By Charles King, Pund-IT® April 1, 2020
Edge of network computing has been a topic of growing interest, mainly due to the emergence of promising Internet of Things (IoT) solutions and next gen 5G mobile technologies. But it would be a mistake to consider computing at the edge to be entirely new or only about IoT. For decades, enterprises of all kinds have deployed and often struggled to support computing processes at the far edges of their networks in locations, including retail outlets, manufacturing facilities, healthcare clinics and remote and branch offices (ROBOs).
Why have they struggled? Solutions for edge of network computing varied widely in quality and performance, required complex integration to be compatible with primary data centers and were difficult to manage and maintain. In addition, moving substantial quantities of data across networks for further analysis in primary data centers was costly and time consuming. That negatively impacted solutions’ total cost of ownership (TCO) and the business value organizations hoped to gain from their investments.
Thankfully, the appearance of new solutions, including hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) and integrated public cloud solutions have improved the situation considerably. Lenovo’s new and updated edge-to-cloud ThinkAgile HCI and ThinkSystem storage solutions which optimally leverage Microsoft Azure’s cloud services are good examples of how vendors are helping their customers gain the full advantage of enterprise edge computing.
The importance of edge computing
What are some of the workloads and business processes where edge solutions can be applied? Retail stores are a good example. For the past two decades, brick and mortar retailers have been under constant, increasing pressure from centralized online vendors, ranging from behemoths like Amazon to countless general and specialty sellers.
In order to compete and survive, traditional retailers need to improve their understanding of customer sentiment and demand for products and enhance the performance of sales and inventory processes. Analyzing sales and inventory data collected at individual outlets can provide retailers the information they require to make better decisions. However, achieving those insights with conventional IT solutions can be cumbersome and expensive.
The same can be said for other situations where business activities occur at some distance from central data centers. Successful manufacturing depends on maximizing the performance of factory and shop floor equipment, but workers can miss or misinterpret issues that cause inefficiencies and even failures of critical machinery. In medical clinics and hospitals, the health and safety of patients depends on properly managing highly complicated devices and correctly analyzing massive volumes of complex test and monitoring data.
It’s also important to consider the role of edge computing in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As individuals, businesses and economies are becoming increasingly stressed, it’s never been more important for organizations to have an accurate view and clear insights into activities across their spheres of influence.
That’s a crucial point for critical decision making but it also impacts the efficiency, effectiveness and safety of actions occurring far from central offices. As a result, enterprises can profit from IT solutions that effectively operate, work and deliver the goods where events are happening while also enriching the understanding of senior managers and executives.
Lenovo’s edge-to-cloud solutions
Lenovo’s new solutions take on these and other business challenges by integrating robust performance at the edge with integrated Microsoft Azure cloud capabilities. The company’s new and updated offerings are:
- Lenovo ThinkAgile MX1021—An appliance optimized for Microsoft Azure Stack HCI, the MX1021 is delivered as a two-node solution leveraging 8-core Intel Xeon D processors, 64 GiB (and up to 256 GiB) TruDDR4 ECC memory, two 10 GbE SFP (Small Form-factor Pluggable), a PCIe slot for optional GPUs and Lenovo’s XClarity controller. The MX1021 comes with four 1 TB NVMe SSDs (and up to eight 2 TB NVMe SSDs) and also supports hybrid configurations. The integration with Azure Stack HCI enables customers to swiftly and securely move information to the cloud for analysis, like retailers looking to gain insights into inventory movement and customer sentiment, or manufacturers utilizing the platform for real time equipment monitoring. In combination with Azure Stack Hub and Azure IoT Hub, healthcare customers can utilize the ThinkAgile MX1021 to securely tier data and increase the efficiency of clinical, patient and operational analytics.
- Lenovo ThinkSystem DM7100—Designed with all Flash NVMe, the DM7100 is a highly scalable and flexible storage solution for accelerating critical business workloads and processes and incorporates secure hybrid cloud tiering capabilities to Microsoft Azure and other public cloud providers. Integrated support for Azure cloud tiering enables customers to effectively leverage and manage the Azure Cloud from their datacenters. Plus, companies deploying all-Flash NVMe configurations can expect data analytics performance to improve by up to 30%. That will provide substantial benefits for organizations determined to enhance business management or to speed critical decision-making.
The ThinkAgile MX1021 and the ThinkSystem DM7100 are secured by Lenovo’s ThinkShield end-to-end security portfolio, and are available through Lenovo TruScale, the company’s pay-for-what-you-use data center offering.
While enterprise edge computing is hardly unique, new and continuing developments in both on premises and cloud computing are providing businesses options and solutions that they have never had before. Lenovo’s new and updated offerings, including the ThinkAgile MX1021 HCI appliance and ThinkSystem DM7100, along with the company’s creative hybrid cloud collaboration with Microsoft Azure are just the sort of solutions that many businesses need and have been hoping for.
Rather than being mired in the past or focusing entirely on the future, Lenovo’s edge-to-cloud ThinkAgile and ThinkSystem solutions are built to enhance both the edge compute processes that enterprises have long depended on and the newer solutions they are deploying today or considering for the future.
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