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Edge Computing: Does it Support Customer Intimacy and the Race to Digitization
By Mark Thiele, CIO & CSO, Apcera and Chairman, IDCA Technical Committee
Does Edge Computing Matter to Enterprise IT?
Edge computing, like IoT, AI/ML, drones, Augmented Reality (AR), etc. is all the rage these days. What does edge computing matter to my enterprise though? We have public cloud, colocation, private cloud, multi-cloud and hybrid cloud, what more do we need? Edge is different as private cloud is different from virtualization is different from public cloud. Edge isn’t a replacement, it’s not the “next” new thing it’s an improved ability to leverage compute and network to service customers in new and improved ways.
My Definition of Edge Computing
The Edge is where a combination of technology use requirements creates a location-specific requirement to meet a set of customer use case needs. Those customer use case requirements could be a combination of any or all of; latency, data, data sovereignty, security, performance, cost, and reducing the impact on backhaul networking capacity.
Edge has always been the above, what’s changed significantly through automation, smaller size, better networking, and smarter handhelds is that more capability can be delivered from a smaller latency radius to provide new and unique experiences for the customer.
The key leap of faith we must take
We continuously adopt new technology capabilities in an effort to gain a tighter grip and closer relationship with our customers. Reciprocally in creating a more intimate relationship with our customers we find ourselves facing a number of issues associated with the traditional limitations of technology like the speed of light, cost, and efficiency of delivery and support. We also face the new issue or assumption that becoming a digital platform is the only way for an enterprise to survive beyond another five to seven years. If we accept the assumption that customer intimacy and becoming digital platforms (digital transformation) are minimum success criteria for any business, then edge computing is likely to become a critical battleground for IT.
The Edge is where a combination of technology use requirements creates a location specific requirement to meet a set of customer use case needs
What does creating a more intimate relationship with our customers mean exactly?
There are the fairly obvious things associated with customer intimacy like having a better relationship and or warmer management of interactions. However, the bigger opportunity is associated with what knowing your customer means to your ability to sell new products and services and to ensure they never want to leave the ones they already use.
How does Edge Computing support customer intimacy and the race to digitization?
Of the major trends affecting IT today, there are many that roll right off the tongue, AI/ML, Big Data, Autonomous Vehicles (AV), AR, Virtual Reality (VR), IoT, and so on. What’s most interesting to me about these trends is not how IoT might make a shop floor more efficient or how AR might make it easier to visualize a space, it’s how all of these trends lend themselves to creating opportunities for greater customer intimacy.
What does greater customer intimacy mean to IT?
Whether you believe in digital transformation or not there is no denying that customer intimacy wins the war. In order to facilitate customer intimacy without breaking the back of your team or the bankbook of your business, now is the time to consider your platform strategy moving forward. While each business in each industry will likely find unique ways to address the notion of becoming a platform, the key question for the CIO is; how and where can IT lead and support the transformation?
Customer intimacy is rendered mostly useless if you can’t act and react in real time to what you learn from your customers. You can build the fastest database and the biggest server farm ever created, but if your organizational and leadership alignment doesn’t support responding immediately to what you’re learning, you will fail. This must be the first action after defining future state expectations of your transformation.
Assuming each line of business can get on board with the right processes and organization structures, the next opportunity for IT is building a service that can scale and leverage options quickly. Responding to a vastly increased customer base (external customers are the new customer for IT) in ways they have come to expect (I.e., Paypal, Lyft, Netflix, etc) means that throwing more bodies and hardware at your existing environments won’t be enough. Whether you leverage more public cloud, increased automation, DevOps, Colocation, Software Defined WAN, an application deployment platform or all of the above doesn’t matter what matters is can the IT platform effectively and efficiently support the requirements of the business as a platform.
Ready to do battle?
The Edge is the next battlefront for the heart and soul of the customer, are you ready to leverage the opportunity?