics is one of the appealing aspects of this environment, but the process is not easy for enterprises.\n\u201cThe edge is basically a large-scale distributed data-management problem statement,\u201d says Vijoy Pandey, vice president of engineering and CTO, emerging technologies and incubation, at Cisco.\nData management and data science are as important as security to the business success of organizations, Kimball says. \u201cIt should be no surprise that the company that can more quickly derive nuggets of intelligence out of the mounds of data being generated every second is the company best positioned to win,\u201d he says.\nLike security, data science is hard and practitioners scarce, Kimball says. \u201cAnd I believe this is equal parts technical and art,\u201d he says.\u00a0\u201cThe tools must be in place to glean the best insights. But a good data scientist understands the nuances of what data [is] most important to the business. And like security, the folks that are good at this are in high demand.\u201d\nThis is an area where organizations can benefit from an outside perspective, Kimball says. \u201cThere are consulting organizations, VARs, and specialists that get this space very well and have had success in deploying the data edge,\u201d he says. \u201cAs an ex-IT executive, I can tell you that I despised having to go outside my organization to drive IT initiatives. But I also knew that relying on outside help for uncharted waters always paid off.\u201d\nPrepping the IT infrastructure\nCreating a network to support edge computing takes time, money, and knowledge\u2014resources that not every organization has enough of.\n\u201cIT is used to shipping a few servers and implementing the backup necessary for home-office connectivity,\u201d Kimball says. \u201cLook at any chain [retailer], and you\u2019ll see a couple of servers that are used to connect to the home office and run operations locally in the event of a break in connectivity.\u201d\nBut with IoT deployments and the need for more complex storage and data processing at the edge, now those environments have to do more than simply run the back office, Kimball says.\u00a0\u201cAs a result, deploying and managing these environments is more critical and challenging than ever,\u201d he says.\nIn general, a good practice is to keep things simple when it comes to infrastructure and IT operations, Kimball says. \u201cI believe most of the IT-solutions vendors have viable and solid offerings from a hardware and software infrastructure perspective,\u201d he says.\nBecause of this, he suggests that when IT executives are looking to invest in edge infrastructure, they should start by considering the vendors they already know.\n\u201cIf you\u2019re an IT shop that has standardized on Dell, it is probably your best starting point for edge infrastructure,\u201d Kimball says.\u00a0\u201cLikewise HPE, Lenovo, Cisco, Supermicro, etc.\u201d\nDuos Technologies, which provides automated edge systems for railway operators, faces challenges providing connectivity and power when it deploys those systems in remote areas.\n\u201cBut these are relatively straightforward obstacles to scale in most cases,\u201d says Scott Carns, Duos\u2019 chief commercial officer. More challenging is finding ruggedized servers that can operate in the same environment. \u201cMost servers are designed to be installed in data centers and IT environments that are brick and mortar, with perfect power and environmental control systems.\u201d\nEdge computing for Duos Technologies\u2019 applications requires robust, well-designed hardware. While its servers are mounted in traditional cabinets or racks, \u201cthe operating environment does not have the same level of continuity and protection a data center would provide,\u201d Carns says.\nScaling without creating complexity\nThe edge has the potential to be extraordinarily complex, given the number of systems, devices, and applications involved.\n\u201cMost edge investments [have been] driven by the need to solve a specific business problem by a non-IT business owner,\u201d says Gil Shneorson, senior vice president, edge portfolio, at Dell.\nAs a result, organizations may have multiple individual edge devices performing specific tasks and operating off their own infrastructure. Each solution was bought, deployed, managed, and secured independently over time, leading to inefficient infrastructure sprawl at the edge, Shneorson says.\n\u201cWe\u2019re seeing a transition in the industry where IT is called in earlier in the process so they can apply IT best practices and strategic thinking to the edge environment across multiple use cases,\u201d he says.\nBeing called in earlier is a good idea, but for many IT teams, that means having to architect a single, flexible, efficient infrastructure to support more edge tasks. IT needs to consolidate even as the edge expands, \u201cby modernizing their edge technology foundation and data pipelines with consistent hybrid-cloud architecture, operations, and management, so they can derive the most value from data across use cases, sites, and clouds,\u201d Shneorson says. Meeting that challenge is a major step forward.