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Systems integrators are the enablers of industrial innovation

02 December 2021

SIs have a vital role as trusted advisors for those looking to achieve digital transformation. In this article, Greg Hookings, Director of Business Development, Stratus Technologies, explains why.

Across the industrial spectrum, businesses are under pressure to optimise performance while keeping costs low. This is applicable to a manufacturer with one assembly line or ten, an oil and gas pipeline, a water treatment plant, or a pharmaceutical lab. 

State-of-the-art equipment is one obvious choice when looking to increase efficiency, but the CAPEX expense of a rip-and-replace approach is prohibitively expensive to most end users, most of the time. To optimise performance without breaking the bank, industrial enterprises are increasingly looking to systems integrators to bring in new technologies that make processes and production more efficient, while enabling new capabilities for legacy equipment. This approach is often best built on an edge computing platform.

The edge computing market has grown quickly and is set to grow further in the years to come. IDC reports that, by 2023 over 50 percent of new IT infrastructure will be deployed at the edge. Meanwhile, Gartner estimates that. by 2025, 75 percent of enterprise data will be created and processed outside the traditional data centre. Systems integrators (SIs) that perceive the opportunity to meet this need head-on stand to benefit as much as their customers. 

As experts in their fields, SIs are often brought in to pilot new automation projects for businesses that lack the staff or in-depth knowledge. In fact, even the most advanced and technically adept operators need help with new, innovative deployments. SIs that offer edge computing to their customers can demonstrate enormous value and build strong, lasting business relationships in the era of digital transformation. 

The age of ‘digital adaptability’ 

The challenge of adapting to digital transformation has, in recent times, been added to by the challenges of Covid-19. The hurried changes some companies employed (often heroically) to ‘keep the lights on’ were often unsustainable and came at the cost of a more strategic approach to digital transformation. Such enterprises will now need to revisit their strategy and develop a permanent system that will underpin their future resilience. Importantly, there is no turning back to the old ways of doing things. 

The new normal emerging from post-pandemic industry must take advantage of digital transformation technologies, not only to improve resilience, but also to meet the challenge of the world’s biggest issues. In the face of climate change and population growth, industry needs to be more productive, at a lower cost, while using less energy.

It is here that SIs are well positioned to help end users build highly adaptable digital transformation strategies that make the most of an edge computing platform. This will often mean moving away from traditional relationships and embracing new business models that place SIs at the heart of modern, flexible implementations.

Sustainable future

End users are becoming more aware that to succeed in a digitally transformed landscape they must create an interconnected ecosystem of vendors, suppliers and services that bring unique benefits tailored to their specific needs. Systems integrators have a place at the heart of this ecosystem, bringing together both new and existing plant and systems into data-driven solutions that meet specific short-and-long-term business needs.

As SIs leverage their application expertise and commercialise the platforms of automation, IT, and software vendors, they become valued digital transformation partners for their customers. Further, by combining technology and services from different providers onto a secure edge computing platform, SIs can become digital transformation entrepreneurs, cherry-picking best-in-class products, and packaging them up into end-to-end solutions. 

The right platform

The choice of edge computing platform is incredibly important for the future of SIs and end users alike. End users need resilient, secure, scalable, and simple-to-use edge computing to underpin their operations. 

The right edge computing platform must also integrate with new and legacy technologies to offer the required flexibility for a digital transformation strategy. When well executed, an edge computing platform can provide real-time, actionable intelligence to operators while feeding information to the cloud for processing at the enterprise level. To achieve this, enterprises need to run multiple applications on virtual machines, without data gaps or unplanned downtime caused by IT-related failures. 

In the fast-moving and ever-changing world of digital transformation, there needs to be simple deployment and simple, IT-light management that doesn’t require extensive re-training of operations personnel. Of course, the edge computing platform also needs to fit within existing cyber defences and have at least similar levels of physical protection to a traditional data centre.

By offering an edge computing platform that covers all of these capabilities SIs can differentiate themselves in a crowded market, bringing a robust, fault-tolerant, flexible and future-proofed platform that is vendor neutral. Systems integrators following this approach can focus on what they do best, delivering the most value to their customers and guiding each and every enterprise to more productive, efficient and flexible operations.

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