BT Group (BT.NYSE) and Dell Technologies (DELL.NYSE) go to the edge to streamline the customer experience


BT Group (BT.NYSE) chose Dell Technologies (DELL.NYSE) portfolio of customer-location IT solutions, allowing them to offer a broad range of services to give their client base of multinational enterprise customers more agile and flexible service, but at the risk of insecurity

BT will offer the Dell EMC Virtual Edge Platform (VEP) to its customers, which uses networking specific universal Customer Premises Equipment (uCPE)—or if you prefer it in English, a network that bonds together internet-of-things (IoT) and other specific IT application platforms. The VEP will help BT streamline the automation and simplification features of their on-premises workload.

“Partnering with BT on its wide-reaching Dynamic Network Services program will help provide customers more choice, security, resilience, service and agility in the roll-out of networks based on the latest software defined networking (SDN) and edge networking technologies,” said Kevin Shatzkamer, vice president, service provider solutions, Dell Technologies

The device consolidates hardware and application choices at various customer locations. It cuts down on space required for appliances like servers at every location, giving a common platform to host services like a software defined wide-area network (SD-WAN), security functions, IoT gateways and distributed applications, making the use of key applications quicker and easier. So instead of having six different devices, be they servers, monitors or what have you, they can all be reduced to one device and one person to man it.

“BT helps multinational organizations deliver great user experience by managing and integrating services globally and at scale. As their trusted advisor, we recognize they want choice when it comes to deploying technology to achieve their goals. With Dell EMC Virtual Edge Platform, we are providing not only choice, but also ways to de-risk technology decisions and speed up and remove complexity from their global network service deployments,” said Scott Cowling, network solutions director of BT.

In addition, BT will support extended Edge use cases through Dell Technologies’ server, storage and hyperconverged infrastructure. BT is already working with customers to onboard these applications onto the new platform, but there are a handful of concerns.

Going over the Edge

Hybrid computing and distributed IoT have gotten popular with companies lately as a means to ensure performance, security and availability for their digital infrastructure. When your information’s in the cloud, you can access it from anywhere. These companies make broad use of software-defined architectures, virtualisation, open standards and API’s and can respond to new market opportunities quicker and more efficiently while fortifying themselves against the clear and present danger presented by disasters, disruptions and digital threats.

Well, most digital threats. We’ll get to that in a bit.

But it’s not only the three D’s listed above that’s influencing company decisions to go to the edge, nor is it technical issues like network latency. Instead it’s driven by the need to cut connectivity costs and keep processes running, such as manufacturing optimization algorithms, despite whatever issues the network may be facing.

“There is a real need among service providers and enterprises to update network operations to address distributed and cloud-based applications and capitalize on changing economics enabled by cloud models. By infusing Open Networking into access networks to the cloud with the Virtual Edge Platform family, Dell EMC can help customers modernize infrastructure and transform operations while automating service delivery and processes,” said Tom Burns, senior vice president, Networking & Service Provider Solutions.

It seems like there’s something missing from the mix, though, and that’s the problem of centralization.

Security and the problem of centralization

One of the key areas of concern for this new technology, and indeed for all of cloud technologies, is the contravention of automation by some outside force like a hacker. It’s one of the biggest barriers for the deployment of IoT, because as we all know, the cloud isn’t exactly safe or secure from hackers. The edge is supposed to become a point of convergence between the two worlds of operational technology (OT), which are the systems that run equipment in factories, refineries, and other such places, and information technology (IT).

If OT controls are centralized in the cloud, and the cloud is hacked—then the company involved can find itself and its operation hijacked by an outside source. The OT world is vulnerable to cyber attacks, a vast majority of which come from IT, because often enough these devices will run on slipshod passwords by people who are subjective to social engineering. Centralizing control of the entire IT infrastructure of a company to one box means that controls of the company’s OT are governed through that box, which honestly seems like a recipe for disaster.

But trading security for efficiency could be the right choice under the right conditions, especially the company has security locked down tight.

It’s all about managing risk.

—Joseph Morton

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