Building resilient and sustainable edge data centres

Schneider Electric - As organisations grapple with latency, operational strain, and security considerations with existing data centre deployments, it is increasingly evident that edge computing is anything but hype. Indeed, Gartner predicted that 75 per cent of enterprise data is expected to be processed (and created) at the edge by 2025, up from just 10 per cent in 2018.

Businesses are also turning to digital transformation in the wake of disruptions stemming from economic uncertainty and supply chain challenges. On this front, edge computing can help them make better decisions and establish a competitive advantage through low-latency access to data – ultimately bolstering revenues.

The importance of sustainability

But building edge data centres cannot be done in a vacuum. As more facilities are built to meet growing demand, sustainability mustn't be ignored. Based on internal projections at Schneider Electric, energy consumption by data centres is expected to double by 2040, with the increase attributed mostly to the rise in edge data centres.

The predictions are sobering:

  • 7.5 million new micro data centres expected to be installed by 2025
  • Edge data centres expected to consume a global peak power footprint of 120GW
  • Total CO2 amounting to 450,000 to 600,000 tonnes produced per year

The high energy consumption and the corresponding increase in CO2 generated makes it a priority for both the private and public sectors. Around the world, governments are enacting new regulations and initiatives to address sustainability, such as Singapore pledging to reduce emissions by 16 per cent from business-as-usual (BAU) levels by 2020.

Fortunately, colocation providers are aware of their responsibilities when it comes to ensuring the sustainability of data centres. According to a study from analyst firm 451 Research, the majority of respondents (57%) consider efficiency and sustainability to be important competitive differentiators. This is driven by a mix of customer expectations, operational resilience, and regulatory guidelines.  

Building resilient edge data centres

Sustainability aside, edge data centres must be resilient to be useful. This is easier said than done as most edge deployments have limited or no IT employees at the site. This means that traditional approaches used for large, centralised data centre deployments will not work for edge sites. A new paradigm is needed.

Edge data centres can be made more resilient and sustainability if the following pointers are adopted:

  • Leverage standardisation and integrated systems
  • Deploy energy-efficient solutions
  • Implement remote monitoring and management
  • Focus on simplified deployments

Instead of having to build each edge facility as a standalone deployment, the onus is on enterprises to look for good reference designs and digital design tools to simplify deployment and maintenance. Integrated systems or components that are tested and validated to work well together can also greatly simplify deployments.

To increase efficiency, data should be collected and compared across facilities or even benchmarked against similar deployments to improve performance. This calls for the capability to manage edge sites remotely, as well as the ability to perform most if not all maintenance and troubleshooting from afar.

Ultimately, businesses should not fear pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation with their edge computing deployments. With the right focus on sustainability and resilience, reliable edge facilities that are also green is achievable.

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