By: Paulo Campos
An edge data center is not a server cabinet with a few patch cords. It is all about a new dimension of functional diversity in the smallest of spaces. It calls for a new understanding of infrastructures.
The most important task of edge data centers will be to provide computing performance on the periphery of the cloud and wide area networks, to relieve the network, and offer better performance. They are as close as possible to the point of action, where data has to be aggregated, analyzed, or processed in real-time.
This is where all conceivable interests meet directly. Some users only need a rack or even share it with others. Larger customers expect independent cloud services or alternative colocation packages.
Maybe a customer is planning a modest 40 Gigabit Ethernet. At the same time, another expects the host to pave the way to 400 Gigabits during operation. Others are looking for an operational base for 5G applications or resources for load-sharing as well as additional capacity for new AI and streaming services.
Many functions in a confined space
The infrastructure and technology of edge data centers correspond to the logic and functionality of commercial cloud data centers. But they are small, very small.
Ultra-High Density (UHD) is all-important for racks and patch panels. More than 100 ports per height unit and hybrid capabilities would be desirable. The patch panels should be able to facilitate a mix of media and applications. All of this requires a certain degree of sensitivity when it comes to assembly, handling the connectors, and cable management.
Edge data centers with fiber optic hyperconnectivity in every direction: to the cloud, to cellular phone networks, to neighboring edges, and to users. In other words, there must be space on the floor and in the cable ducts for high-count fiber cables.
A challenge for design engineers
Today, we can expect edge providers to operate dozens or even hundreds of edge data centers concurrently. They are spread across many locations in urban and suburban environments.
These can sometimes be uncomfortable locations outdoors. In any case, edge data centers and their casings should be exceptionally robust and also secure. In a way, the protective walls of a large data center are compressed. Miniature data centers must function largely autonomously without needing maintenance.
Standardized formats make scaling, stacking, and linking easier. Pre-terminated racks, one-housing systems, and turnkey containers can be set up quickly and maintained efficiently. The plug-and-play principle applies to connectivity and IT. Cabling and connectivity technology should be self-explanatory and easy to maintain. All this poses a challenge for planners and design engineers.
Furthermore, the small space needs to be supplied with power and UPS, fire protection, air conditioning, cooling systems, sound protection, dust protection, lock, and access control – another design challenge.
Options for operators
It seems impossible to manage a large number of remote edge data centers in a traditional way. It would not be financially viable to keep expert personnel available at each site. There simply aren’t enough skilled workers.
The result is that edge data centers must be able to be managed centrally and remotely.
A fully automated view of each individual link is also crucial. Operators need real-time digital information about the status of each patch panel as well as a complete digital profile of the network infrastructure. They want to be able to precisely locate performance losses and manipulations at remote premises in order to prevent failures, and, in the event of a loss of performance, to identify the causes immediately. This shortens the time it takes to repair the damage and optimizes performance for end-users.
If a technician has to work on-site, the operator should be able to monitor and manage the patching jobs centrally. Signaling directly at the ports can give precise work instructions.
- Easing the burden on WAN and cloud
- Local Internet and software services
- A platform for 5G services
- Operation of robots, factories
- The digital backbone for smart cities
- Traffic monitoring
- Management of smart grids
- Automation in the financial industry
- Remote-controlled medical technology
- Streaming, gaming
- Computing for smart stores
- Aggregating traffic and environmental data
- Augmented reality, e.g. for media
- Node for the Internet of Things
- Distribution of IT workloads
It is important to do proper planning and consult with specialists when choosing a DCIM system according to the current and future requirements of your data center at the Edge.
Paulo Campos is Vice President for the Americas at R&M (Reichle & De-Massari), developing the business throughout the Americas, and supporting the company to connect the most advanced technology projects through its structured cabling solutions. Previously he spent 13 years at Panduit, as Regional Manager, in charge of the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa.