Whether you call it a micro-data center, network edge or closet, most data center experts agree that these IT sites are becoming increasingly important in connecting distributed organizations and supporting business initiatives.

These important edge sites present challenges that are distinct from traditional data centers. They often require IT deployments to be adapted to environments such as storerooms or closets that lack the specialized power and thermal management infrastructure found in most data centers. Additionally, many must be managed with little or no on-site technical support.

These challenges put additional pressure on already-stressed IT organizations, who are being asked to deploy multiple new edge sites quickly and then manage them to ensure high availability  - sometimes without an increase in resources.

A modular colocation data center
A modular colocation data center – Vertiv

Non-traditional spaces

One solution to the deployment challenge is integrated infrastructure. Whether the edge facility is a regional data center, a small computer room, a network closet or an IoT gateway, pre-configured infrastructure solutions can remove the burden of engineering and configuration off of in-house resources while ensuring the appropriate infrastructure is in place to plug-and-play IT equipment.

Perhaps the most impressive example of this trend is its application to freestanding data centers. Enabled by a collaborative design-build process, brownfield or greenfield data centers up to 30MW in capacity can be completely pre-fabricated off-site and delivered in modules to reduce deployment times by up to 50 percent compared to traditional processes while ensuring all systems are optimized to work together.

Only the largest players will require full data centers at the edge, so most applications may be served by either an integrated row or rack system.

Today’s row-based systems can support up to 14 equipment racks with dedicated heat removal, power protection and monitoring 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, rather than months, at lower cost and with a smaller footprint.

Smaller edge sites can be 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 distribution and remote monitoring technologies are configured to user specifications and installed in the rack at the factory, so the rack arrives on-site IT ready.

While integrated systems reduce deployment times, they retain the flexibility to be customized with all of the infrastructure components required to support IT equipment in a particular environment. An additional benefit of integrated row and rack systems is the physical security they provide. All equipment is enclosed in a lockable cabinet or enclosure, which is often critical in remote sites. Finally, they can simplify the challenge of standardizing infrastructure across multiple edge sites by enabling single-part-number ordering for the complete system.

vertiv edge
– Vertiv

Enabling remote management

Remote management and visibility into edge sites are essential to running highly available and effective operations.

Communication cards within edge UPS systems enable the collection and communication of operating and environmental data to a centralized infrastructure monitoring, infrastructure management, or building management system.

Through continuous monitoring of the UPS, organizations with multiple edge locations can better schedule preventive maintenance, react faster to events or outsource power system service to a third-party organization. A variety of service options are available to simplify power maintenance in edge sites, including remote monitoring and data analysis, preventive maintenance, battery replacement, and emergency response.

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 IT devices from a centralized location, you can gain comprehensive visibility into, and access to, power systems across a network of edge locations.

Edge computing is a reality for organizations supporting remote users or collecting data from distributed locations. Attempting to deploy and manage these sites using the same strategies and processes as the central data center can stretch in-house resources and create management gaps that increase the likelihood of failure. The combination of integrated infrastructure, remote monitoring and third-party service can free up in-house resources, provide continuous visibility into remote assets and simplify deployment and management.

Amy Johnson is vice president of marketing and strategy for Americas at Vertiv