The concept of Edge Technology has been around since the first electronic exchanges were built, and became a desirable asset when Investment Banks looking for low-latency, fast trading platforms arranged for their server equipment to be co-located next to the Exchange equipment. Execution of the trading algorithm was fast, as once it had committed the trade, it only had a short distance to travel.

Similarly, much of IoT relies on small amounts of information being transmitted and received constantly in as little time as possible. We’ve seen a number of reports in the media which uphold data centres as the solution to latency concerns in the era of IoT – but do they really hold all the answers?

The theory is that latency time is reduced by distributing the processes nearer to the end users. Yet the reality is that unless you also replicate the big data stores, then processing has to return to its original point to get essential pieces of information. In the end, this will just add to the total processing time and cause a backlog in responses to the customers.

Sizing Up Telephone Exchanges

I looked into a BT Telephone Exchange several years ago to see if it might be a suitable location for a data centre. Although it was a good value for money from a real-estate perspective, the location had some significant shortfalls:

  • Telephone exchanges provide telephony services to the general public, and so they are located in dense residential area. The noise and fumes created from testing diesel generators are not a welcome presence in residential areas.
  • Datacentres need to be diversely connected, which would mean digging up a residential street to connect the necessary networks.
  • The old lift system was incapable of holding the equipment that needed to be transported up, so would have to be replaced.
  • The layout and height of telephone exchanges generally don’t support efficient cooling.

An Alternative Solution

Companies need to carefully consider deployment before they upend residential streets and disrupt neighbourhoods across the country. Bearing our trading standards in mind, deployment depends on the application of IoT and whether it would benefit from being closer to its data processing store or whether it is suitable for distributed deployment.

Each application needs to be presented on its metrics and thoroughly analysed. For high volume, ‘person-centric’ IoT applications, it is worth considering the use of major cloud resources versus dedicated Edge Technology. The high cost of developing a permanent infrastructure for Edge Technology counteracts the dynamic nature of IoT – many IoT applications get reinvented multiple times or morph into new applications. This makes the cloud a more flexible option, and one that delivers far more benefits than specific, localised supporting infrastructure.

IoT products and services are re-inventing themselves at a rapid rate. Companies need to carefully consider whether it is worthwhile building dedicated, expensive facilities with a ‘lifelong’ commitment, when you may be able to deploy with major cloud providers who may already have an appropriately located resource in place.

While edge technology has undoubtedly got its place, companies need to be proactive when it comes to IoT. It’s essential to consider the practicalities, rather than the infrastructure, before they embark on the road to intelligent deployment.

Do you want to talk to someone about the effects IoT could have on your IT infrastructure? Contact us today.