The 5 Benefits of Virtualization at the Edge

The concept of virtualization was a breakthrough in computer technology when it was developed 40 years ago to enable shared use of computing resources, increasing efficiency. Virtualization was first adopted by IT as part of select technology applications. But today, with the advent of Edge Computing and because of a variety of real-world benefits, it has now moved into complex plant control systems and other automation scenarios to enable digital transformation. Let’s get to the bottom of why virtualization should be a core strategy for Edge Computing right now.

Virtualization allows the capabilities of a physical machine to be distributed across multiple environments and takes several forms, including desktop, server, or operating system virtualization.

  • Virtualization can be used with desktops to create one environment that is simulated and shared with multiple physical machines at the same time.
  • Server virtualization allows a server to be partitioned so that multiple functions can be run simultaneously.
  • Virtualization can also be used with operating systems so that one physical machine can run multiple operating systems side by side.

Whichever type of virtualization you choose, the benefits of virtualization at the edge are the same:

1. Reduced Engineering Hours and Greatly Improved Productivity

Instead of performing a single task multiple times on multiple physical machines, the task is only performed once. Depending on the task, engineering hours can be decreased by up to 75%

2. Improved Speed of Time to Market

Virtualization provides a single pane of glass view, allowing companies to quickly access information and make changes to respond to customer needs.

3. Multiple Revenue Streams for your Organization – Especially System Integrators

Virtualization allows servers to be fully optimized. By partitioning the server, multiple clients running different programs can all use the same server, which allows for multiple sources of revenue.

4. Stronger Competitive Advantage

Moving from physical machines to virtual machines provides a competitive advantage. Virtualization protects data analytics and systems in a simple and secure environment which is easy to deploy and helps reduce the number of PCs and software licenses needed while also allowing for protected data by offering high availability and software fault tolerance.

5. Reduced Ongoing Support Burden

In the same way that reducing repetitive tasks saves time, fewer physical machines reduces the time IT staff spends on troubleshooting hardware problems, managing upgrades and patches, and performing backups.

In a recent trend report, industry analyst firm Gartner stated that “Edge Computing will become a dominant factor across virtually all industries and use cases” naming it one of the top 10 strategic technology trends for 2020, and another firm, IDC, identified edge computing as one of the top 10 key drivers for IT over the next five yearsVirtualization is an essential component of Edge Computing, allowing admins to quickly and easily manage workloads, shifting between servers. Virtualization plays a critical role in many edge scenarios, including gateways or micro data centers that process data produced by sensors at the edge, or apps running in containers that are hosted on virtual machines.



12 Gartner Edge Computing Use Cases We Believe Can Help You Win at Edge Computing

Intense interest in Edge Computing has grown rapidly over the past several years, and Gartner believes “…by year-end 2023, more than 50% of large enterprises will deploy at least six edge computing use cases deployed for IoT or immersive experiences, versus less than 1% in 2019.” As companies automate and digitally transform their core business operations, Edge Computing will be key to providing the real-time data processing and analysis required to create business intelligence and increase value.

The Cultural Shift

In a recent report titled “Exploring the Edge: 12 Frontiers of Edge Computing,” Gartner details how Edge Computing increases the possibilities, business promise and use cases of IoT significantly. We believe this is important because culturally we are shifting from simple connections powered by technology to more immersive, interactive, and natural connections. The benefits of Edge Computing, like decreased latency, better bandwidth management, and zero-touch operations are key to supporting these new expectations of how people, businesses, and things interact.

Business, Things, And People

Gartner has identified 12 Edge Computing use case categories, divided into three distinct interaction types. These are centered around Business, Things and People. In our opinion these interaction types drive activities like industrial automation, streaming video, financial transactions and smart meters. This can be helpful to organizations looking to build a strategy to support their digital transformation vision and create a strategy that includes multiple Edge Computing use cases, rather than treating each use case as a single deployment.

Creating an Edge Computing Strategy

We believe each organization will need to decide which use cases categories are most relevant to helping them reach their Edge Computing and Digital Transformation goals. IT and OT infrastructure managers should work with business leaders to identify opportunities for business value enabled by edge computing deployments as part of the overall digital business strategy. Building out a long-term multi-year plan for edge computing use case deployments, as well as developing guidelines and standards will help organizations choose the right vendors to achieve success.



3 Developments Influencing Edge Computing in 2020

While Edge Computing will continue to spread across industries in 2020, there will still be growing pains as organizations learn what types of implementations can achieve the best results and how to use data to power digital transformation. For me, I see three areas where we will see increased clarity and confidence in Edge Computing.

