For those meeting edge computing infrastructure requirements, security issues are not restricted to being able to operate in harsh environments and remote locations.
The physical and operational security provided by sealed, low-maintenance infrastructure is a mission critical necessity that also addresses space constraints and autonomous operation. Edge design must provide efficient and secure performance across a range of local and possibly harsh locations where data center IT has never operated before. Shifting critical infrastructure from traditional data centers located in compounds protected by double-fenced razor-wire-topped perimeters, full security camera coverage, 24/7 on-site security guards, crash barriers, and border force level infrastructure with non-tailgating access is risky.
However, a new breed of data centers is being deployed outside traditional physical security perimeters to process, store, and share data close to where it is generated and consumed in retail outlets, factories, offices, and on the sides of streets.
Instead of only tens or hundreds of giant data centers being operated and secured, thousands — possibly millions — of small data centers will run at the edge, and these sites need to be as secure as possible.
All of this is being driven by the digital transformation of manufacturing processes and consumer behavior, which moves seamlessly between digital, physical, IoT, and sensor data generation. The rollout of 5G and the expected exponential growth in data traffic as coverage extends globally also plays a role in increased demand for compute at the edge.
Automation is changing every business — from robotic process automation digitizing repetitive office tasks to industrial robots that improve manufacturing processes, AI, ML, and reinforced learning (RL) are improving productivity and streamlining operations across multiple industries.
Autonomous vehicles and the sensors that make intelligent buildings in smart cities will capture and generate large data volumes but will pass on small data sets to local edge sites. Some retailers are even looking to optimize supply chains and logistics, allowing shoppers using extended reality (mobile XR) to make in-shop purchasing decisions and have their goods waiting for them when they return home. The world is embracing digitization, and there are many emerging use cases.
Depending on the exact nature of the deployment, there are a range of related but different security challenges for anyone installing and operating digital infrastructure.
Early edge data center concepts were simply attempts to shrink down a giant data center, which uses air movement for cooling, into a micro footprint. This type of design is impractical and insecure by the very nature of its key components, chiefly air-cooling technology.
Sealed liquid cooling technology for edge environments protects vital IT infrastructure from the chip to the chassis to the shell. Inside the sealed unit, security layers protect highly dense system-on-chip architectures, GPUs, edge storage flash, network, IoT sensors, and industrial embedded technologies.
As higher-powered processors and associated support systems increase, more heat is generated. Liquid-cooled servers can scale from 3 kW to more than 40 kW per rack without any necessary modifications.
Secure units sit inside various physical shell form-factors, whether standard or bespoke, including physically secure shipping containers. They can be fitted in harsh factory floor environments where airborne contaminants are prevalent and can reduce the mean time to failure (MTTF) of air-cooled systems in public areas and in confined spaces.
Operationally, chassis-level immersion liquid cooling has many advantages. For starters, it eliminates the threat of any air particulate contamination. It also raises security resilience by doing away with moving and fixed parts, such as fans and filters, which require regular maintenance and increase points of failure.
Hiding a tree by putting it in the forest is good advice, but if your tree is noisy and buzzing, it probably won’t take too long to find. Immersion cooling leads to silent edge data centers, which increases the anonymity and adds to physical security.
Edge computing is becoming a key element in critical infrastructure. While there is no escaping malice and misadventure, edge sites demand different approaches to security than traditional facilities. Chassis-level immersion cooling technology offers benefits that go beyond scalable thermal management — its inconspicuous characteristics (small footprint, low noise, minimal maintenance, etc.) add to physical security in a number of ways.