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How Edge Computing is Conquering the Industry

VMware offers a wide range of solutions in the manufacturing environment through edge computing and creates the basis for efficient and sustainable new business models. This enables companies to increase their level of automation and to adapt flexibly and securely to market opportunities and new business models.

Author: Alexandra Baleta, Manufacturing & Automotive Industry Director

Until recently, VMware was often mainly associated with traditional IT virtualization in the data center. However, the company has also been a competent partner for the broad and diverse spectrum of the manufacturing industry for years. VMware specifically addresses industrial companies in a number of different industries through dedicated verticalization in the manufacturing and automotive sectors. Edge computing is one of the key technologies in the manufacturing context, ensuring that companies can leverage their benefits at the interface between IT and OT.

Edge computing to optimize production: VMware understands and addresses the edge in three ways. Edge compute capabilities are used to optimize production planning and control, to automate logistics, and scale Industry 4.0 technologies. This gives companies the opportunity to not only process the rapidly growing volumes of data related to machines and production processes into important information at the necessary speed, but also to create greater flexibility, automation, and cost savings through virtualization of the OT environment. Together with the technology partner SDA, for example, VMware also creates the foundation for virtualizing control modules (PLC). These are currently still largely handled by semi-automatic patching via USB stick on the respective device and are not yet controlled using a central management console. Virtualizing the edge not only makes managing PLC modules more efficient, but also significantly reduces the complexity and the dependence on resources for updates.

Edge-to-cloud for sustainable operation: The fact that manufacturing is at the heart of many sustainability initiatives is obvious. Alone in Europe, manufacturing is one of the largest contributors to CO2 emissions, with more than 880 million tons. VMware has been committed to ESG goals since its inception and has successfully achieved these goals not only internally (https://news.vmware.com/esg/2021-esg-report-our-path-to-2030), but also strives to support its customers in Zero Footprint initiatives. By virtualizing the IT and OT footprint, leveraging cloud and edge technologies, and creating transparency of the carbon footprint across the entire supplier and partner chain, VMware can offer tools such as Green Metrics, Carbon Footprint Value Calculators, etc. that provide companies with important tools to become more sustainable.

Connected machines, smart products and services as the focus of new business models

Smart products, connected machines, and related services are becoming increasingly important as part of new business models, and for driving innovation in line with market trends. In both the B2C and B2B sectors, conventional products are becoming increasingly intelligent. This is thanks to sensor technology and edge-native apps that interpret data in real time and allow personalized services as well as remote monitoring and predictive maintenance.

In order to successfully introduce smart products and services in the market, and also be able to scale and manage them efficiently, a suitable, flexible, and scalable infrastructure as well as competence in the area of application development and management is required. Security is equally essential as a core element at the connectivity, application, and data levels.

VMware began to expand and strengthen its edge technology portfolio in 2021. Much of what VMware can offer on the corporate IT and data center side is incorporated into the edge stack in terms of expertise. But VMware has gone several steps further and continues to invest in making real-time features and the footprint of VMware’s Hypervisor and Modern Apps Platform equally usable at the manufacturing edge in highly distributed, and sometimes inaccessible, environments (such as oil & gas fields, clean rooms in semiconductor manufacturing, or off-road vehicles in the mining industry).

  • The real-time features allow deterministic behavior despite virtualization. This means that even production-critical machine / control elements such as PLCs and IPCs can be virtualized, making it possible to have direct control without direct human intervention at the element. Managing applications on robotic platforms can also be simplified accordingly through the real-time functionality of VMware’s hypervisor.
  • Since manufacturing requirements don’t necessarily always have to be real-time, VMware now also offers the advantage that non-real-time and real-time applications can be managed on the same platform, rather than having to build and manage two or more virtual environments.
  • In terms of applications at the edge, VMware understands the challenge of brownfield environments – a variety of legacy apps, cloud native, modern apps, and new edge-native apps. For this purpose, VMware offers a unique component as part of the edge stack that allows continuous management of all applications, not only minimizing operational risk but also allowing the gradual migration of applications.
  • At VMware, security is a given. Through an intrinsic security model, VMware has also factored in comprehensive security in the edge stack — at both the application and data level.

Shaping ecosystems and market standards

The third component that VMware is involved in with edge computing concerns the establishment of ecosystems by customers or industry organizations (such as Catena-X), or initiatives that arise, for example through electric vehicles / shared mobility, or the implementation of sustainability and circular economy concepts. The requirements for process and data management are in some cases very complex, requiring technological support that allows data sovereignty as well as flexibility and integration capability from the edge to the cloud (horizontally and vertically).

VMware has a unique selling point here, as it is the only player in the market that not only has a Gaia-X-compliant architecture, but also offers an agnostic platform from the manufacturing edge to multi-cloud environments that provides a solid, flexible, secure, and scalable foundation.

VMware delivers answers to manufacturing challenges

VMware can create more efficiency in IT and OT for industrial companies on the basis of edge computing, while also paving the way for domains such as IT / OT security and sustainability. This makes it possible to cover the entire value chain with real-time features—from production on the store floor to the products themselves to complete ecosystems—in conjunction with innovative business models and new opportunities for value creation. Companies in various manufacturing industries can thus leverage current market trends and opportunities and drive forward new business areas in a flexible manner.

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