Edge computing is driving the need for edge micro data centers (EMDC), a small-scale data center that sits geographically closer to the end user and enables more total compute power: increased data analysis and transfer at a faster rate with fewer potential points of network failure. Identical to the critical infrastructure needs of a traditional data center, the EMDC must address airflow, cable management/connectivity, power, and security requirements to create optimal operating conditions for IT equipment.
EMDCs can take multiple forms including free-standing cabinets, wall mounts, or even specialized pods—a shipping container look-alike with multiple cabinets. Each unit is deployed in a location that provides
service to a large, clustered group of users: sports stadium, popular tourist destination, or manufacturing facility. The goal is to place the EMDC in the last mile, or at the infrastructure edge—the segment of a telecommunications network that is closest to users and a service provider.
The ”shell” of each EMDC is a metal enclosure meant to specifically house and protect rack mount IT servers and network equipment. The size, shape, and construction of an EMDC will vary based on where it is deployed and its anticipated workload/application. Indoor locations with limited space, heavy foot traffic, or the need to seamlessly blend the EMDC with existing décor is the ideal scenario for using wall mounts. Indoor applications with available floor space can accommodate a free-standing cabinet. Interior, high dust environments or any outdoor location will require an enclosure with a NEMA/IP rating. Several NEMA/IP ratings exist, and each rating defines to what degree the enclosure will protect equipment against dust, dirt, precipitation, and/or corrosive materials.
AC units, heat exchangers, or fan assemblies are common solutions to provide heating and cooling for the EMDC. The type of equipment installed in the enclosure, geographic location, and ambient environment—intense sun, volatile temperatures, unpredictable precipitation—will dictate which type of airflow strategy is required. The chosen strategy should maintain acceptable internal enclosure temperature and humidity ranges which are defined by rack mount equipment manufacturers. Like the enclosure itself, airflow solutions may require a NEMA/IP rating if it is exposed to the elements.
Indoor EMDCs feature laser-etched cable access in multiple locations along the body of the enclosure; cable access points are removed as needed. Standard, off-the-shelf NEMA enclosures have limited, or no cable access points. Incorporating cable access placement and size into the enclosure design and manufacturing process will prevent onsite modifications which can potentially compromise the environmental protection of the enclosure.
A rack PDU and UPS typically power indoor rack mount equipment and provide redundancy if the PDU loses power. PDUs are specific to each application, with attributes including dimensions, number and type of receptacles, and power requirements. Ideally, PDUs possess monitoring functionality so that offsite IT staff can review and analyze equipment performance in terms of volts, amps, etc. PDUs with Ethernet ports will accept environmental monitoring sensors that measure temperature, humidity, and dew point. Alarms set within the PDU software will alert IT staff if enclosure conditions exceed power and environmental thresholds. Additional power options include lithium batteries, scalable power shelves, and solutions specific for industrial and NEMA applications.
EMDCs deployed in remote regions with no foot traffic and even those found in high-traffic locations require protection from accidental or intentional physical harm. Intelligent access control integrates with enclosures to deter passersby from accessing the enclosure. A required PIN, RFID card, biometric scan, digital “key,” or combination of authentication methods ensure only approved IT staff and contractors access the enclosure. Access control software can provide real-time audit trail reports of user access, time, and length of access, etc. If an unplanned, malicious outage does occur, intelligent access control software provides insight into helping identify the party responsible.
When deciding on an EMDC solution, Great Lakes can address proper construction, airflow, connectivity, power, and security. Engineering and manufacturing expertise provides standard and custom options that specifically address the unique requirements of each customer. STACK integration services also ensure that each EMDC is configured with any internal components that the customer requests. No matter the number of enclosures needed, working with Great Lakes will ensure that a consistent edge enclosure, built and assembled exactly as specified, is deployed in the last mile.