Gaining Control of the Expanding Edge

April 17, 2017
Edge computing has become a growing area of focus for many organizations, according to Dan Draper, Director of Data Center Programs for Vertiv.

In this week’s Voices of the Industry, Dan Draper, Director of Data Center Programs for Vertiv, explores the growing role of facilities supporting edge services and the “expanding edge”. 

The need to connect users with applications and content faster, and of organizations to collect more data from people and devices, is causing growth in the number and criticality of edge locations. From cloud providers seeking to deliver content faster, to retailers and financial institutions collecting more data and delivering new services, to school districts supporting digital education, the “edge” is becoming a growing area of focus for many organizations.

Dan Draper, Director of Data Center Programs for Vertiv

The types of facilities supporting edge services extend from regional and local data centers to the small computer rooms and communication centers in regional offices, to network closets and Internet of Things (IoT) gateways in retail stores, school buildings, government offices and industrial sites.

However, while these edge facilities themselves vary in size and complexity, they share some common traits.  By the nature of their role, they operate away from the corporate or district hub and the primary data center— and its team of professionals—they support. And many edge sites are located in spaces that were never designed for IT, such as storerooms or utility closets.

[clickToTweet tweet=”The “edge” is becoming a growing area of focus for many organizations. #edgecomputing” quote=”The “edge” is becoming a growing area of focus for many organizations. “]

In addition to being remote and possibly in a location not ideal for IT,  the large number of edge sites now required to support distributed networks creates challenges in the deployment and management of remote technology. There is an increased demand on IT resources, a lack of visibility into remote assets, and minimal on-site technical support. Left unaddressed, these challenges can force resources away from strategic initiatives, increase support costs and compromise the availability of edge locations.

The good news is that options exist today to reduce the burden of edge locations on IT staff and simplify their management.  Some top strategies include integrated infrastructure, remote monitoring and enhanced OEM support.

Integrated Infrastructure

For organizations that need to quickly deploy multiple edge sites, or upgrade edge technology to support new applications, integrated infrastructure systems allow faster deployment with reduced IT support.

Integrated solutions today range from complete pre-engineered and prefabricated modular data centers, such as the infrastructure recently deployed by T-Systems, to fully enclosed rows to single racks. The larger systems can be customized to specific site needs, comprise all of the infrastructure required to support IT equipment, and can be deployed much faster than can be accomplished by integrating components on site.

Only the largest players will require that much computing power at the edge, so most applications will be served by either a row or rack system. Today’s row-based systems can support up to 14 equipment racks. That will typically require dedicated heat removal, which can be integrated into the enclosed row to maximize efficiency. Compared to converting an open room to support multiple racks of equipment, an integrated row system can be deployed in weeks, instead of months, at lower cost and with a smaller footprint.

Smaller edge sites will be better served by a single-rack system, such as as Vertiv’s SmartRow DCR. (Photo: Vertiv)

Smaller edge sites will be better served by a single-rack system. These systems can incorporate dedicated heat removal but often don’t require it because they are supporting a limited number of IT assets. In this case, the UPS, power strips and remote monitoring technology are configured to specifications and installed at the factory so the rack arrives on-site IT ready.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Smaller edge sites will be better served by a single-rack system. #edgecomputing” quote=”Smaller edge sites will be better served by a single-rack system.”]

An additional benefit of factory integrated row and rack systems is the physical security they provide. All equipment is enclosed in a lockable cabinet or enclosure. They can even be configured with multiple lockable bays within a single cabinet when third parties have equipment installed in a company’s racks.

Remote Monitoring

Regardless of whether integrated system or discrete components are being used in edge locations, remote visibility into these sites is essential to monitoring performance and managing service.

For the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems that provide continuous power to edge devices, communication cards enable the collection and communication of operating and environmental data to a centralized infrastructure monitoring (DCIM), infrastructure management, or building management system (BMS). Through continuous monitoring of the UPS, organizations with multiple edge locations can better schedule preventive maintenance, react faster to events or outsource power system monitoring to a third-party service organization.

Intelligent rack power distribution units provide PDU-level and receptacle-level metering, for insight into site and device power consumption. They also provide the ability to cycle equipment on and off through remote receptacle-level switching.

When paired with remote IT-management tools, such as serial consoles and KVMs that provide remote access and management of devices from a centralized location, you can gain comprehensive visibility into, and access to, the power system and the equipment it supports.

UPS systems depend on batteries to bridge interruptions in utility power. It’s not a matter of if you’ll have to replace the batteries on a UPS, but when. And when you are managing multiple remote sites across a network, when can be frequently.  Being proactive makes all the difference.

Enhanced OEM Support

Many organizations are not well positioned to manage centralized power, let alone multiple remote locations. Outsourcing UPS maintenance through a service contract allows for proper attention to these critical computing locations.  Today’s service options include installation and commissioning, remote monitoring and data analysis, preventive maintenance and battery replacement, and emergency response.

For sites that have existing infrastructure and are being upgraded, vendors that offer disposal and recycling services will save you time, effort and avoid any potential environmental regulations you may encounter.

Edge locations are growing in number and criticality. Gaining control over capacity, speed-of-deployment and reliability requirements of today’s distributed IT sites is a challenge that can effectively be addressed through factory integrated infrastructure solutions, remote monitoring and enhanced services.

Dan Draper is Director of Data Center Programs for Vertiv (formally Emerson Network Power). Draper and his team are currently focused on identifying emerging industry trends and how they drive new data center infrastructure technology and design innovations.

About the Author

Voices of the Industry

Our Voice of the Industry feature showcases guest articles on thought leadership from sponsors of Data Center Frontier. For more information, see our Voices of the Industry description and guidelines.

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