There’s a lot of hype around the edge — and for good reason. Edge data centers meet the demand for additional capacity, reduced latency, and data security; the cost is relatively low; and the turnaround time is fast. According to a July 2019 report by PWC, the global market for edge data centers is forecast to more than triple from $4 billion in 2017 to $13.5 billion in 2024. But, hype is often followed by decisions made in haste. So, it’s important to study and carefully consider the differences in edge facilities — they are not all created equally. Being a fairly new concept, edge data centers are not well-suited to an RFP selection process. RFP processes tend to isolate and rank individual characteristics rather than considering the holistic solution. This tends to elevate the importance of the individual attributes at the expense of the complete design. Take a camper versus a small house, for example. A camper is designed for limited use and a house for daily use, but they can both be used either way. A camper is not designed for severe weather, whereas houses typically are. So, you see, they both have a similar footprint and function, yet they are very different. Like so many things, when it comes to data centers, you get what you pay for. Below are a few factors to consider when selecting edge facilities.

  • Resilient structures — Edge data centers can hold hundreds of servers, equaling millions of dollars in equipment. You need to have assurance and trust in what’s housing that investment. Edge data centers, by definition, will operate in remote locations. Several characteristics, such as a hardened concrete shell, redundant power and cooling, and remote operability, are important. Commonly used telco huts or shipping containers typically don’t offer the same robustness.
  • Redundant power — With some of the most critical data and applications housed in edge units, consistent power delivery cannot be compromised. Dual power feeds and power conditioning units for UPSs should be considered essential components.
  • Cooling units — Remote operation also dictates that edge data centers should have redundant cooling systems paired with built-in hot and cold aisles to provide a consistent operational environment.
  • Built-in monitoring — Full-scale monitoring hardware and software that has been developed and fine-tuned for full-size centers should be a standard feature in edge sites. Management software should enable remote operations and control of every facility in the portfolio. A single-pane view to monitor access, reset breakers, test generators, and perform other vital functions is an essential component for operating multiple edge facilities from a central location.

The drive to contain cost is well understood in the industry. But, edge data centers are assets that can and should rise to the level of the expensive equipment and the critical content they house in order to serve the business for the long term.