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The edge is pushing boundaries like never ever before. With more employees working in more locations, exactly where and when users are generating, consuming and manipulating data is shifting constantly. What is not changing is the demand for speed along with the shrinking tolerance for latency. Wherever people work and businesses operate, nearby IT capacity and data storage are musts for meeting these needs and enabling efficiency at the same time.

Not surprisingly, keeping up is easier said than done. In many edge locations, there is no space specifically designed for IT. When that space is carved out, ensuring access to power and adequate cooling, while making sure everything is operating as efficiently as possible, are additional challenges. These issues often must be resolved over and over again, as no two edge locations are exactly alike. Finally, once everything is online, the problem of supporting remote locations that don't have IT personal on-site adds yet another layer of complexity to the situation.

Clearly, solving for edge challenges is consuming precious time and resources that busy IT managers do not have to spare. Fortunately, pre-integrated micro data center systems resolve many of these issues and give IT professionals a solution that can help them keep pace with edge growth and quickly deploy IT wherever it is needed. 

Top 5 challenges with facilitating growth at the edge

1. Finding space

The edge is defined as the part of something that's furthest away from its center. As the edge for many industries moves further and further out, this 'new frontier' is typically designed for purposes other than supporting an IT environment. This makes finding appropriate space for IT equipment difficult for two primary reasons. 

First, space is usually at a premium. Because IT is not a revenue-generating activity, the space allotted for it is often minimized. IT rarely scores prime real estate and is often relegated to an old office or sometimes a storage or supply closet. Second, IT equipment is high maintenance to some degree. For the equipment to be optimized and ultimately enable the connectivity and capacity users demand, the space where it will be housed must be outfitted appropriately. The more 'raw' the space is to begin with, the more time and effort IT managers must invest to make the environment IT-ready. 

When there is more than one edge location — and there almost always is — IT managers have to put the puzzle together over and over again. The spaces are rarely uniform, and what works in one environment does not transfer seamlessly to the next.

Solution: Pre-integrated, edge-ready micro data center systems take much of the legwork out of the process of outfitting an edge IT space. The systems contain critical infrastructure — including power, power distribution and cooling — in an enclosed rack, minimizing the IT footprint and creating a mini data center that can work anywhere, independent of surrounding environmental conditions. The entire solution takes up no more floor space than a standard IT rack.

2. Lack of cooling

IT equipment generates a great deal of heat. Even in well-ventilated spaces, building air conditioning systems are insufficient to handle the heat output from the servers. This is because comfort air conditioning systems operate with people in mind, not computers. They keep the room comfortable mainly by removing humidity in the cooled space. For computers to operate, the actual temperature in the space needs to be adjusted as heat is generated. 

Furthermore, most building air conditioning systems operate based on the outdoor temperature and often shut off on nights and weekends. Computers, however, never stop working. They require cooling that operates 24/7, year-round, even in the coldest winter months. 

Solution: Micro data center systems integrate sensible capacity IT cooling specifically designed to handle the heat generated by IT equipment. In enclosed systems, that cooling is delivered directly to the IT equipment and contained within the system, so the cooling doesn't have to work as hard to begin with and waste is minimized. These attributes are increasingly essential as energy efficiency becomes a top priority for most businesses. In addition, many systems offer variable cooling capacity, meaning they cool only as much as necessary to maintain an optimized environment, further increasing efficiency out of the gate.

3. Oversized infrastructure 

When the space afforded for IT is scarce, IT managers struggle with how to properly protect sensitive IT equipment without giving up precious square footage to accommodate IT cooling equipment. Traditionally, workable options have been limited and IT decision makers often had to sacrifice either space or capacity, resulting in a less-than-ideal solution for the business.

Solution: Micro data center systems that leverage powerful yet compact IT-grade cooling systems make compromise a thing of the past. Rack-based cooling units integrated into these systems are specifically designed to fit within the enclosed, standard 19" network rack rails and still provide enough scalable capacity to match the heat output of the contained IT equipment.

4. Integration 

Piecing together the various components of an IT solution for an edge application is one thing. Installing the components and getting everything to work together is another story entirely. It can sometimes be even more of a challenge than the initial design work. 

This is especially true when it comes to cooling in small spaces where heat rejection is a concern and additional equipment is needed to move the heat away from the IT equipment and into a space where it can be handled by the building air conditioning system. Installing heat rejection solutions often requires outside contactor assistance, which adds time and costs to the deployment process.

Solution: The beauty of a prefabricated micro data center system is that every component is integrated to work together for a complete IT solution. Systems that integrate plug-and-play cooling solutions simplify installation even more, especially when they come with all of the required installation kits and accessories, including the heat rejection system. True plug-and-play solutions require nothing more than connecting a duct and plugging in the system, which can be handled quickly and easily by internal staff in most cases.

5. Remote management 

As the edge expands, IT becomes increasingly distributed in more and more remote locations. Often, organizations do not have the resources available to put dedicated IT staff onsite at each and every remote facility. However, that does not eliminate the need for staff to stay on top of the thermal conditions in these spaces. Essentially, IT managers need to have eyes and ears in every environment where IT operates. The situation needs to be monitored around the clock to help detect potential problems so they can be addressed before they lead to outages and unplanned downtime.

Solution: Remote monitoring capabilities round out today's comprehensive micro data center solutions. Integrated monitoring software affords remote control over the entire system. Often, IT managers can monitor multiple IT spaces from a single IP address. Alarming capabilities afford additional peace of mind, giving immediate notification of any conditions that exceed preset thresholds or parameters. 

Solve your edge IT challenges from end to end

Vertiv™ VRC-S Edge-Ready Micro Data Center System Image

Micro data center systems are born out of the need for a simpler, faster solution for keeping up with rapid edge growth and users' escalating need for more IT in more places. They give IT managers a way to keep pace, not just with design and deployment, but with ongoing management of edge IT as well.

For WWT customers who are always seeking solutions that optimize resources, we've found that the Vertiv™ VRC-S Edge-Ready Micro Data Center System checks many boxes. It incorporates a Vertiv Geist rPDU and the Vertiv™ VRC self-contained cooling kit with up to 3.5 kW of highly efficient, scalable cooling, all in an enclosed standard IT edge rack. Just add the UPS of your choice, and you have a complete plug-and-play mini data center that can be up and running in days, occupying no more footprint than a standard IT rack. 

The embedded remote monitoring software lets you keep tabs on everything and even monitor multiple units from a single IP address. With the Vertiv VRC-S, it's possible to save effort, time and money at every step of the process of implementing and managing IT at the edge.

To learn more about how to simplify your edge challenges and take advantage of powerful multi-tasking solutions, follow WWT's Facilities Infrastructure focus area or request a workshop to discuss your specific needs.