As every home office has become “the edge” – where workers need to be productive from wherever they are on multiple devices – having an edge mindset as IT leaders is more important than ever. While all edge capabilities rely on the same foundational components, the identification of specific technologies and solutions must be tied to user needs to be successful edge initiatives that empower the workplace of the future.
In the simplest terms, “edge computing” means to perform computations and to store data close to its source. Think about self-driving cars: the vehicle can make decisions (computations) based on real-time data it is gathering (and storing) about road conditions, the movement of other vehicles or unexpected objects that cross its path (right at the source).
In edge computing environments, like in self-driving cars, data is being generated, acted upon, and stored all in the same place. It’s happening outside of massive enterprise architectures or data centers. The same is true for many of the intelligent devices that comprise smart cities, the connected devices in our homes or even autonomous devices used on the battlefield.
Edge computing works when there is the appropriate level of connectivity and security integrated through a zero-trust architecture; when hardware and devices are managed properly; when the right applications and services are available; and when there is a stable supply chain of the required software and component parts.
5 Edge Capabilities to Support the New Workplace
In spring 2020, it became imperative that government agencies and contractors in particular enabled “work from anywhere” capabilities. National security, funding for federal programs, and the continuity of government operations depended on it.
At the same time, and for many years prior, rapid advancements in technologies like 5G and artificial intelligence were changing how – and how efficiently – we work. They were also changing where we do our work, and they continue to do so. These technologies and others like them are giving agencies the ability to deliver on their missions in completely new ways.
GDIT takes an intentional and thoughtful approach to providing edge capabilities in support of the new workplace reality. It starts with documenting a user’s needs and use cases, and centers on five foundational components. They are:
Security: Security must be at the forefront of any edge capability, as data will be coming in from multiple known and unknown sources and from, potentially, a multitude of devices. Our approach to security includes supply chain validation, endpoint device/sensor management, satellite, ethernet or fiber, and all compute, storage, and processing as part of a comprehensive zero-trust architecture.
Connectivity: Connectivity is an obvious consideration whether using ethernet, 5G, LTE, satellite, or other capability. GDIT has specific and secure architectures for all these connectivity scenarios as well as recommended, well-developed use cases for each. Regardless of the connectivity solution or status, the user’s ability to be productive must not be impacted.
Device Management: Agencies must have the visibility and ability to control endpoint devices - from typical laptops to sensors and Internet of Things devices. All must be secure and up to date on any required patching. GDIT has unified endpoint management approaches spanning many types of devices that must be connected at the edge.
Supply Chain: Supply Chain risks must also be addressed. Devices are made from a multitude of parts and software is built with code from around world. It is therefore imperative to ensure that they have not been compromised or manipulated. GDIT accomplishes our supply chain validation through strategic alliance partnerships and by leveraging our own internal supply chain verification approaches.
Applications and Services: Applications and services running at the edge are a critical component of a robust edge capability. A mere 10% of all data ingestion and processing is being completed at the edge today, which means that 90% is being done in centralized data centers. This model is inefficient and limits the types of capabilities an agency can provide to users regardless of their work location or circumstances. While cloud computing is an optimal alternative in many scenarios, edge has become a viable option in many others. However, in many cases, legacy models and application architectures must be refactored or new edge applications must be created.