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Retail development depends on marginal computing

“When you think of retail with 2,000 locations across the country, it’s too expensive to deploy local data processing and analytics for each location, so edge computing can be a big boon,” says Paul Savill, senior vice president of technology and services management. of the Lumen company, which points out that edge computing is designed to work in tandem with the cloud. “Edge nodes combine hardware-driven computing power with software-defined network capabilities to connect it to the public cloud,” he explains. “From a single centralized node in one market area, say, the size of Denver, edge computing can serve many more retail locations within five milliseconds.”

Opportunities outweigh challenges

Shivkumar Krishnan, head of store engineering in Gap, says the biggest challenge to realizing real computers in retail is inherited infrastructure. “As an end user in the cloud, it’s much easier to upgrade because you can simply push a button and turn off or replace a virtual machine. In retail, it is more of a logistics problem, ”he explains. When setting up for the first time, each location must connect its devices to the edge, which may need to be done at night, when customers are not in the store. And with suppliers working on site, store insurance staff, as well as the manager, must be available. “It’s really a bigger logistical challenge to determine everyone’s availability,” Krishnan says. “And the process needs to be repeated for each of our 2,500 stores.” You can set up hundreds of servers in the cloud at the touch of a button.

Data security is also an inevitable challenge when it comes to the Internet of Things and other digital devices. “The more you concentrate information on a location, the more you have to worry about protecting it and making it riskier in terms of creating a unique place where information can be penetrated and stolen,” Savill says. But edge computing supported at nodes in nearby data centers and connecting to the public cloud are generally more secure and reliable than what the vendor could do alone. This is because marginal service providers, much like public cloud providers, provide cyber security from a central location, en masse, so they have insight into what the threats are and how they affect their customers, Savill says.

Nevertheless, the benefits and possibilities of the edge far outweigh the potential challenges. “One of our biggest cases of using edge computers is at the point of sale, where we process millions of transactions,” Krishnan explains. From trade to the cloud, there are many points of failure – switches, routers, telecommunications circuit and cloud suppliers. “The constraint gives us a high level of redundancy to process all transactions in the store itself and return to the cloud if the edge fails,” he says.

“The edge gives us a full surplus to process all transactions in the store itself and return to the cloud if the edge fails.”

Shivkumar Krishnan, Head of Store Engineering, Gap

Gap has invested in edge servers over the past few years, Krishnan says, as part of an overall platform that uses the latest technologies such as microservices, cloud computing, streaming services and DevOps approach to engineering. “Now with our platform we can build, test and implement applications with fast reversals – all in the same day,” he says. “I can remotely monitor and manage most of our over 100,000 devices. Our sales associates use iPads that give us the ability to create an intuitive user experience on mobile devices. ”

Although Gap started the computer game early, the challenge is to keep up with the latest and most advanced technologies, as well as any adoption of the technology. Today’s edge servers have built-in graphics processing units, network routers and 5G broadband technology, “all packaged in small-sized devices built from the ground up for advanced machine learning,” he says. “We hope to catch the next iteration of this progress and skip the others who get them now.”

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