COMMISSIONED: Retailers are using edge computing for a variety of use cases, collecting data from sensors, cameras and other devices and crunching the numbers with advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the customer experience and drive efficiencies. But as stores become more intelligent, the risks — and impacts — of IT failures increase. Retailers need proven ways to reduce downtime and maintain business continuity while protecting corporate and customer data
Successful brick-and-mortar retailers are masters of both delivering excellent customer experiences and driving operational efficiencies. Today, that means retailers are taking lessons from the e-commerce world by putting compact servers at the retail edge, inside stores. With edge computing, they can collect data and observe customer behaviors to feed advanced analytics and AI to respond in near real time to events on the ground. Using edge computing for faster insights helps boost sales and cut costs with a combination of personalized marketing, frictionless shopping, smart inventory management, automated returns and more.
Intelligence Increases Fragility
However, the server is just the beginning of the story. Modern, intelligent stores run on an increasingly complex web of hardware, software, Internet of Things (IoT) devices and third-party applications — deployed in store as well as in the cloud — which all need to work together seamlessly. As a result, one major challenge when moving technology out to the retail edge is the increased risk of downtime. When one element of this complex ecosystem fails, the entire store could be offline until a staff member notices and reports the issue. Once reported, retailers often rely on third-party IT providers who may be contracted to longer-than-desired service-level agreement (SLA) times before the problem is tracked down and fixed.
Another major challenge is that the extensive use of third-party applications, heterogenous hardware and IoT devices can result in an expanded surface area for ransomware and cyberattacks. Due to the preponderance of financial information and customer data, retailers are a prime target for attack.
According to the State of Ransomware 2023 report, two in three companies will experience a ransomware attack whether they are aware of it or not. Successful attacks often result in multimillion-dollar payouts, not always covered by cyber insurance policies. Further, nearly every organization on Earth is linked to at least one breached third-party software vendor. This underscores the need to rapidly identify and remediate misbehaving systems. Time is of the essence here. Relying on staff to notice and report odd behavior is a recipe for disaster.
Both customer experience and sales take a huge hit when tech-enabled functions and conveniences are suddenly unavailable or not working properly. Just imagine the point-of-sale (POS) freezing up at an airport coffee shop at 8 a.m. Or the kitchen display system malfunctioning at a restaurant during the dinner rush, resulting in reduced table turnover and extended wait times. With an hour of downtime costing from an average of $25,620 to $540,000, depending on the size of your business, the case for resiliency and rapid remediation at the edge is clear.
Building In Resiliency
Today’s intelligent edge systems are built on enterprise infrastructure and applications working together with hundreds of devices on the retail floor. The modern retail store has POS systems, self‐checkout kiosks, payment and security systems, handheld scanners and even refrigerator and oven temperature monitoring systems in the technology mix. These rely on a patchwork of different backend systems from different vendors and service providers. When there’s a problem, you need to be ready to identify and solve it fast — no small matter when working with a huge, interconnected network of technologies.
For edge computing to be feasible within this complex technology landscape, retailers need solutions that work as expected and provide features and services that reduce unplanned downtime even with no onsite IT staff. This starts with simplifying and streamlining IT deployment and operations, including the ability to manage and monitor systems remotely to reduce or remove the need for IT expertise in the field. Larger organizations with geographically dispersed locations need solutions that can centralize edge management, automate operations, enable zero-trust security and provide multicloud connectivity. With full visibility and control of edge technology, central IT teams can more easily manage essential retail store systems and avoid expensive downtime from technology issues.
Solutions also need to interoperate with a variety of independent software vendor (ISV) applications, IoT frameworks and multivendor operations technology (OT) solutions, and across multicloud environments. By leveraging technologies such as virtual machines (VMs) and containers, retailers can consolidate and easily manage solutions that deliver seamless operations for critical edge devices from multiple vendors. These can include POS systems, self-checkout machines and back-of-the-house servers as well as OT devices like refrigerators, generators and security cameras.
Frictionless Doesn’t Have To Be Fragile
To fulfill the needs of retail edge computing, Dell Technologies partners with Centerity to offer solutions that help central IT teams keep stores running smoothly. Based on vendor-agnostic designs, Dell NativeEdge solutions, with tools from Centerity, empower IT to remotely manage everything from servers, applications and workloads to the cameras, POS system and scanners. When systems are misbehaving, or if critical services are unexpectedly halted, Centerity can assist IT by autonomously identifying the misbehavior, opening a service ticket, executing auto-remediation actions and closing the ticket, potentially before an employee has even noticed. This collapses the window of opportunity for cyberattacks, improves customer experience and reduces IT labor costs.
You can also take advantage of wall-to-wall Dell Technologies Edge Services for Retail, so you only have to work with one provider for your end-to-end technology needs. This ultimately helps you simplify edge operations, minimize technology disruption and maintain business continuity so you can deliver better customer experiences at a lower cost.
Putting the power of AI-enabled compute at the edge helps retailers capture and process data where it’s created to gain real-time insights. With decades of retail experience, Dell Technologies understands the issues retailers face at the edge. No matter where you are in your intelligent retail journey, we have the solutions, expertise and partnerships to help you transform the retail experience with less risk of unplanned downtime. To learn more about Dell Technologies retail edge computing capabilities, visit Dell.com/NativeEdge.
Commissioned by Dell.
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