Apr 22 2019

The Benefits of Edge Computing for Feds

Edge gives agencies greater agility and enhanced data processing capabilities.

Every federal agency knows the value and importance of shifting to cloud infrastructure. But what about edge computing? 

As agencies deploy more Internet of Things sensors and demand more robust mobile and computing capabilities in the field, more of that data processing will be happening where devices and users are located – at the network edge

Edge computing is essentially about bringing compute capabilities to where agencies’ missions take place, and the technology allows data to be processed without it traveling back to a data center. 

This is where industry and government seem to be trending. Gartner predicted last year that by 2025, 80 percent of enterprises will have shut down their traditional data centers, versus 10 percent from 2018. Gartner also reported in 2018 that around 10 percent of enterprise-generated data was created and processed outside a traditional centralized data center or cloud. By 2025, Gartner projected, this figure would jump to 75 percent

Edge allows agencies to take the power of the cloud all the way to the network edge, especially to areas where they have not been able to use it before. Agencies can perform data analytics and processing and gain insights at the edge before routing that data back to centralized data centers for further analysis. 

MORE FROM FEDTECH: See how the Navy uses VR to train aircraft carrier crews.

How Agencies Can Take Advantage of Edge Computing

Edge computing allows agencies to deploy smarter sensors and compute capacity closer to the data they are creating and analyzing to get better insights as the data flows through their networks and ultimately back to a data center or enterprise cloud. 

Numerous agencies are already taking advantage of edge computing. The armed forces are using edge computing since so many of their users are deployed away from home bases and data centers. 

But edge computing is also relevant to civilian agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which deploys users into the field to respond to disasters. Those users need to have low-latency data processing and communications, meaning that it takes a short time for them to get a response from the network. Edge computing enables that.

“It allows you to take the power of edge computing and tactical cloud into areas where you haven’t been able to take them before, so that you can produce great results from a mission perspective,” Cameron Chehreh, COO and CTO of Dell EMC Federal, previously told FedTech. “And then, when you can connect back to networks, you can harness further the data you have collected and the information you have analyzed already at the tactical edge, but now fuse it with your enterprise data to create a more holistic picture.”

There are a variety of edge computing solutions agencies can use, including solutions from vendors such as Dell EMC, Microsoft and Nutanix

For example, Dell partners with Microsoft to deliver cloud capabilities to tactical environments for the Air Force’s air operations centers around the globe. With Microsoft Azure Stack, the Air Force can build next-generation apps in the tactical cloud. The Air Force saved almost $1 million a week in tanker refueling costs via edge and cloud computing, Chehreh told FedTech

Using the Dell Pivotal Cloud Foundry platform, the company helped train Air Force developers to build and deploy a tanker refueling application, he says. The software provides better predictive logistics, especially for refueling planes when they are in the air.

Edge computing has numerous civilian applications. FEMA can use edge computing to do facial recognition onsite to collect information about disaster survivors. And the Agriculture Department uses edge computing for activities like heavier geological surveys. For example, USDA workers can use it to perform onsite soil sample analysis. 

Edge computing can allow agencies to harness the power of their data in ways they could not before. And it will allow federal IT leaders to more effectively help their agencies achieve their missions.

This article is part of FedTech's CapITal blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #FedIT hashtag.

CapITal blog logo

monsitj/Getty Images

Become an Insider

Unlock white papers, personalized recommendations and other premium content for an in-depth look at evolving IT