Watch out for edge computers!

14 March 2022

If analysts are right, edge computing will grow significantly in the years to come. Hermann Berg considers what’s driving edge adoption and how control engineers can take advantage of rather than be driven by the trend.

Edge computing brings computation and data storage closer to the sources of the data, typically combined with cloud computing and the need to reduce response time and to save bandwidth. In many industrial environments data should not leave the physical location. Or quite practically connectivity is not stable or affordable. 

Gartner says that there are two types of edge computing developments – cloud applications are moving to the edge and local/edge applications are being integrated with the cloud. It refers to this as Cloud-Out or Edge-In.

According to Gartner, hyperscale cloud providers have been managing less than 1% of edge computing platforms in 2020, while they expect that percentage to grow to 20% by year-end 2023. This may be a positive trend for control engineers, as it reduces dependency from existing on-premise software vendors. It greatly simplifies the deployment and on-going management of self-developed as well as third-party software modules running on the edge computer. With the right hardware-based security it also provides a state-of-the-art security regime that comes with little effort on the part of the control engineer. 

Another positive trend for the control engineer should be the fact that edge computing – according to Gartner – provides a good opportunity to build an open architecture based on a few solid partnerships from a maturing edge computing ecosystem rather than a single-vendor approach.

A good example how to leverage both trends can be found within be Moxa’s Industrial IoT partner ecosystem. The collective mission is to make (Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and edge computing easy, fast and scalable. The story for the control engineer goes roughly like this: 

• Moxa has a broad hardware portfolio of industrial edge computers , gateways, networking and I/O devices, fit for purpose to build a solid IIoT infrastructure for greenfield as well as brownfield sites.

• Hyperscalers like Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, and Google Cloud Platform provide edge computing platforms, well integrated and secured with their cloud offering.

• Specialised software vendors offer their solution on top of Moxa’s hardware and integrated with the hyperscaler’s services.

• Specialised IIoT service providers help take the pain out of physical deployment and management of the solution, if control engineers want to make their own life easy – ‘zero touch provisioning’.

Three scenarios may illustrate how to make good use of this new freedom of choice:

In 2021 Hoerbiger was looking to build an industrial IoT platform for compressor monitoring without building it all from scratch and without lock-in to a single vendor. Moxa partnered up with TTTech Industrial to deliver a high-end predictive maintenance solution for compressors that was operational within weeks of the first workshop. 

Around the same time a large German manufacturer started building a new digital platform for its factories around the world. Currently it is experimenting with Moxa’s Linux-based edge computers running Microsoft’s Azure IoT Edge runtime environment for its data pipelines as well as for deployment and management of Crosser’s Edge Node software. Crosser’s edge connectivity and edge analytics software is used to easily deploy, monitor and update edge work loads without writing a single line of code.

Hyperscalers are working hard to make it easy for hardware and software partners to deploy on their platform. So Moxa’s latest IIoT edge gateways AIG-301 and AIG-501 comes with Azure IoT Edge already included. Moxa’s new IIoT partner Alleantia leverages the Azure Marketplace to deploy their software to Azure IoT Edge-enabled gateways like Moxa’s AIG product line. 

With the move towards more edge computing, control engineers can regain control of their IT and software architecture and expedite innovation, as they more easily add new features into the existing control environment.

Hermann Berg is head of IIoT at Moxa Europe GmbH.

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