Edge Computing is Fuelling Innovation in the Micro Data Centre Space
Tue 25 Apr 2017 | Kevin Brown
According to the technology analyst ABI Research, one of the most significant Internet of Things (IoT) trends is the shifting balance from cloud computing to edge computing. The early days of the IoT were characterized by the critical role of cloud platforms supplying the intelligence to systems where devices were relatively unsophisticated. However, today a paradigm shift is underway as more intelligence is packed in at device level.
At the same time, new architecture choices are allowing organizations deploying IoT technologies to enhance physical assets and processes in novel ways. Edge computing, says ABI, is what’s driving this shift. This is a very interesting time because at Schneider Electric we believe that micro data centres are very much an emerging technology. They’re at the very beginning of a trend, which is in part a larger component of edge computing, something that is beginning to affect all forms of business as the world becomes ever more digitised.
As a company, we see there are currently two major forms of edge computing used in real-world applications: The first uses a small, embedded or connected device to handle relatively light loads, from which the resulting data remains at the edge. The second is what the industry refers to as a regional data centre – which is going to look and feel a lot like a regular data centre – but will however be located closer to the edge of where the compute is taking place.
Many customers have come to Schneider Electric with this emerging requirement and many times micro data centres are the solution that meet their challenges, whether that’s latency, connectivity or indeed the location of company or customer data. In such scenarios the compute required by a customer will typically fit within a single rack, or a small number of racks that have been specifically optimized for the application. In many instances the customer will want to be able to deploy the solution quickly and easily and with all of the IT component and accompanying power, cooling, security, management software and monitoring built in.
Today, micro data centres are designed as a range of off the peg solutions suitable for installation in a range of environments. In some instances they can look like a piece of office furniture and conversely some of them are deployed as industrialized or what we typically call ‘ruggedized solutions’ that are designed to provide compute power and connectivity outside or from a hostile environment.
Dependent on the customer application there are different forms of micro data centre systems, which are built and tested at the factory then shipped to location as a complete solution. They are designed to allow customers to deploy data centre compute anywhere, with integrated power, UPS, power distribution, management software, monitoring and cooling to support a self-contained, secure computing environment.
Most recently, at Schneider Electric we’ve launched the Micro data Center Xpress range of connected products, making it faster, easier and more cost effective to build and deploy physical infrastructure solutions at the network edge. Designed to allow IT equipment to be pre-installed by the customer, partner or integrator before shipment, they feature complete data centre physical infrastructure and management software in a single self-contained and secure enclosure.
Their high-strength designs and special shockproof packaging enable IT equipment to be pre-installed and shipped directly to customer sites with an industry-leading deployment time of between 2-3 weeks. And in addition, all Micro Data Centre Xpress solutions are pre-tested and certified by leading IT vendors to ensure complete integration between the physical infrastructure and software components.
With developments in both the prefabricated and modular spaces, combined with a clear focus on IoT technologies, Schneider Electric have been leading the trend in the Micro Data space and have continued to work closely with many different customers to ensure that Edge Computing solutions continue to address the challenges of Big Data, Latency and Service availability.
The development of micro data centre solutions provides a ready-made environment for converged and hyper-converged IT appliances. Collectively, this type of technological convergence helps to ensure solutions which are not only predictable in performance, but also answer the challenges of skills shortages in both sectors. It’s not unreasonable to anticipate future micro data centre systems to incorporate the IT load as well as the physical infrastructure to support it in a plug and play solution.
At Schneider Electric we’ve been focused on extending converged thinking into the physical infrastructure space. In doing so, it enables customers have the opportunity to deploy IT anywhere. This becomes an effective solution when you can design and test components together and offer customers a completely integrated system. The company continues to collaborate with other IT vendors, ensuring that our all of our data centre physical infrastructure solutions are optimized to integrate seamlessly and immediately anticipate and meet the needs of our customers. Which is especially valuable to the growing number of companies looking for systems that can be deployed easily at the edge of networks.
However, the physical boundaries of where data is processed and stored seem to be ever expanding. IT professionals must consider how and where they wish to run each application and whether or not it makes sense to place it and its resulting data into a public cloud, private cloud or into a micro data centre. If latency and security are issues, then a combination of both micro data centres and edge computing should be seriously considered. But as we continue to work alongside thousands of customers to understand their challenges it is inevitable that we will create solutions that will address their needs both today and into the future.