The challenges of scaling the edge, with Mark Howell, IT Facilities Planning and Engineering lead (EMEA), Ford Motor Company
Often, we struggle to discuss the edge – one of the IT world’s hottest trends – because it’s difficult to objectively define it. “The edge means something different to every person,” says Mark Howell, of the Ford Motor Company. Howell oversees the construction of every new IT facility the veteran automaker builds and is the lead for EMEA region design, planning and engineering.
From his perspective, the edge is effectively distributed technology, and need not encompass servers, storage and switches. By that token, Ford’s first edge site wasn’t a micro data centre, but the first remote offices and factories that Henry Ford built all those years ago. The company’s Paris office opened in 1908, the Kansas City assembly plant opened in 1911. By the end of the 1920’s Ford had more than 20 overseas assembly plants.
“The distributed technology has changed but the principles remain, to improve design, manufacturing, distribution and logistics, sales, financing, servicing and customer relationships. And to reduce cost so that the cost of the product can be reduced for customer benefit.”
Back to basics
Mark’s definition keeps things simple. If a site is connected to Ford’s “core” (enterprise data centres located in North America), it is an edge site. Ford operates more than sixty factories around the world plus the joint ventures it has with other carmakers. Factories are not the only sites upon which its global operation depends. There are product development centres administration buildings, offices. All of these are connected to Ford’s network. All of these “are edge sites.”