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3 things sysadmins need to know about edge computing

As more edge devices appear on enterprise networks, sysadmins need the knowledge and tools to support them.
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Person standing on the edge of a cliff with clouds in the background

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Over the last few years, edge computing has become just as common as cloud computing, hybrid cloud, and Internet of Things (IoT). Edge computing's growth in popularity means more companies are offering edge computing solutions that provide control of your edge devices, edge networks, containers, and more. But what does edge computing mean to you and your environment? Here are three things sysadmins need to know about edge computing.

[ Download now: A system administrator's guide to IT automation. ]

1. You decide what edge means to you

Like most computing concepts, the edge is not one size fits all. To a power company, the edge might be a remote sensor monitoring a solar panel array; to an advertising company, the edge might be an IoT device controlling an electronic billboard; and to a trucking company, the edge might be a GPS tracking device on a semi-truck.

While these are all great examples of edge computing, they aren't things most system administrators encounter in their environment. To most system administrators, edge computing is something as simple as a remote office with a firewall, a managed switch, a wireless access point, a few laptops and desktops, a printer, and maybe a security camera. It's not glamorous, exciting, or always connected on a 5G network, but it's what they consider edge computing to be. The most important takeaway is that you define what edge computing is to you and your environment. Once you understand, you will know what it will take to deploy and maintain those edge devices.

2. Edge devices could be easy access to your network for attackers

Edge computing devices can take virtually any form, and these endpoints are almost everywhere. That means the risk of intrusion increases with each new device introduced.

It's important to protect your devices from potential threats by restricting access to your network, updating your devices with the latest security patches, and ensuring that they always connect to your network using encrypted channels. Read Edge security for sysadmins: 6 issues to watch for more tips.

The more edge devices you have, the more difficult it can be to maintain all of them. To make this easier, consider utilizing a configuration management tool that can work with your devices, such as Ansible. These automation tools allow you to maintain a consistent configuration on each edge device. Doing so will enable you to apply the same security settings and quickly adapt to any new threats by simply updating and running your playbook.

[ Learn more about automation at the edge. ]

3. As edge use cases grow, so do support and maintenance requirements

Many system administrators have the standard remote office or remote datacenter that they consider to be on the edge. In these situations, standard enterprise systems are considered edge devices that they have been managing for years. But as technology evolves, new devices are needed to perform specific tasks, and with new use cases for these devices comes the added complexity of designing, implementing, and maintaining these solutions.

Don't plan your edge strategy for the present; you should also consider future use cases. While the edge might be a remote office today, it could very well expand to numerous IoT devices in the future. It's easy to quickly become overwhelmed and behind on your ability to deploy and manage these devices.

Live on the edge

With all the talk about edge computing, it's easy to get caught up in the marketing hype and feel overwhelmed by it and how it applies to you. That's why defining what edge computing is in your environment is important. Make sure your edge devices use best practices and an easy-to-use automation tool and that they can adapt and grow with the complexities that come with edge computing.

[ Boost security, flexibility, and scale at the edge with Red Hat Enterprise Linux. ]

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Topics:   Edge computing   Cloud   Containers  
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Morgan Peterman

Morgan Peterman is a Senior Partner Technical Account Manager for Red Hat OpenShift. He is a Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) and a Red Hat Certified Specialist in OpenShift. More about me

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