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Serverfarm expert discusses the pandemic-driven Edge

Serverfarm expert discusses the pandemic-driven Edge

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As a result of the pandemic, online user behaviour has transformed. Arun Shenoy, Senior Vice President Sales and Marketing, Serverfarm, explains why Edge Computing investments are expected to see a massive ROI by helping to maintain productivity as the use of Edge data centres increases.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for digitalisation coupled with a mass migration to remote working. In response to this new type of industrialisation, a new IT normal was established to maintain effective workflows and communication. In another related fundamental shift for the data economy, businesses experiencing a massive data influx on an unprecedented scale increasingly depend on Edge Computing.

Edge is now the necessary mechanism for new network uses such as video and collaboration tools, which we are all becoming so familiar with. Online shopping and learning, streaming, IoT, 5G and remote health are other key Edge Computing drivers. Gartner predicts that 75% of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed outside the traditional data centre or cloud by 2022, which speaks to the powerful demand driving the Edge ecosystem. Yet, even as more industries become increasingly reliant on Edge Computing, it defies a single definition. ASHRAE described Edge as computing that is done near or at the source of the data.

Edge developments were already ramping up pre-COVID and as the world was jolted by the pandemic, this has accelerated. When it comes to Edge data centres, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) said it will number more than seven million this year with infrastructure spending in excess of US$200 billion. Edge is a global industrial phenomenon impacting every economy from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. The online activity explosion is in part due to remote working policies sanctioned by governments across the world in response to the global pandemic.

Boosting network performance with the Edge

Bandwidth and network performance requirements have grown as Edge data centres’ data processing is both closer to the user and has greater distance to travel to core enterprise data centres and cloud platforms. High-speed networks are the most important function for video conferencing, data transfers and content streaming. Whether as a consumer or a hyperconnected remote worker, a five millisecond delay is considered too long.

In its paper on Edge standard developments, the TIA says: “To handle increasing amounts of data and minimise latency, switching technology and applications have evolved to support high-speed transmission and data centre design has shifted to more efficient architecture that limits the number of switches data needs to traverse. To support the level of latency required for emerging real-time IoT applications, computing resources are also being hosted closer to end-users and devices versus having data processed and stored in centralised data centres located in another city or even another country thousands of miles from its source.”

Ghassan Abdo, IDC Research Vice President, said: “C-suite leaders across verticals are looking to Edge Computing solutions to achieve significant operational efficiencies and improved security and compliance by limiting movement of data. They also want to deliver better customer experiences. All of these priorities can be addressed through Edge Computing solutions.”

Edge data centres

Edge data centre standards are being developed by the TIA and ASHRAE’s TC 9.9 technical bulletin, Edge Computing: Considerations for Reliable Operation. It describes the common characteristics of Edge data centres even though form factors will differ significantly, ranging from pods to modules to shipping containers and even small brick-built enclosures.

Compared with full-sized or hyperscale data centres, which can rely on heavy, often intrusive, maintenance, travel restrictions mean an Edge data centre fleet should not require physical intervention by on-site staff to monitor the operations and functions. Edge data centres will rely on cloud-based software to facilitate remote management, triage and monitoring. This will play a crucial role in Edge developments for the rollout of emerging technology platforms, such as IoT, in mature and emerging markets. The pandemic has meant not just more Edge data centres, but it has also accelerated the next generation of Edge data centre designs with the interest of public health and safety at the top of the agenda. It is driving the need for remote management and autonomous operation.

Enterprise applications

In the enterprise space, each sector and each company will have many different Edge requirements. For example, a global car manufacturer will rely on existing Edge infrastructure dispersed across its factories, supply chain and distribution centres. It will also increasingly rely on new street-side Edge data centres as EV and autonomous vehicles become the norm. 

For one such company, Serverfarm monitors and manages a fleet of Edge data centres across the globe using InCommand, which is a combination of an agile cloud platform, human expertise, detailed policies and procedural discipline. 

By implementing InCommand for this company, Serverfarm has reduced the need for onsite personnel to directly monitor its data centre infrastructure. Monitoring is now carried out remotely from an operations centre by infrastructure and IT specialists. This helps ensure staff safety for the enterprise and helps the company maintain its production facility integrity during the current pandemic.

Edge data centres vary in size from several megawatt units down to micro data centres running tens of kilowatts. As well as being designed for pandemic considerations, Edge data centres must be environmentally friendly and optimised to use renewable energy as their principal power source.

The pandemic accelerating the Edge

Because of national lockdowns and remote working, all Edge Computing investments that were made before COVID and lockdowns are expected to see a massive ROI by helping maintain productivity.

The post-pandemic world economy will be a digitally-driven one. In education or commerce, whether it is person to person, person to machine, or machine to machine, economic activity will increasingly involve an interaction with some form of technology.

That technology will live ever closer to the user, whether that user is a thing or a person. The pandemic has brought about a sea change in human behaviour that is likely to entice more use of and further investment in Edge data centres.

As the world emerges from the pandemic, Edge data centres will be standard equipment for all industries and all economies.

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