IBM, Lenovo Push Cloud Services, Devices to the Edge

The last few years have seen a rush to move compute, storage, applications and capabilities like data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) out to the edge of the network, closer to where the sources and users of the data are.

The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), increasing mobility and digitization, the rise of 5G, the ongoing development of such technologies as autonomous vehicles, and the new hybrid workforce brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic all continue to increase demands on the edge. As edge technology evolves, more resources will migrate to it.

IBM this week unveiled an effort to extend the reach of its hybrid cloud services and advanced technologies like its Watson Anywhere AI offerings beyond the cloud and to the edge as well as to on-premises data centers. Big Blue also is working with more than five dozen tech partners – including Intel, Dell and Cisco – to build secure cloud services that can be used by organizations in any environment.

In addition, IBM is partnering with Lumen Technologies to give its customers access to IBM Cloud Satellite services via its more than 180,000 edge computing sites. Paul Savill, senior vice president of enterprise product management and services at Lumen, said in a statement that the combination of his company’s broad reach and IBM’s new offering will give “our enterprise customers access to IBM Cloud Satellite to help them drive innovation more rapidly at the edge.”

IBM Focused on Hybrid Cloud and AI

Since buying Red Hat for $34 billion in 2019, IBM has been laser focused on hybrid cloud and AI, solidifying the approach late last year when it announced it was spinning out its Global Technology Services business, creating another company dubbed NewCo that will deliver managed services. The spin off is expected to be completed later this year. IBM Global Technology Services is also part of the Cloud Satellite announcement, offering a cloud consumption model for a range of platform- and infrastructure-as-a-service (PaaS and IaaS).

IBM Cloud Satellite – built atop Red Hat’s OpenShift open hybrid cloud platform – also reinforces the edge as one of three legs of the modern IT architecture, an equal part of what companies like Dell call the IT continuum. IDC analysts expect global spending on edge computing to grow an average of 12.5 percent a year through 2024, when it will hit $250.6 billion.

Through Cloud Satellite, IBM is offering a secure and unified layer of cloud services across multiple environments. With its reach into the edge, IBM can address data regardless of where it is, which is important to enterprises and midsize companies that have to manage data security, sovereignty and compliance issues, and will help reduce latency from the growing numbers of workloads at the edge.

IBM’s new offering is an expected step in the maturation of the edge, according to Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

As companies’ use of edge computing continues to evolve and grow, it will be natural to add those assets [and] processes to hybrid cloud deployments,” King told InternetNews. “Some use cases will focus on taking advantage of public cloud vendors’ edge-focused services, but others will relate to industry- or compliance-related rules and regulations. 

“Consistency in both management and security is crucial in ensuring continued edge computing growth,” King said, adding that “those issues will be even more important as edge infrastructures are increasingly targeted by cybercriminals and other bad actors. These points are at the heart of IBM’s announcement and highlight the role the company believes it can play for its current and prospective enterprise customers.”

Cloud Satellite also puts a focus on how IBM is navigating the hybrid cloud waters, including its dedication to open standards, key cloud technologies like OpenShift and partnership with public cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, King said.

“IBM also offers solutions, particularly in regards to security and data privacy, that are considerably more robust than those offered by some other cloud vendors,” King said.

Lenovo Expands ThinkEdge Offerings for Edge Growth

At the Embedded World 2021 Digital event this week, Lenovo added to its portfolio of ThinkEdge devices with the rollout of the SE 30 and SE50, Intel-powered systems designed for processing and security at the edge. The systems also bring scalability to an environment that company officials said will grow in importance as enterprises move workloads and data to the edge.

Lenovo noted that Gartner analysts are predicting that by 2025, 75 percent of enterprise-generated data will be processed at the edge. In addition, Lenovo’s own survey in December found that the edge is moving up the priorities list of IT executives and managers. About 59 percent of survey respondents said they plan to implement new edge computing solutions within the first half of 2021, and 82 percent said the edge is making the most impact with real-time data collection and analysis.

Lenovo officials pointed to the global pandemic as an accelerator of digital transformation efforts, including a harder push to the edge. Examples range from retailers leveraging automated checkouts and digital signage, manufacturers automating assembly lines and using smart cameras, and healthcare facilities using the edge for remote patient monitoring.

The ThinkEdge SE30 is powered by 11th Gen Core i5 vPro chips from Intel and is aimed at industrial computing in such industries as retail and manufacturing, including processing AI workloads. It initially will support 4G connectivity, with 5G coming later this year, and includes up to 16GB of memory and 1TB of storage.

The SE50 is targeting real-time data analytics and processing at the edge. It’s powered by a Core i5 or i7 vPro chip and comes with 32GB of memory and 2TB of storage. It can filter and send along IoT data across the WAN to the cloud or the core data center. The device also can run the OpenVINO toolkit for AI and deep learning workloads.

The embedded edge devices, which will be available in the middle of this year, are “purpose-built devices designed to be networked on premise or embedded in solutions to give Lenovo’s customers an advantage in performance, security and scalability,” Jon Pershke, vice president of strategy and emerging business for Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group, said in a statement. 

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