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How Edge Compute Complements Cellular Connectivity

Today’s connected applications are moving from wired systems to cellular, which can dramatically improve network speed and reliability while reducing costs. In addition, the benefits of edge computing support further efficiency by reducing the amount of data that needs to cross the network.

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Recorded Webinar

Mar 18, 2021 | Length: 1:00:00

Today’s connected applications are moving from wired systems to cellular, which can dramatically improve network speed and reliability while reducing costs. In addition, the benefits of edge computing support further efficiency by reducing the amount of data that needs to cross the network.

Watch this recorded webinar to learn more about this evolving landscape, and how Digi cellular devices, remote management platform and edge compute capabilities can support both efficiency and reduced costs. While the webinar focuses on the needs of the utilities and energy markets, it is excellent information for any organization that has a widespread or remote network of connected devices.
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Follow-up Webinar Q&A

Thank you again for attending our session on How Edge Compute Complements Cellular Connectivity. Here are the questions that followed the presentation and their answers. If you have additional questions, be sure to reach out.

From Digi Remote Manager, can I manage all of my Transport routers and the devices that they connect? What is the cost to use this tool?

Yes, most Digi cellular routers can be managed with Digi Remote Manager®, including our Enterprise, Industrial and Transportation router lines. If the device is connected to the router directly (say, serially), then one could manage out-of-band and in some cases with a direct interface command line. Digi XBee enterprise and industrial gateways can also be managed using this platform. Digi Remote Manager is very cost effective. Please contact your sales representative or distributor for pricing.

What are the typical computing power requirements for edge devices, such as for processing power, memory, etc.?

This will entirely depend upon your application and needs. Digi routers come in a range of compute options from low-end ARM-based processors (~400 MHz) to high end, multi-core Intel processors (~1.2 GHz quad-core). For memory and storage, our devices range from megabytes to gigabytes. Most have around 256 MB of memory and storage, but this continues to improve with new offerings. Also, on some of our devices we offer USB ports to extend the storage capabilities. To run simple Python / Linux Bash scripts it takes very little memory and processing power. It could be accomplished with a basic inexpensive PCI, something like a Raspberry PI. Digi cellular routers have a lot of extra processing power, speed and memory. So you do not require an extra intermediary device, which could lead to another expense and another possible point of failure.

Will Digi Remote Manager ever be released for self-hosting (on-premise) for non-cloud-connected private networks?

There are no plans to offer an on-premise version of Digi Remote Manager. We do offer options to connect to the platform using Private APNs and/or VPN connections. On-premise solutions pose a number of important challenges, including security. Most security vulnerability vectors these days are in fact coming from human access to on-premise systems. Most Tier 1 SaaS services are recognized by F500 Enterprise as very secure because of the controls they have in place. Digi has followed these same principles. Please contact us for more information about the VPN connection options.

Please discuss the hacking security measures that you have in place. Wiring appears to be the most secure against electronic hacking. I'm not sure how cellular compares to radio and satellite in this regard.

There are potential vulnerabilities at every step in any communication process. Assuming the end device is wired into the Digi cellular router (either through serial or Ethernet) it is important to ensure that the device being connected physically is authorized. Digi routers include our TrustFence® security framework. This includes secure boot, protected hardware ports, various options for authentication, secure connections, and ongoing monitoring and support. Within the router, we offer various options for encrypting the traffic to and from the router to your network. These include VPN options and SSL/TLS sockets. TrustFence takes a multi-layer approach to security. For example, you can prevent unauthorized access with MAC address filtering to only allow “whitelisted” devices to connect. You can also manage this with VLAN IP grouping. The data that is being collected can then also be encrypted with 3DES / AES up to 256-bit / Diffie Hellman: DH groups 1-32, etc. In addition, the encrypted traffic could be delivered in an IPSEC VPN tunnel encrypting it again. We also have hardening guides.  Please see Digi.com/security and Digi TrustFence for more details.

Can you interface with a private 5G enterprise network?Can you interface with a private 5G enterprise network?

Yes, Digi has some 5G cellular routers (Sub6) coming to market now that are compatible with private enterprise network connections. We also plan to offer more 5G devices in the near future.

I have Digi WR11 XTs installed at remote sites and provide VPN tunnels with IPsec. How secure are these connections and what could be implemented to secure them even more? Also, is the Digi WR11 XT capable of supporting IoT applications? If not, can you suggest a replacement model?

IPsec VPN tunnels are secure by nature, but you could further secure these by encrypting the data and setting up device configurations per the hardening guides we offer. For encryption within the firmware, we currently maintain the firmware to use the latest SSL implementations. As to IoT applications, yes, the Digi WR11XT supports Python applications and Linux Bash Scripts. We have a number of customers running industrial applications, such as Modbus servers, within their routers.

How reliable and secure is cellular communication?

Cellular is very reliable, as the Digi cellular routers have multiple points of redundancy to ensure that connections are maintained (SureLink, multiple SIM slots, etc.). Cellular communications have become just as reliable as wired communications over the last 10 years with the introduction of broadband LTE. In many settings, cellular communications are easier to deploy than wired communications due to variances and permits required for installation.

As for security, cellular traffic is encrypted and your identity (cell phone number/modem id) is authenticated and protected. It is inherently just as secure as a wired connection. (See Digi.com/security to learn more about Digi security.)

With the out-of-band management functionality of Digi Remote Manager, is there any restriction on the type of device, or does it work for any device with a serial port?

If you can access a console management port that is physically connected to the device, then you should be able to do out-of-band management through our cellular router remotely. In fact, any device that can communicate with the connected device can be used for out-of-band management, provided the connected end-device supports OOM on that connection. As noted, many OOM solutions require a serial connection, therefore, most Digi devices would be supported. Another option includes “OOM over Ethernet” (e.g. Wake-on-LAN).

Is there a limit on the number of devices Digi Remote Manager can handle with mass firmware updates?

There is no limit on the maximum number of devices. However, many users choose to limit the number of devices they update at one time due to practical issues such as the amount of time required to do the mass update, the size of the files, downtime, and bandwidth usage. Many customers use this tool to segregate devices by region or type to better manage these factors. When a user schedules a firmware update on any number of devices, they are scheduled asynchronously within your account. Our Automations (aka. Scheduled Operations) feature in Digi Remote Manager will make the request to update and manage each device update independently.

It sounds like Python and Bash scripting are critical skills for setting up edge computing functionality with Digi devices. Is that true? And what should we do if we don’t have that talent on our team?

The skills required for setting up and managing edge compute will depend on your environment, hardware, and needs. Generally speaking, however, Python, and to some extent Linux, programming languages are designed to be used by “non-programmers.” They are easy to learn and easy to use. Any experienced technologist would be able to easily use and modify examples of Python scripts by referencing open sources on the internet and Digi’s Python command instruction set. If you get stuck, Digi International offers cost effective Professional Services that can create a custom script to your liking and needs.

You touched on the topic of “heartbeat data” coming from edge devices. Does Digi provide any plug-and-play solution for managing that, or is that functionality we have to develop ourselves?

There are ways to configure the Digi routers to manage ‘heartbeat data’ and what is collected and what is discarded without actually created custom scripts. Health metrics are configurable within the firmware. This information includes details about the device, including CPU usage, memory usage, cellular connectivity, Ethernet connectivity, IPsec connectivity, etc. This data can be configured to be sent at regular intervals or only when it changes from the previous value. This data is also sent every day, to ensure the device is working properly. If you have an implementation application in mind, please contact Digi and we can help.