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What Are Edge Data Centers? Definition, Characteristics, and Use Cases

Posted by Fancy Fan on September 8, 2022

Remote workers and branch offices need access to corporate IT resources, but connecting to a distant data center can cause delays that hamper productivity and the user experience. Transmitting data generated by IoT devices to the cloud can limit the ability to tap that data for real-time insights. The edge computing model has arisen to address these challenges. Edge computing seeks to reduce network latency by bringing data processing as close to the original source as possible.

Edge Data Center Definition:

According to the strictest definition, an edge data center is a facility in a secondary or tertiary market that’s not served by a major colocation center. In this context, the edge data center literally pushes out the Internet edge. More broadly, an edge data center can extend the corporate network to a remote location that lacks a traditional data center environment.

What Are Edge Data Centers?

Edge data centers enable edge computing at scale. They use the same equipment as traditional data centers but are located closer to the network's edge and have a smaller footprint. They can deliver services and cached content faster and serve as collection points for IoT data that requires local processing.

The proliferation of edge computing has helped popularize the “micro data center” concept. Micro data centers are self-contained, modular data centers with all the technology required for a given application (compute, storage, cooling, etc.). They are designed to be easily deployable and can be as big as a shipping container or as small as a standard server cabinet (see standard server rack depth, width, and height). Edge data centers are essentially micro data centers that enable edge computing and are often referred to as “edge micro data centers” or “micro edge data centers.”

More information on micro data center use cases and definition.

Edge computing helps to relieve network congestion and reduce data transport costs by conserving network bandwidth. It can also reduce cloud storage costs and improve regulatory compliance through data localization. Edge computing complements the cloud, providing unique capabilities for specific use cases.

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4 Use Cases for Edge Computing

  1. Internet of Things (IoT) Applications
    The value of the IoT lies in its ability to support real-time asset monitoring, intelligent automation, and operational intelligence. Edge data centers provide the resources needed to process and analyze IoT data near the source for faster decision-making.

  2. Virtual Reality (VR)
    Just about any physical process can be replicated in VR. For example, retailers can use smart mirrors to enable customers to “try on” clothes without a dressing room. Creating a realistic virtual environment that allows users to interact with it naturally requires substantial processing power and high-speed data transmission. Edge data centers can provide those resources.

  3. Artificial Intelligence
    AI models are often developed and trained in a centralized data center or the cloud using historical data, then pushed to the edge to inference current data. Inferencing requires less compute power than training but needs lower latency. Edge AI has applications in many industry sectors — in manufacturing, for example, AI can analyze data collected from sensors to improve quality, reduce waste, and drive costs down.

  4. Regulatory Compliance
    Government and industry regulations are increasingly concerned with data sovereignty — data must be maintained in a geographic location near the user to meet privacy requirements. Storing and managing data in an edge data center can facilitate regulatory compliance while enabling more efficient delivery of services to users. For example, retailers can collect and analyze data from the Wi-Fi network and provide personalized content without violating privacy laws.

4 Key Characteristics of Edge Data Centers

Although there is a lot of nuance among edge data center deployments, edge data centers share these four characteristics.

  1. Small Size
    Edge data centers are often implemented in retail stores, warehouses, and other locations where space is at a premium. For IoT applications, the edge data center may even be deployed in a shipping container or temporary facility. The IT equipment could be installed in a modular “pod” unit or even a self-contained cabinet with integrated cooling.

  2. Performance
    The edge data center should have adequate server and storage resources and access to high-speed Internet connectivity with sufficient bandwidth for edge applications and data. It should be architected with scalability in mind to ensure support for growing numbers of users and devices.

  3. Reliability
    Edge data centers must be highly reliable to ensure local users can access the necessary resources. Because environmental conditions are often less-than-ideal in remote facilities, supplemental cooling may be required. Uninterruptible power supplies can help ensure continued operations in brief power outages.

  4. Streamlined Operations
    Remote management tools are a must since there are typically no IT specialists onsite. IT staff in the corporate data center must have visibility into the edge environment and the ability to maintain and troubleshoot equipment without an onsite visit.

Edge Data Center Solutions from Enconnex

The Enconnex EdgeRack line of edge micro data center cabinets is designed to optimize edge data centers. These enclosures integrate power, cooling, management, and physical security features in a turnkey solution that can be installed virtually anywhere.

  • The EdgeRack 3P is a 42U cabinet with 3.5kW of cooling, an intelligent touchscreen monitoring system, power, and a UPS. It is ideal for small to midsize offices, retail outlets, educational institutions, and other edge locations where space is at a premium.
  • The EdgeRack 5M Series with 5kW of cooling comes in 42U, 45U, and 48U models. With plexiglass doors and sound-dampening walls, roof, and floor panels, the EdgeRack 5M is perfect for edge locations where noise levels could be a concern.
  • The soon-to-be-released EdgeRack Industrial 8M has up to 8kW of high-efficiency cooling that can be adjusted according to the IT load using the built-in inverter compressor and EC fans. It has a NEMA 12 and IP rating of 54, which means that it protects against dust intrusion and prevents the invasion of splashed water from all directions. This cabinet with 42U usable IT space is suitable for use in factories, production facilities, and other industrial locations.

We are your one-stop shop for edge computing. Enhance your existing environment with our line of data center and IT infrastructure products, or build a new edge micro data center with our line of EdgeRack cabinets. Let Enconnex help you use the edge computing model to reduce latency and utilize resources more efficiently.

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Posted by Fancy Fan on September 8, 2022

Fancy Fan, product manager, joined Enconnex with 10+ years of IT infrastructure products and R&D experience and is PMP and NPDP certificated. Fancy currently manages the Enconnex Metal Product line and the mechanical engineering department. She and her team continually deliver innovative and good-quality products to benefit our customers.

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