By Charles King, Pund-IT® March 8, 2023
The evolution of edge computing solutions and services has followed a path similar to those of other business and industrial technologies. In essence, IT vendors and business solution partners, such as independent software vendors (ISVs) create platforms that can effectively collect, process and analyze complex data, thus improving process and equipment management and business decision making.
Similarly, edge vendors begin with solutions focused on large and complex jobs, then work their way toward smaller or more targeted processes. Though these functions are still vital to customers, they carry challenges that both unique and difficult for many organizations to manage. The new Lenovo ThinkEdge servers, Lenovo Open Cloud Automation (LOC-A 2.6) and Lenovo XClarity enhancements the company announced at the recent Mobile World Congress (MWC) show in Barcelona are good examples of how a vendor can help customers and partners overcome those challenges.
ThinkEdge SE10 and SE10-I – Small and rugged
Lenovo’s ThinkEdge edge computing portfolio includes numerous solutions and form factors. They range from core data center to remote or branch office (ROBO) local/closet data centers to far edge servers designed for particular environments, or to collect and process specific kinds of data.
So far as form factors go, the company’s new ThinkEdge SE10 and SE10-I (industrial) are its most compact far edge servers yet. Clocking in at 0.8L, for the SE10 and 1.4 L for the SE10-I (industrial) these fanless solutions are designed to securely collect analog data, such as information collected from temperature and air flow sensors and to support business equipment, like digital signage and kiosks.
The two solutions use the same Intel ATOM Elkhart Lake processors and firmware and share many characteristics. However, the SE10-I solution is more ruggedized for cold/heat (-20C to 60C), supports IP50 dust/water resistance and supports more I/O ports.
During a briefing with analysts, Charles Ferland, Lenovo’s VP and GM of Edge Computing in the company’s Infrastructure Solutions Group (ISG) noted the difficulties that enterprises are having with deploying and managing edge computing at scale, due to the complexity of those environments and constraints in human and technical resources. He said that the design of the ThinkEdge SE10 and SE10-Ialong with advancements in Lenovo’s Open Cloud Automation (LOC-A 2.6) and XClarity solutions make them ideal solutions for a range of enterprise retail, manufacturing and smart building applications.
Ferland also described how one Lenovo customer, a retail grocery chain, is using the new servers to better monitor and manage the temperatures in its vegetable, meat/seafood and frozen food departments, thus reducing spoilage and improving energy usage.
Automation and cloud orchestration at the edge
How will Lenovo’s enhanced LOC-A 2.6 and XClarity offerings impact customers’ edge computing efforts? LOC-A 2.6 is likely to make the greatest initial impact but requires some context to understand. In many or most edge environments, deployment requires trained IT staff to physically place individual servers and components, then load firmware and software, and connect the system to the corporate network for final installation and updates. The process requires seamless product delivery, is time consuming and can be easily derailed by operator error.
Lenovo LOC-A 2.6 radically alters this process. First, the company ships blank ThinkEdge servers, without any firmware or software loaded, to the customer’s destination. There, staff unpack and place the servers where they are needed, then connect them to the physical infrastructure. Using a smartphone, tablet or laptop application, staff can securely activate the servers and connect/confirm them with Lenovo.
At that point, LOC-A 2.6 begins an automated download and configuration process and executes all necessary tasks in the right sequence so that the server becomes operational. Any necessary updates and patches are automatically installed so that within a few minutes or hours the server is ready to host its application(s).
Understandably, this remote activation reduces the time and resources that businesses need to put into deployment efforts and can dramatically decrease their carbon footprint. Additionally, the changes to Lenovo XClarity should significantly streamline and simplify edge computing management. Once available only for Lenovo’s data center systems, the XClarity platform can now support the company’s entire ThinkEdge portfolio, including far edge solutions, like the ThinkEdge SE10 and SE10-I. As a result, businesses can better monitor and manage even the largest edge environments through a single pane of glass interface.
Along with its new and improved edge computing solutions, Lenovo is also leveraging its AI Innovation Centers to educate and train customers and partners to gain the most from their edge computing investments. As a result of these and other efforts, Lenovo is helping to substantially extend and expand the practical benefits of edge computing. Over time, we expect that Lenovo will continue delivering new innovations and improvements via its ThinkEdge portfolio and associated solutions and services.
© 2023 Pund-IT®. All rights reserved.