Security at the Edge

One concern people have had for a while has been security at the edge. At Stratus we’ve seen that you can’t take the same security technology you’re using in the data center and apply it at the edge. The primary difference is the sheer number of connected devices, and each one represents a potential vulnerability point.

In 2020, security requirements at the edge will become more defined, either through work by industry consortiums, or by end users establishing specific requirements. Security criteria are likely to vary greatly by industry, with financial services companies having different Edge Computing needs and objectives than wastewater treatment facilities, for example. Enterprises should create security controls based on what data is collected, where it is used, and who needs access to it. For example, a device at the edge may not need to be connected to the cloud at all times, and can be configured to only initiate a connection when specific data needs to be transferred.

IT and OT

Another ongoing edge discussion focuses on how IT and OT teams interact with each other and who is responsible for various aspects of edge implementations. I believe in 2020, IT and OT will begin to collaborate more effectively as they gain better understanding around the role of each team member and clarification of swim lanes for Edge Computing. As responsibilities become clearer, the organization as a whole will adapt, in structure and through budget support. There are many benefits to this approach including delivering better customer experience via the application of predictive analytics.


Finally, I believe that OEM builders will bake more intelligence into their machines in recognition of the shortage of well-qualified technical staff in the field. It’s amazing to see the level of interest coming from people who are making very smart machines. They will add features like predictive maintenance, fault-tolerance and increased autonomy.

Machines will leverage the data they share better through software solutions like complex event processing. This will reduce the need for supervisory intervention and be the initial steps towards more machine adaptive processes. And this brings it around full circle to these smart machines helping with what I mentioned earlier about IT and OT and how they work together by incorporating technology into one machine, reducing complexity, but producing data that drives business results.

So as we enter 2020, I think we will see enterprises recognizing more use cases for Edge Computing and reacting accordingly by changing internal staffing structures, defining the data they need and how to best manage it, and being more specific about requirements from vendors and really optimizing Edge Computing as they move forward in their digital transformation initiatives.



Industrial Automation Growth Lags, but IIoT Presents and Opportunity for Early Adopters of Edge Computing

Recent results from industrial automation companies have been uneven, as forecasts in late 2019 for investment in U.S. manufacturing declined for the first time in 10 years. Part of this can be traced to investor uncertainty due to tariffs, the U.S./China relationship and the recently passed USMCA. This mirrors a pattern seen in the EU, UK, and Japan.

Factors Influencing IIoT Growth

But for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the outlook is more positive. Rather than declining, the IIoT market has been projected to grow between 29% and 40% between 2019 and 2023 depending on which analyst you talk to, with a general consensus in the range of a 33% CAGR. This growth in adoption of IIoT will be driven by developments like the rollout of 5G, the increased adoption of wearable technology, continued development of smart operations and connected assets and interest in developing smart buildings and smart cities.

For manufacturing organizations, the benefits of IIoT deployments are many, including increased efficiency, increased productivity, decreased maintenance costs, and supply chain optimization.  These deployments also provide new areas of revenue generation opportunities for suppliers as they try to better service their customer base and provide a higher degree of customer satisfaction.  

Digital Transformation is Key to Success

To achieve these benefits, manufacturers are focusing on Digital Transformation. A Deloitte Industry 4.0 survey of 361 executives across 11 countries shows that 94% report digital transformation as their organization’s top strategic initiative. Increasingly, Edge Computing is powering these digital business interactions. Wherever real-time processing is critical, when large quantities of data are being produced and when minimizing downtime is imperative, Edge Computing is key. Gartner believes that it’s the interactions between people, businesses, and things that will define Edge Computing use cases.

From our research, we know that more than 50% of enterprises are already implementing or testing Edge Computing use cases. The most popular use cases include device failure detection, advanced process control, asset performance, and SCADA/HMI. Gartner believes that by year-end 2023, more than 50% of large enterprises will deploy at least six edge computing use cases for IoT or immersive experiences[1].

Smart enterprises looking to digitally transform and disrupt the status quo will reap the benefits of making capital expenditures now and be ready for the increased demand and opportunity when the market rebounds. More conservative organizations may get left behind, lose market share and may not be able to take full advantage of the benefits of Edge Computing when it really matters.

[1] Gartner Exploring the Edge: 12 Frontiers of Edge Computing, 6 May 2019, Thomas Bittman