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Micro Data Centers and Remote Monitoring: A Great Combination for Edge Facilities

Remote management for micro data centers is imperative for edge deployments.

July 7, 2020 6 minute read

As organizations experience increasing demand for edge computing environments, they are facing a couple of key requirements: the need for rapid delivery of robust, secure edge computing facilities and the ability to monitor them remotely. 

The demand for edge computing solutions is increasing with the rapid rollout of solutions like Internet of Things (IoT), “smart” technologies in everything from cities to stores and 5G cellular networks with vastly increased capacities. It all adds up to tremendous amounts of data to be processed, often with stringent requirements for low latency, driving the need for localized edge data centers.

Key requirements for edge facilities

Edge facilities take many forms, from a server in a restaurant supporting in-store kiosks and online ordering apps, to computing devices located outdoors alongside an electric transformer to support smart utility applications. Regardless of the form, they share a common set of requirements: 

  1. Ease of deployment. The sheer number of edge facilities organizations will require screams for ease-of-deployment. The need for simplicity is compounded by the fact that organizations don’t typically have IT personnel at edge locations.
     
  2. Security. For a would-be intruder, any network-attached device in any edge data center is a potential entry point to an organization’s larger enterprise network. And it’s not just servers you need to be concerned about. If you’re monitoring the status of your uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) remotely, for example, those UPSs are network-connected and must be protected against unauthorized physical access as well as cyber threats. That means ensuring firmware is up to date and that only the latest, secure communications protocols are in use, such as SSH, HTTPS and SNMP v3 — not earlier versions.
     
  3. Remote management capabilities. Again, given there are likely no IT staff onsite, the only way to consistently monitor and manage edge facilities is remotely. Companies need to be able to keep tabs on equipment and identify any failures so they can be remedied. 

    Even better are systems that monitor edge facilities and can identify when certain parameters are starting to drift from the norm, indicating an issue may be arising. In that case, companies can take steps to correct the problem before it causes a failure, a concept known as predictive maintenance. Cloud-based monitoring and management services are available that employ artificial intelligence to perform just that function. Some services can determine the health of a UPS battery, for example, and predict when it will fail. Cloud-based services can also monitor environmental sensors to identify if the environment is suffering from excessive heat, cold, moisture or the like.

Micro data centers offer viable solutions

One option that addresses each of these edge requirements is a micro data center (MDC). A MDC is an enclosure that houses all required edge data center IT and supporting infrastructure. MDCs come in various models depending on the requirements of the facility where it will be installed. 

Examples include 6U models that can be either free-standing or wall-mounted. Others are intended to look like furniture, enabling them to blend in with an office or retail environment. Some models are ruggedized for use in somewhat harsh environments, like a factory floor or perhaps a restaurant. Still others are intended for outdoor applications and are able to withstand the elements. 

In all cases, a MDC will be able to house not only compute, storage and networking components (including hyper-converged infrastructure), but also UPSs and cooling systems (if required). They also have built-in security, including locks that prevent inadvertent or intentional unauthorized access. 

WWT helps make the process of designing, ordering, assembling, testing and installing edge data centers fast and easy. Online configuration tools from partners such as APC by Schneider Electric enable customers to choose an appropriate MDC model and map out exactly which components it should house. WWT also works with a wide variety of IT vendors and can take on the job of ordering and installing the components. Through our global integration centers, we can ship pre-built and pre-configured MDCs to anywhere in the world and have our technicians perform any final installation tasks at each remote location.

Once on-site, we’ll also get the MDC set up with Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxureTM IT, a cloud-based remote monitoring and management service that includes predictive maintenance. Based on benchmark data provided by hundreds of thousands of data points (anonymized), the service can tell you when a UPS battery is starting to fail, give you tips for prolonging its life and ultimately help you plan for its replacement — so you can get the most of out of every truck roll to each remote site. Or use our dispatch service, and we’ll get the replacement out to you.

Using Schneider Electric’s NetBotz environmental monitoring solution, customers can also monitor physical attributes of their edge sites, including excessive moisture, heat and even unauthorized entry.

Key benefits of remote MDC monitoring

EcoStruxure IT provides a number of benefits that will help organizations effectively monitor their edge facilities, no matter where they may be. Customers get global visibility into edge infrastructure, from anywhere, with a single tap of a smart phone. 

This includes visibility into device information, receipt of smart alarms and monitoring of data from all devices, regardless of vendor. EcoStruxure IT also provides inventory data for all devices, and enables a quick overview of data including:

  • Alarms
  • Benchmarking data
  • Device health assessments
  • Device security vulnerability assessment

The solution also includes customizable dashboards, so each user can configure it to view the criteria most important to their job function. And it enables device management, so users can diagnose and correct problems remotely.

Don’t leave the edge to chance

For many organizations, deploying effective edge data center facilities will be crucial to keeping competitive in an increasingly digital world. MDCs can help ensure fast, secure edge deployments while remote monitoring ensures the facilities are functioning properly day in and day out. 

You can’t have IT staff on site at all of your edge locations, but remote monitoring is the next best thing — or, with predictive maintenance capabilities, even better. To explore the best solution fit for your organization contact our Facilities Team or schedule a Facilities Infrastructure Workshop

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