As the enterprise edge expands to encompass everything from the factory floor and oil rigs to solar arrays and retail stores, overcoming the challenges of processing, managing, and securing data traffic close to the source has become a top priority for many organisations.
Enter edge gateways. These devices process data from sensors, monitors, industrial controllers, and other devices at the edge, passing only actionable information over the WAN to cloud and enterprise data centres while weeding out bandwidth-hogging noise — for example, pressure sensors on an oil rig showing everything is fine.
As it stands, the edge-gateway market is immature and fractured. A range of infrastructure incumbents, providers of data centre gear, and start-ups have launched new edge-gateway products in the last couple of years, offering a variety of approaches to taming the edge.
Table stakes for edge gateways are still being defined, but at a minimum they must move at least some processing and storage capabilities from the data centre to the edge.
Encryption, device security and management, connectivity to constrained devices and OT networks, WAN connectivity, and ruggedisation are common across edge gateways. But their features, such as zero trust and pre-built integration with analytics platforms, vary from vendor to vendor.
Data centre incumbents extend to the edge
For enterprises that shy away from the bleeding edge, the good news is that many of these devices are offered by established vendors. Often linked toSD-WAN, IT-management, data analytics, and cloud-infrastructure offerings, the edge gateways from the likes of Cisco and HPE are full-featured edge servers with plenty of processing power and on-board storage.
These robust edge gateways bring the data centre to the edge. They excel at high-computation, high-bandwidth use cases, such as video surveillance, but are probably overkill for simpler tasks, such as sensor monitoring.
Here are some vendors offering high-octane edge gateways.
Cisco designed its suite of IoT gateways to provide connectivity at mass scale. IoT devices can connect to Cisco IoT gateways via Wi-Fi 6, 4G, 5G, private LTE, FirstNet and Wi-SUN. Ruggedised models are available for harsh environments.
Integration with other Cisco products and services runs deep. Packaged with Cisco’s cloud-based IoT operations dashboard for visibility and management, IoT gateways also support secure remote access for operations and equipment monitoring/servicing.
The gateways also integrate with Cisco’s cyber security portfolio to provide managed security across the edge and siloed IT and OT environments. SIM provisioning on edge devices is automated through Cisco Control Center integration.
Dell offers a range of edge gateways for a variety of use cases, from retail kiosks to harsh industrial environments. Dell edge gateways are placed close to edge devices and sensors where they aggregate and analyse data before sending meaningful information on to cloud and/or enterprise systems. Edge Gateways include a wide variety of wired and wireless connections, including serial connections.
The I/O on the device makes it possible to connect legacy industrial systems to many types of networks including mesh networks. The gateways use Wi-Fi, WWAN, and Ethernet to connect and communicate.
In October 2021, Dell announced upgrades across its edge portfolio, including to the Dell EMC Edge Gateway. Dell EMC Edge Gateway securely connects multiple edge devices across OT and IT environments.
The Gateway includes 5G connectivity and is powered by 9th generation Intel Core processors. Designed to work in industrial environments and withstand temperatures from -4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, it includes storage and compute capabilities to run localised data processing and analytics applications.
HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems add compute, storage, networking, security, and systems management to the edge. Edgeline systems process data with Intel Xeon processors or GPU/FPGA accelerators to provide data analytics.
The systems support open-standards-based OT data-acquisition and control technologies and integrate them directly into enterprise IT systems that handle analytics.
Edgeline OT Link software simplifies data movement via pre-integrated industrial drivers, a drag-and-drop workload flow designer, locally hosted containerised applications, and connectors into major clouds and databases. All activities are centrally managed and orchestrated using Edgeline Workload Orchestrator software.
Compact and ruggedised versions are designed for environmentally harsh, space-constrained, and/or dusty environments. Engineered to withstand shock and vibration, industrial models tolerate operating temperatures ranging from 32 degrees to 158 degrees Farenheit.
Challengers in edge land-grab
While incumbents are the tentative leaders in this nascent market, the field is still wide open. Vendors mentioned here may not have as big of a footprint in typical enterprise data centres, but they have competitive infrastructure portfolios, and they offer viable alternatives.
Lenovo ThinkEdge devices are small, ruggedised embedded servers designed for edge workloads. Powered by Intel processors (Core i5 or i7 vPro, depending on the model) designed for industrial computing, ThinkEdge devices collect IoT data and transmit it to the cloud via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4G LTE, or 5G wireless WAN connections.
Featuring up to 32GB DDR4 memory and 1TB SSD depending on the model, ThinkEdge devices also include Lenovo ThinkShield 360° security. A self-healing BIOS and self-encrypting drives protect IoT data.
