Computing on the edge: it seems that everyone is doing it, from big industry to manufacturers, from ISPs to Cloud Computing centers. When you can locate computing and analytics power closer to machines connected via the IoT and other data sources, the faster you can gather data, and the more data you can store and analyze in a timely manner. For some, edge data centers seem like the final frontier for data.
This has resulted in data centers that vary in size, from the size of a very large cabinet to those contained in the space of a small shipping container. But like any journey to the edge, there are challenges and risks. There are two primary ones we will address here:
- Temperature – Because of the small spaces edge data centers often occupy, airflow and temperature control can be tricky.
- Space – Smaller size also means that saving space is critical, and on the flip side, can also enable more airflow and indirect cooling in a confined area.
In this way, the two primary challenges are related, and often a solution that mitigates one will also help mitigate the other. Let’s take a quick look at each of these.
The temperatures that edge data centers operate at are critical. And there is a huge difference between the cooling we need for a building designed to keep people comfortable, and a building designed to serve machines. Think of it this way: if someone opens the door to your office, you may feel a blast of warm or cold air, depending on the time of year. Your discomfort disappears quickly when the door closes, as the HVAC system takes over, and brings air back into the broad temperature tolerances humans can endure.
However, what happens when you go to an edge data center and open the door? The answer is, it depends on where it is. Large, brick and mortar data centers can be located in areas with minimal environmental challenges and low risk of natural disasters. But edge data centers must be located, well, where they are needed. That means in dusty and dirty environments, areas with extreme temperature fluctuations, and more.
There are really only two choices:
- Develop and deploy equipment designed to withstand extremes, at a higher price point. A good example is cellular equipment like that developed by AT&T. However, the cost of this equipment is too high for standard edge data center deployment at scale.
- Work with existing, readily available equipment and use unique strategies to combat environmental changes at a small scale, including using tents or shrouds for entry and exit, using handheld temperature and humidity monitors to evaluate current conditions, and developing strategic plans for unexpected events.
Another part of the solution is to use remote monitoring, AI and the IoT in edge data centers to mitigate the need for human intervention. Monitoring the health of equipment and preventing disaster in the first place is one of the keys to efficient management of edge data centers.
This is but one of the challenges data center managers face. The second is the efficient use of available space.
While cooling and environmental control are critical, so is the efficient use of space. This can result in increased airflow and easier HVAC solutions while also enabling more servers to be installed in the same amount of space.
This involves a few key steps:
- Rack Selection – Whether a data center uses 23” or 19” racks, there are rack solutions that take up less space, and are also able to use better rack management options.
- Cable Management – ZeroU horizontal cable managers makes more room for servers in a single rack, and they prevent the “spaghetti mess” that can happen in server racks, and be especially problematic in edge data centers that are more compact.
- Compact Vertical Cable Management – 11U cable managers also save space and keep cables organized and easy to access should moves, changes, or repairs be needed.
Anything that can be done to save space in an edge data center makes facing the other challenges related to environmental control easier, but it also has another impact: an economic one. The less space you need to get the computing power you need, the more compact your data center can be. Alternatively, this can give you space to scale as needed without creating yet another data center space.
At the edge, there are always challenges, but there are also solutions. From controlling the environment in and around the data center to using the space in the most efficient way possible, with the right equipment, these obstacles can be transformed into opportunities to change not only how much data is collected and how quickly it can be acted upon, but where it happens as well.
Do you have questions about saving space in your edge data center? Are you looking for remote monitoring solutions? Then contact us here at AnD Cable. We’d love to start a conversation about how we can help you.
About the Author
Louis Chompff – Founder & Managing Director, AnD Cable Products
Louis established AnD Cable Products – Intelligently Designed Cable Management in 1989. Prior to this he enjoyed a 20+ year career with a leading global telecommunications company in a variety of senior data management positions. Louis is an enthusiastic inventor who designed, patented and brought to market his innovative Zero U cable management racks and Unitag cable labels, both of which have become industry-leading network cable management products. AnD Cable Products only offer products that are intelligently designed, increase efficiency, are durable and reliable, re-usable, easy to use or reduce equipment costs. He is the principal author of the Cable Management Blog, where you can find network cable management ideas, server rack cabling techniques and rack space saving tips, data center trends, latest innovations and more.
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