Application management and infrastructure consolidation in the digital factory – more digital efficiency at the factory edge (2023 Prediction #4)
IT infrastructures within factories are highly distributed today. It is not uncommon for companies to use hundreds or even thousands of industrial PCs (IPCs) for various different purposes on their shop floors. This leads to complexity in IT infrastructure and application management. When clients consider reducing the complexity and cost of their existing IT infrastructures for OT purposes, they basically have two options.
One option obviously is to remove or reduce local compute power and consume it via the cloud instead. However, this may not be the best option for manufacturing companies for reasons of latency, cost, data privacy, and compliance.
These companies have been paying a lot of attention to the consolidation of edge computing capabilities within the factory, which provides several advantages – becoming more efficient thanks to reduced hardware costs and energy consumption; and simplifying the allocation and reallocation of existing infrastructure resources to meet the steadily growing demand for IT capabilities to enable new factory-related use cases. One example in this context is the growing demand for visual quality control based on real-time AI at the edge.
In addition to advantages on the infrastructure side, companies can also benefit on the application management side. As in the cloud, microservice architectures and container technology will play an increasing part in simplifying application management at the edge. On top of this, container orchestration (Kubernetes) not only allows the management of containers at the edge, but also the integration of cloud infrastructures in a simple and cloud-vendor-agnostic way. This opens the door to cloud-vendor-agnostic management of hybrid (edge & cloud) and multi-cloud environments (edge plus two or more cloud infrastructures). We observe a pronounced interest, especially among large European manufacturing companies, for example in the automotive space, in simplifying the edge computing architectures in their factories, and we expect more manufacturers to join this trend.
This blog is part of a series of PAC's 2023 Top 10 predictions