Hitachi edge gateways gather data from multiple sensors and provide processing, transcoding, and compression. Hitachi Vantara’s portfolio of gateways ingest data via a range of wired and wireless connectivity options and are ruggedised for vehicles and high-vibration industrial environments.
Hitachi Edge Gateways' CPU/GPU options support intensive workloads including video analytics and machine vision or machine learning. Multiple PoE+ ports serve as an integrated switch for lidar 3D laser scanning and camera connections, while serial, DIO, and CAN bus ports support OT integrations. The devices support both Wi-Fi and cellular, and storage options include mPCIe, M.2, SSD, and HDD drives to enable large data capture.
The portfolio includes two ruggedised edge-gateway models designed for harsh conditions and that have passed rolling-stock testing.
Build-your-own Intel-based edge gear
Intel’s processors power many of the edge gateways listed in this story, but Intel also offers the ability to build your own edge gateway or white-label Intel’s edge tech.
Built for heavy workloads and high bandwidth applications, Intel 11th gen Core vPro, Xeon W-11000E Series, and Celeron processors feature up to eight CPU cores, high-performance integrated graphics/media and display, integrated AI accelerators, and real-time computing capabilities.
Not every use case demands the maximum horsepower. For those needing less processing power and storage capabilities in hardware that withstands harsh conditions, streamlined gateways give businesses the ability to spin up edge capabilities quickly and affordably.
Digi XBee gateways aggregate data from IoT devices, convert it from analog to digital, and encrypt it before transmitting over the WAN. Digi’s gateways are compact devices positioned as low-cost alternatives to the more robust edge gateways. Designed to stand up to harsh environments, use cases include oil- and gas-facility sensors and controls, water/wastewater plants, solar arrays, and agricultural monitoring.
Devices connect to the gateways via protocols including Zigbee, Bluetooth, and RS-232/485. 4G LTE and 10/100 Ethernet are supported for WAN connectivity. Digi’s device-security software, TrustFence, is built in.
The Eurotech Multi-service IoT Edge Gateway family offers a range of processing, networking, and ruggedness options for use cases that include industrial automation, medical-device monitoring, and rolling stock/automotive monitoring.
Ultra-compact devices, such as the ReliaGATE 10-05, are powered by NXP i.MX285 CPUs and support 2G and 3G, WiFi, BLE, and Fast Ethernet connectivity, as well as USB and serial ports. They come with 512MB of RAM, 4GB of eMMC, and a microSD slot.
At the high end of the portfolio, the BoltGATE 20-31 features dual and quad-core Intel Atom E3900 processors, up to 8GB of ECC RAM, up to 32GB of eMMC, and an optional SSD storage module. Interfaces include up to 3x GbE, 2x USB 3.0, serial, and display ports. Connectivity capabilities include LTE cellular, 2.4/5.0GHz Wi-Fi, and BLE. The BoltGATE family is designed for rugged rolling-stock applications.
Moxa’s edge gateway family consists of industrial servers optimised for the solar power, water and wastewater, oil and gas, and factory automation sectors. The gateways include IoT software for delivering edge data to the cloud, and support Modbus and generic MQTT/HTTPS protocols as well as Wi-Fi and 4G LTE. They come with built-in clients to connect to AWS and Azure cloud services.
Designed for remote monitoring and telemetry, they are equipped with Intel Atom or Arm-based processors and can operate in temperatures ranging from -40 to 158 degrees Farenheit.
As edge gateways catch on, expect more start-ups, some of which have already entered the competition:
Founded in 2018 and backed by $23.8M in VC funding, its EdjBlock family comprises three models. They are converged-edge systems that deliver distributed CDN, DNS, and serverless database capabilities. When powered on and connected to a network, EdjBlocks automatically form a peer-to-peer mesh, delivering edge cloud services out-of-the-box with minimal configuration.
Founded in 2014 and backed by $7 million in Series A funding from Mitsubishi, Litmus develops edge systems that unify data collection, machine analytics, edge-to-cloud data integration, and edge applications in industrial-IoT hardware. Data is stored and analysed at the edge, where OT teams can use it to increase uptime and efficiency, while IT can define what data to send to cloud and enterprise systems.
Founded in 2020 and backed by undisclosed funding, Radix IoT offers three models. MangoGT is a multifunction gateway and server that provides buildings and automation systems with bi-directional secure connectivity to a centralised cloud.
The more robust BB family features Intel Celeron processors, as much as 8GB system memory, and 480GB SSD Storage, along with optional 4G/LTE support. The third model, Micro IoT Appliance is built for OEMs and built with Intel Celeron dual-core N3350 1.1 GHz processors, 8GB of system memory, and native connectivity to more than 100 protocols.