Rittal Blog

What is Edge Computing? And is an Edge Deployment Just a Small Stand-Alone Data Center?

January 20 2022 by Herb Villa

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The IT environment has embraced Edge computing, and it will never go back.

Why? The growth of the Internet of Things (and associated devices), fast network technologies (such as 5G wireless), artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and autonomous vehicles, just to name the most well-known applications. Edge computing systems are needed to support these real-time, data-heavy applications and many others.

In 2022, the situation becomes even more important as we do more, build more, operate more, and connect more.


What is Edge Computing?

This is the key question. And one that — surprisingly — we are having trouble answering, even in 2022. A recent article in The Register addressed this very issue: “Edge computing set for growth – that is, when we can agree what it is.”

Regardless of definition disagreements, one common factor everyone agrees on: Edge computing is all about proximity. Putting processing power close to the point at which data is generated and used. This proximity:

  • helps the applications connect and interact with machines
  • provides valuable analytics and real-time insights
  • reduces latency
  • opens bandwidth required to send data up to the cloud
  • minimizes storage costs
How close is “close”?
Wherever data is generated and critical processes are happening: on a factory floor, in a warehouse space, out at sea on a remote oil/gas installation, at the base of a telecom tower.
You get the idea. The cloud simply is not designed to process that much data in real-time. For applications that require speed, the cloud’s cost and bandwidth availability are less than ideal.

Need more reasons to care about Edge computing? Read this article.


A Stand-Alone Installation and Much More

So, an Edge deployment is not necessarily in a remote location, but it certainly can end up way out there. This 2-minute video answers: Where is the Edge? In short, it’s wherever you can put a single, stand-alone footprint (maybe two).

That location is likely in an environment with changing conditions (unlike traditional data centers), and one never meant to be an IT space. So, it is important to think of an Edge deployment as being self-contained and modular.

The system components needed within an Edge deployment are the same as a traditional data center:

  • device and cable management
  • climate control
  • power distribution
  • monitoring and security
  • fire suppression

You want every IT installation you use to be secure, integrated, efficient, and productive. Of course, that includes Edge deployments. Yet, implementing these components may not be as obvious when compared to a traditional IT space.


Solving Edge’s Challenges

Once only used by large corporations, Edge computing is now used by businesses of every size. And as useful as Edge computing can be, it comes with its own challenges.

New Edge deployments often demand that a facility invest in new equipment: backup generators, transformers, switchgear. A facility assessment can enlighten IT managers to any mechanical and/or electrical systems that need attention prior to an Edge deployment. A true “future-proofed” Edge deployment should be engineered for flexibility, with the ability to:

  • quickly add accessories 
  • reconfigure IT cabinets for different equipment sizes 
  • install IT and power equipment in the same cabinet
  • use different cooling methods within the same cabinet

Edge Computing: What NOT To Do

There are right and wrong ways to implement an Edge deployment. We covered The Do’s and Don’ts of Edge Computing, and here are the 4 most important “don'ts”:

  1. Don’t Forget The Basics — Scrutinize your unique needs and locations of the deployment. Harsh environments (moisture, dust, debris, temperature changes) can quickly damage your IT equipment investment. Install an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) system, consider physical protection, and use modern monitoring capabilities.

  2. Don’t Choose a Poor IT Cabinet — Select the right IT enclosure protection based on the environmental conditions and contaminant risks near your location. Modular cabinets can be reconfigured to accommodate new equipment, scale as you grow, and support technology refresh cycles without much modification.

  3. Don’t Forget About Cooling — Handling the heat generated by current and future IT equipment is vital. The right cooling helps minimize power supply interruptions, contaminant problems, and equipment stress due to temperature changes.

  4. Don’t Skimp on Security — An Edge installation can be anywhere. Security will be paramount, especially against physical threats and cyberthreats. The Edge deployment must offer the highest level of physical protection, preventing unauthorized entries, whether from your own employees, contractors, third-party personnel and, critically, the lone wolf. And the higher the level of physical protection, the better able to reduce the risk of some (not all) cyberthreats.


Choose An Edge Computing Partner Wisely

Different companies and industries think of the term “Edge computing” differently, and some businesses are surprised with its complexity. What is nearly universal: Edge computing is a significant change in both operations and distributed IT. Working with an experienced partner ensures that a company is taking full advantage of Edge computing’s benefits, helping with equipment and needed support so processing and storage can be done at the Edge.

An Edge computing partner should be comfortable with designing an Edge deployment that is customized and includes advanced, pre-engineered solutions. There is certainly no “one-size-fits-all” solution.

Ask any potential Edge computing partner these questions:

  • “Who is on your design and install consulting team?” A successful platform requires numerous experts throughout the process.

  • “What questions do you ask during consultation?” The right plan requires having a clear understanding of the big picture.

  • “Can you describe your project management group?” Managing key relationships (mechanical, electrical, general contractors) is critical.


Rittal Knows Edge IT Enclosure Solutions

With speed, flexibility, and cost-efficiency as rewards, Edge deployments do require an expert partner that can handle their challenges while supplying the right IT cabinets faster and easier.

One often overlooked IT cabinet solution or Edge deployments is a pre-engineered Edge platform design, or bundle, which comes fully packaged. All components arrive together, so there is no more fabricating and modifying material to fit the space.

These “plug & play” installations keep things simple, scalable, and affordable while maintaining high quality. An Edge deployment’s location determines if a pre-configured system will be effective.

Rittal, a world leader in IT enclosure solutions, offers solutions and services to help rapidly deploy Edge computing solutions. Yes … smaller, faster, and closer are all part of today’s IT world. Yet, if you’re still unsure about moving to the Edge, start by reading The Future of Edge Computing - Benefits for 2022 and Beyond.

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Or contact us at rittal@rittal.us for more information.

Categories: Data Center Solutions, Edge Computing

Herb Villa

Written by Herb Villa

Rittal Sr. Applications Engineer