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Deploying applications to the edge isn’t always about providing a path to the cloud. It’s also often about enabling applications to work locally without the cloud.

The edge is a technology deployment paradigm where computing capacity is placed at the edge of the network, which could, for example, be a retail location for a store or a medical office. Loading, processing and analyzing data at edge can in some cases be a faster and more optimized approach than backhauling traffic from the edge up to the cloud. That’s the direction that Linux platform provider Suse is taking with the launch of its Suse Edge 2.0 platform today.

With skilled IT staff at a premium everywhere, a challenge for edge deployments, in particular, is that if a system is too complex, it won’t actually help a business, but could well hinder it.

“Our mission from the product perspective was to solve that complexity and bring simplicity so that customers would not have to focus on that part of the infrastructure, but rather focus on the edge business value,” Keith Basil, general manager of the edge business unit at Suse told VentureBeat.  

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The edge is built with containers

The new Suse Edge 2.0 platform isn’t a single technology but rather the combination of several different components. Among the core components is the Rancher container orchestration system which is being updated to version 2.7. Suse Edge 2.0 also integrates the Suse Linux Enterprise (SLE) Micro edition, as well as the Neuvector security technologies.

Suse acquired Rancher Labs in 2020 and has steadily continued to build out the container platform over the past two years. Containers are commonly deployed in the public cloud, enabling what is referred to as a ‘cloud native’ approach. The same approach also works on the edge, which can enable workload mobility and scalability

With Suse Edge 2.0, the core SLE Micro operating system itself also benefits from the container model. Suse has built a project called Elemental that takes the SLE Micro code and treats it as if it were a container.

“Containers today are operating system images without a kernel, so you can’t boot a container traditionally,” Basil explained. “With Elemental we can build a version of SLE Micro that keeps the kernel inside the image.”

Bringing zero trust to the edge

A key component of the Suse Edge 2.0 platform is the Neuvector 5.1 update that will help organizations to enforce a zero trust approach for edge security.

Zero trust is an approach to security that requires users and applications processes to be constantly inspected and validated to ensure safe operations. Threats at the edge can range from curious users that plug in USB drives or attempt to install different applications. Threats can also come from the same attack vectors that routinely assault the public cloud as well.

“When you push your containers to the edge, you now have new threat vectors because of the hostile environment,” Basil said.

The Neuvector update in the Suse Edge 2.0 release also integrates data loss protection (DLP) capabilities to help protect against insiders or attackers, attempting to exfiltrate confidential or personally identifiable information from an edge location.

The edge is a growing use case

Suse already is seeing a strong set of use cases for its edge technology.

Basil said that the range of users includes retailers like Home Depot and extends to helping with satellites in space. Edge deployments are also increasingly popular for telcos as part of 5G cellular rollouts.

Looking forward Basil said that he expects to see a spike in demand for edge as organizations attempt to bring the industrial internet of things (IoT) under better control. There is also a growing need to support AI driven operational optimization (AIops) across the edge.

“We have customers that are using AIops to manage the elasticity of the applications running at the store and doing customer satisfaction in real time with AI and ML workloads running on the edge cluster,” Basil said. “So we want to make sure that we are super prepared to support the next generation of applications in the AI world.”

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