The Industrial Edge: The Game has Changed

“Massively disruptive,” “a game changer,” and “will redefine industries” are just some of the phrases used over the last year by market researchers to describe the potential of edge computing. According to Gartner, by the year 2025, 75% of all data will be processed at the edge.

What implications does this have for companies designing solutions today? How have solution builders embraced edge computing now, and how are they shifting their business models to prepare for the expected influx of edge data processing needs in the near future?

Massive opportunity with big data

From working with our OEM customers, I know that faster access to processed data is already opening new business models and driving innovation and opportunity across every industry. The rationale for this shift is clear. Increasingly, both OEMs and end users need to be able to process enormous amounts of data on site, giving them the power to make smarter decisions, faster. By embracing edge computing, these companies are seeing real results in reduced cost, latency and connectivity challenges for both themselves and their customers.

Security solutions, AI platforms and billable services

For example, OEM customers such as BCDVideo are using edge technology to design security solutions for their end users, giving them the ability to process data locally instead of sending it across the network, where it’s more vulnerable. Others, like Kinetica, are designing AI platforms that can collect and analyze the volumes of edge data their customers need to process. OEMs are also developing new revenue streams, introducing new billable services to differentiate themselves from the competition and increase the stickiness of customer accounts.

IT meets OT on the factory floor

It’s probably not a surprise to anyone familiar with the industrial industry, but we’re also seeing the Enterprise Edge evolve with platforms traditionally used in a datacenter now deployed on the factory floor. The production lines, where data is gathered, is also changing. In the past, edge devices would typically have been small PC-type computers. Now, we’re now seeing demand for ruggedized, long life systems that can run heavier workloads, like analytics, machine learning, vision systems and robotics.

The result? OEMs are using edge technology to change how they are designing and manufacturing their own products, which in turn can positively impact their own customers in areas like cost savings and faster turnaround times.

Managing IT infrastructure on the factory floor

OEM customer, Rockwell Automation, is a great example. Rockwell serves a wide range of industries globally from wastewater and consumer packaged goods through to oil and gas. According to Rockwell (registration required), IT and OT convergence represents a challenge for many customers. Despite cyber security risks and the increased reliance on data and network infrastructure to enable manufacturing, there’s a shortage of skills and staff to manage IT infrastructure on the factory floor and optimize operations. Yet, ten minutes downtime can cost over $10k.

In response, Rockwell worked with OEM Solutions to engineer a virtual, turnkey solution, designed on Dell PowerEdge XL servers for their customers, plus a range of managed services that help their customers meet their product schedules.

The world’s first learning steel mill

Industry leader, Big River Steel wanted to optimize operations and reduce waste at its $1.3 billion scrap metal recycling and steel production facility. Using edge compute, servers, storage plus an AI platform designed by our OEM customer,, on Dell Technologies infrastructure, Big River Steel is now regarded as the world’s first learning steel mill, embedding AI and machine learning into its manufacturing processes.

The result? Big River Steel has insights into all the factors responsible for quality variability and knows the optimal manufacturing input parameters. Importantly, the company has reported up to 50% reduction in steel yield strength variability and up to $10 million in savings. 

Market trends

I’ve shared some examples of edge computing but let’s look at the market research data. In a recent VDC survey of over 700 global product development decision makers, 42 percent are already deploying edge computing with 26% planning to do so within the next year. Interestingly, 36% say they’re investing in edge computing, specifically because of customer demand while around 20% of respondents say competitive pressure is driving this evolution.

How does this translate into system deployments? Over 60% of respondents said they are now implementing additional remote monitoring and control within their industrial systems. Thirty-eight percent of organizations are enabling services to improve product lifecycle and inventory management, while 19 percent are introducing new, billable services.

A world of possibilities

What does this mean for the future? I believe the intelligent edge is the glue uniting IT and OT environments – the final piece of the puzzle, if you will. Over the next decade, I predict that every piece of industrial equipment will be fitted with an embedded or connected computer, allowing it to make intelligent decisions on its own. For our OEM customers, there’s huge opportunity to develop edge applications and enable software-defined functionality. We will see new, professional and billable services emerge with usage-based fees. Edge technologies will be all around us performing distributed computing across a multitude of devices in cities, factories, energy plants, and farms.

Invest now in your future business

From an OEM and end customer perspective, increasing edge computing demands will accelerate the need for the right compute, connectivity and storage as well as more flexible hardware and software platforms. 2025 may still seem like the distant future, but the partnership and the technology choices you make now can and will impact the health of your future business.

Give your business the extra edge – Dell Technologies OEM Solutions can help you design, deliver and support a wide range of customized industrial edge solutions.

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About the Author: Ron Pugh