Over the last 10 years, the internet has crept into nearly every aspect of our lives, both inside and outside the office. Not so long ago, businesses and consumers were delighted by the fact that more and more devices were connected and that photos, documents and videos could now be accessed more frequently, and in a far wider range of places.
Today, however, as with many trends, it’s on to the next. People have now come to expect not just basic connectivity, but high speed and instantaneous experiences everywhere they go. As the number of devices that are internet-enabled grows, so does the volume of traffic between devices and machines. Whether people are aware or not, this is placing incredible strain on the data center load, especially as many of the applications used each day – both personally and professionally – are cloud based.
As a result, cloud storage centers – which are based hundreds, often thousands of miles away from the end user – are becoming laden with complex data processing requests between devices and machines. Putting such pressure on the system means a slower service or as many call it, “latency” or “lag”. This unprecedented amount of data being generated has pushed organizations to rethink how they’re using computing power and whether or not using a centralized system to interact with data is the best possible approach.
Returning from the Edge
Across the last decade, the process of interacting with data has involved it moving from the end user all the way back to the central data center facility – a process that is both time and resource heavy.
To relieve this pressure, and to maintain a seamless connected experience as data grows, the industry is moving towards a distributed data center infrastructure which brings computing capabilities much closer to the end user, a model which is known as edge computing.
Edge computing is the process of bringing computing power closer to the “edge” of the network, where digital transactions and machine-to-machine communication takes place. Within edge computing, each device on the network is able to perform basic processing, storing and control at the local level. As a result, shorter geographical distances mean that data can be managed and interacted with locally and therefore, more quickly. Edge computing also reduces the amount of resource needed to deliver data to the end user.
The cost of time
It will come as no surprise that edge computing is rapidly being deployed. With close proximity, response times and latency are minimized thanks to data being received and processed in situ. It allows remote sites to function irrespective of failings or delays in the core infrastructure, and enables devices that previously suffered from limited storage capacity to have access to far more data-intensive content, such as rich media.
Secondly, data transmission costs are lower as the amount of data transferred back to a central location for storage is reduced. It also enables local processing of the information so that only data that meets a certain criteria is sent back for further processing or storage. There are fewer points of failure in edge computing, as data processing and control occurs at the device level without relying on a LAN network.
But the advantage of edge computing extends further than relieving immediate pressure on the network, it also improves business continuity and industrial operations. By nature, the micro data centers involved in edge computing are based geographically away from the core data center facility. This means that should anything happen to the central data center – such as power failures or security breaches – a business’ service can continue safely and seamlessly through the edge computing systems.
In the years to come, secure device-to-device communication and the remote deployment of software will increasingly depend on the availability of edge computing. Without local data processing power, connected devices will not be able to reach their full potential. Edge computing will also be instrumental in creating a future where IoT is mainstream in smart homes, smart cities and industry 4.0.
Speed is key
Edge applications and micro data centers have become critical to many businesses, but building and equipping facilities fast enough to meet growing data demands is a real issue. The need for innovative pre-engineered solutions has never been more immediate. To combat this, vendors are producing integrated enclosures which combine all of the necessities for a micro data center in a single unit, and are easier to deploy, without the need for complex computer rooms. .
Prefabricated solutions are a simple option for micro data centers with limited space, but also for companies looking to quickly upgrade their server rooms and local nodes to support increased data processing for machine-to-machine communication. In addition, integrated systems which are simplified and rapidly deployable are vital for edge applications.
There is now an unprecedented amount of data being generated which will prompt organizations to rethink how they’re using computing power. This is because data center systems don’t only store and process data, they generate it too – with an established IoT framework businesses will be required to put computing further away from the core. The future of successful enterprise computing will consist of a healthy, bespoke combination of core and edge sites, thus it’s essential to count on reliable and efficient solutions for both central and micro data centers.
The simplicity of edge computing means that businesses can now build integrated and flexible solutions that are tailored to the demands of an application and customer. Micro data centers – in some cases, as small as one rack – are working their way into rooms that were never designed for servers.
The evolution of machine communication, coupled with the impact of IoT Industry 4.0 has already had a massive effect on our IT foundations and without addressing underlying infrastructure issues, connected devices of the future will struggle to ever reach their full potential.
Appal Chintapalli, vice president of integrated rack systems for Vertiv in EMEA