Will Edge Computing Be the Future of Government IT?


Edge computing can act as a bridge between legacy and modern government IT machines.

Edge computing is data processing that’s done at or near the source of data ingestion, allowing for real-time processing. Using this technology reduces the need to send streams of data over telecommunications networks and addresses the need for localized computing power. IDC research predicted that by 2019, at least 40 percent of internet-of-things-created data will be stored, processed analyzed and acted up close to, or at, the edge of the network. Additionally, more than 6 billion devices will soon be connected to edge computing solutions. With such rapid growth and potential, the U.S. government needs to find new ways to encourage agencies to adopt edge computing—or the federal government could be inundated by a deluge of data by the end of the decade.

As local and federal governments look to move to this more innovative data processing method, they should follow the path commercial businesses took by incorporating edge computing into a broader infrastructure plan. IT functions that create data close to the machine or person handling it can be processed more efficiently by using edge computing.

Benefits of Edge Computing

For government agencies that are known for their legacies systems, how do they make the shift? Edge computing can act as a bridge between legacy and modern government IT machines because it equips legacy machines to adopt the language of modern IoT devices and the cloud. This enables government agencies to make use of the machines they already have but get the results of more modern IT infrastructure. After all, more than half of the government IT budget goes to maintain legacy machines, so it’s important to find a solution that works with that technology without additional equipment investment.

Another benefit is the ease in helping government IT protect data. By processing that data at the source, you reduce the need to send streams of data over telecommunications networks—which are known for their vulnerability. Additionally, you can pull only the data that is needed and remove the other details, such as personal information, before it's stored in the cloud.

The biggest reason many government agencies incorporate edge computing is the cost savings. According to the Wikibon IoT project, processing IoT data through a combination of the cloud and edge systems is only 36 percent of the cost of cloud-only computing, saving government agencies money that can be used to modernize legacy machines that are typically seen as a barrier to innovation. With edge computing, you process data in real time at the ingestion site, enabling you to save computing space on cloud servers. So, you won’t pay for higher computing capabilities in your cloud platform.  

Use Cases

Some of our most innovative government agencies have already recognized the benefits of edge computing, putting it to use in a variety of ways. With the July announcement of the Army’s new Future Command, edge computing was one of the “innovative technologies” that the new headquarters will adopt to prepare soldiers for modern warfare. Drones are already using edge computing in 3-D site surveying and mapping, search and rescue operations and big data collection. By using edge computing, the military will be able to better understand how to collect, store and correlate data to make military actions safer.  

Additionally, local governments are using edge computing to create “smart cities” which enable autonomous cars to make real-time decisions based on traffic and/or road conditions. An example is the city of Dallas, which was one of 25 cities that joined the White House’s Smart City Initiative, which was launched to help cities invest in emerging technologies to help communities tackle challenges.

Edge computing is already proving useful for military search and rescue operations and to ease traffic congestion in smart cities, and even more beneficial examples exist on the commercial side, proving that the technology will be useful for the government. As the data evolution continues to progress, it’s going to become imperative that data processing and storage become a bigger part of the government IT conversation. Good data protocols are necessary, especially for those that deal with secure and critical data. To avoid the fast-approaching inundation of data, agencies should be encouraged to incorporate edge computing into their broader IT plans.

Dan Fallon is the director of systems engineering of public sector for Nutanix.