It’s no secret that society’s appetite for information keeps developing at a breakneck pace. Mobile data traffic continues to grow. The Internet of Things (IoT) is linking to just about everything and, according to a 2017 Gartner study, there will be 20.4 billion connected devices by 2020, while IDC projects 18% of the total IT spend will be for the edge infrastructure. The need for reliable networks has never been greater, and nowhere is that need more pronounced than at the edge of the network.
To address this march of progress, more and more computing is being driven to the edge of the network. What does this mean for IT infrastructure power systems? For IT managers it’s a constant worry of how to support it all.
Edge environments are different depending on the application and so are their power needs. In fact, the power systems at the edge of some large companies might be sufficient to power another company’s primary data center. Most of today’s edge deployments are 20kVA or less, but there are large sites using 200kVA or more. At the edge, one size definitely does not fit all.
Whatever the size, edge sites are becoming increasingly mission critical, and IT managers need to adapt and adjust their power architectures. Below are four keys for power at the edge.
IMPROVE RESILIENCY AND CAPACITY
In the past, edge applications weren’t as safeguarded as those in the main data center since the information being generated and stored at the edge wasn’t as business critical. Not so today. Compute at the edge needs protection from all key electrical disturbances that can rattle systems and performance — inside or outside the facility. UPS units for these applications need to be compact, high-powered, and designed for high-density environments.
Many managers are evaluating true, online double-conversion UPS systems to eliminate disruptions, make a seamless transfer to the battery, and deliver maximum availability in locations with spotty electrical grids. By filtering electrical disturbances, these UPS systems avoid frequent battery draws and extend battery life. Including a maintenance bypass allows for routine service and maintenance while still ensuring the load is protected. In the 10 to 30kVA range, three-phase UPS designs may be valued, given their higher capacity and more favorable wiring costs and effective load balancing. Smaller capacities are still well served with single-phase technologies.
Needless to say, remote monitoring and management capabilities offer tremendous value at the edge, especially when the site has no tolerance for downtime. Edge sites often lack on-site IT personnel, so remote visibility is critical. Locations without supervision or trained personnel might require local service support to not only troubleshoot incidents, but conduct preventive maintenance to avoid downtime or data loss.
Time is money, and that’s especially true in today’s exploding edge market. This “arms race” for more local compute capabilities creates the need to be up and running quickly, and that means deploying power systems that are installation-ready, have lifecycle support, and a robust supply-chain that offers fast convenient shipping plus local support that can streamline deployment.
Of course, deployment at the edge is an ongoing effort. For the power architecture that means flexibility is a priority. This might mean fast and easy power capacity expansion, more battery run time, or greater electrical connections. There are different ways to manage growth, from scaling up as needed to adding new systems. Most want to stay away from needless up-front investments that over-provision.
UTILIZE INTELLIGENT MONITORING AND CONTROL
Today’s critical infrastructure technologies are equipped for more advanced, in some cases cloud-based, remote management and control. This is especially valuable at the edge where on-site support is limited. IT managers utilizing intelligent systems with enhanced visibility into their critical infrastructure can monitor the power and cooling systems in their edge facilities and manage those systems or proactively schedule service. Programs can be tailored to meet specific needs, delivering notifications and alerts before an issue becomes critical, and offering remote response capabilities to address issues as they arise. Best-case deployments require minimal oversight, with machine learning and artificial intelligence monitoring and acting on data from critical infrastructure equipment.
This type of intelligent management platform increases visibility at the edge, improves efficiency, and protects valuable critical equipment.
To truly manage or lower costs, you’ll need to control capital expenditures, and operating and maintenance expenses while avoiding downtime. You can realize real savings at each facility by improving energy efficiency, lowering staff support costs, and reducing costly service truck rolls. The right UPS systems, with a high operating efficiency and intelligent lifecycle management, can make a big difference. If an edge location does not need high levels of protection 24/7, operating a UPS in eco-mode can save money while being more energy efficient. Small efficiency improvements can quickly add up as the number of edge locations increase.
IoT, mobile computing, virtual reality, and other advanced applications are driving demand for robust, low-latency edge computing. This more mission-critical edge is an integral part of most networks. To safeguard this vital information, power systems need to be easy to deploy, resilient, intelligent, scalable, and flexible to grow and adapt to changing conditions.