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Smart Manufacturing: Creating a Hybrid Cloud-Edge Strategy

Smart Manufacturing: Creating a Hybrid Cloud-Edge Strategy

The cloud plays a huge role in Industry 4.0, especially in the areas of data processing and storage, quality control and manufacturing execution systems. Industry watcher Gartner expects the worldwide public cloud service market to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 12.6% by 2022, hitting $331.2 billion. Business Intelligence, Supply Chain Management, and Enterprise Resource Planning–all applications manufacturers rely on–will see the highest spend on software-as-a-service (SaaS), Gartner predicts.

Cloud-based solutions offer manufacturers cost-effective data storage and data security, as well as services such as enhanced analytics, machine learning, insights around operational efficiency, and more. Now, more than ever before, manufacturers are eager to leverage the power of the cloud to support their digital transformation.

However, while cloud computing brings many benefits, manufacturers should be aware of the potential risks that come with a cloud strategy. Relying on cloud-based solutions for mission-critical activities within the factory leaves the operation vulnerable if the Internet fails. In short, Internet connectivity–something outside of the manufacturer’s control–could potentially jeopardize their entire operations.

Of course, this is not just a concern for organizations that operate in areas at high risk of natural disaster and Internet outage. Any location can be hit by Internet Service Provider (ISP) issues and manufacturers should plan according to in order to protect their operations until access to the cloud is restored.

This is where edge computing comes into play.

Edge computing: an essential component of business contingency

In simple terms, edge computing refers to an on-premise network. In manufacturing, it generally describes the use of software inside the factory that runs close to the source of data, typically on a device within the factory’s own network.

Running mission-critical activities on the edge means that if the cloud becomes unavailable due to internet issues, the factory can maintain operations until connectivity is restored. Manufacturers can continue to access and interpret performance data without risking any costly downtime.

Maintaining real-time analytics on-premise means that manufacturers will be able to access accurate data on their operations’ performance and make business-critical decisions without relying on the cloud to keep going at least until cloud access is restored.

For example, if a manufacturer uses cloud computing for applications such as SaaS or infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), losing these functions temporarily will not impact the business if critical applications are retained on-premise.

Another benefit of edge computing is its potential for speed. When working on the edge, data only needs to travel a short distance. This enables mission-critical data to be processed as fast as possible, avoiding any machine-based latency issues around real-time activities.

Creating a hybrid cloud-edge strategy

There’s no doubt that the cloud is absolutely key to modern business; it enables manufacturers to manage their data efficiently and effectively and provides access to an incredible array of services that empower Industry 4.0.

But all that time, training and confidence that manufacturers invest in the cloud could be jeopardized if loss of access to the cloud impacts the business negatively. This could lead to productivity and change management issues because if operators need to switch back and forth between analogue and digital ways of working in order to keep the operation running, they are likely to lose confidence in your entire digital transformation ambitions.

Adopting a hybrid cloud-edge strategy is the answer.

When you create a hybrid cloud-edge strategy, you ensure that mission-critical software is run on-premises rather than in the cloud. In other words, mission-critical software that’s used to process real-time data, gain insights and respond accordingly all lives within the factory network. There is no compromise of control.

A hybrid cloud-edge strategy enables manufacturers to gain maximum value with minimum risk. Working with a vendor who can provide a hybrid strategy allows manufacturers to get the best of both worlds, leveraging the cloud for storage, heavy processing, and complex analytics, while maintaining mission-critical operations on the edge.

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