Preparing for an edge data center future
Published 15 December 2020
Our never-ending desire for faster connectivity and growing hunger for more data consumption anywhere and everywhere is increasing the demand for edge data centers.
“Edge data centers are truly evolving and growing. Edge computing today is almost like what we saw with cloud eight to ten years ago,” said Steven Cheng, the Director for East Asia E-commerce and Edge Computing for International Operations at Schneider Electric.
This impressive uptake is driven by the advent and rising adoption of 5G, industrial automation, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, cloud gaming and high-quality video streaming.
These technologies are vastly increasing the number of connected devices and applications requiring low latency, speedy connectivity, more data and reliable storage. To meet the demand for automation, edge data centers are deployed to enable the use of these technologies by bringing digital infrastructures and faster processing power closer to us.
“Asia is one of the regions that has been hit hardest by this year’s events, which is fueling the acceleration of lights out operations and automation where a company may now need to lay off their workforce,” said Mr. Cheng.
The Asia Pacific region is forecast to contribute a growth rate of 25% to the edge data center market by 2026.
For countries like Indonesia and the Philippines where there are a lot of islands split across the geographical regions, having local compute to monitor and process data in real-time and provide advanced technological services locally for improved customer experiences is very important for the region.
“Companies now need to start thinking about how to reallocate their investments on automation and local compute to not only save costs, but to also be well prepared for unforeseen circumstances like those we have experienced this year,” Mr. Cheng added.
Challenges at the edge
Implementing edge compute begins with installing small racks in different environments like industrial complexes, commercial buildings, or even hospitals and normal IT closets.
Bringing digital services to the edge can empower more convenience, better customer experience and smarter cities. For example, with edge computing coupled with 5G connectivity, a billboard could display emergency room waiting times of different hospitals in real-time to prevent overcrowding, which we have seen during the pandemic.
But to successfully drive edge data center deployments, businesses must consider the environments where they are building these facilities and the IT staff they have to manage them.
“To have a successful edge compute, you need to make sure that the deployments in these environments can withstand an unmanned service because you’re not going to have anybody there looking at your edge servers all the time,” advised Mr. Cheng.
However, the successful future of edge computing could be slowed down by legacy systems that are not connected to any networks or devices.
“To have those legacy systems upgraded to have connectable abilities, I think that would be the key to drive the Fourth Industrial Revolution forward,” said Mr. Cheng.
With newer, distributed infrastructure, the cost of deployment, management and maintenance can be a concern for those considering edge data centers.
To overcome these challenges, Schneider Electric has efficient edge data center solution lines to fit any environment or climate, whether it’s on the ground or in the air on a wall for smaller deployments where space might be limited in a place like Singapore.
“At Schneider Electric, we have product lines like a 6U Micro Data Center. You can mount it on the wall with uninterruptible power supply and security monitoring all in one enclosure, so you don’t have to worry about powering or cooling the data center because it just rolls into your site,” said Mr. Cheng.
And once your deployment is completed, Schneider Electric has solutions to eliminate the challenge of maintenance, with cloud-based remote monitoring applications to lower service costs and ensure your systems keep running.
“You need to have sensors and monitoring devices. We have 3D heat maps and simulations to monitor your hotspots in the facility. If your edge data center does not have enough cooling or the power is struggling, alarms will sound on your remote monitoring system to alert you,” added Mr. Cheng.
Take for example, Leading Edge Data Centres in Australia who shared their experience of partnering with Schneider Electric at W.Media’s Edge Data Center Strategy and Solutions in Asia Pacific digital event.
Leading Edge Data Centres leveraged Schneider Electric’s extensive experience to deploy Tier-3-designed, standardised, pre-assembled and fully integrated data center modules, including 75 racks featuring 5 kW per rack power density, in six sites across New South Wales.
With the help of Schneider Electric, Leading Edge Data Centres’ intention is to build a network of highly connected edge data centers to create communication hubs, bridging the gap between urban and regional areas in Australia where connectivity and low latency is lacking.
To get involved in the inevitable edge data center future, Mr. Cheng recommended a hybrid model, combining cloud computing with regional edge solutions to enable easy management close to your headquarters, and local edge solutions to ensure better and faster customer experiences for your users.
By Stuart Crowley, Editor