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Data Center
Educational Article

It’s Time to Rethink the Concept of Micro Data Centers

Article Featured in Inside_Networks Magazine Page 14-15, Letter to Editor
By: Andy Connor, Director – EMEA Channel

Data centres that are designed to meet the needs of standard or enterprise business applications are plentiful. Yet flexible and user defined data centres for edge applications, which rely on dynamic real time data delivery, provisioning, processing and storage, are in short supply.

That’s partly because of the uncertainty over which applications demand such infrastructure and over what sort of timeframe. However, there’s also the question of flexibility. Many of today’s existing micro data centre solutions meet a predefined concept of edge or, more accurately, localised, low latency applications, which also require high levels of agility and scalability. This is due to their predetermined or specified approach to design and infrastructure components, often led by the vendor.

To date, the market has been met with small scale edge applications, which have been deployed in pre-populated, containerised solutions. A customer is often required to conform to a standard shape or size and there’s no flexibility in terms of their modularity, components or make-up.

One might argue it comes with the subjective nature of edge computing, which is often shaped to support a vendor defined technology. Standardisation has also been beneficial for our industry, offering several key advantages including the ability to replicate systems across multiple locations. But when it comes to the edge, some standardised systems aren’t built for the customer – they’re a product of vendor collaboration. This is also accompanied by high costs and long lead times.

On the one hand, having a piece of pre-integrated infrastructure with everything in it can undoubtedly solve some pain points, especially where deployment is concerned. But what happens if the customer has their own alliances, their own definition of the edge, or may not need all of the components? What happens if they run out of capacity in one site or need a modular system that scales?

Then those original promises of scalability or flexibility disappear, leaving the customer with just one option – to buy another container. One might consider that rigidity, when it comes to standardisation, can often be detrimental to the customer. The point here is that when it comes to micro data centres, a one size fits all approach does not work. End users need the ability to choose their infrastructure based on their business demands – whether they in industrial manufacturing, automotive, telco or colocation environments. But how can users achieve this?

Vendor agnostic and flexible micro data centres are the future for the industry – an approach that builds containment systems around customers’ needs, without forcing their infrastructure to fit into boxes. Users should have the flexibility to utilise their choice of best in class data centre components including the IT stack, uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), cooling architecture, racks, cabling or fire suppression systems.

By taking an infrastructure agnostic approach it’s possible to give customers the ability to define their edge, and use standardised and scalable infrastructure in a way that’s truly beneficial to their businesses.

Editor’s comment

Growing data demands are forcing engineers to think creatively about the ways they design and develop data centres. Andy’s point about the rigidity of some micro data centre solutions is pertinent and one that needs to be addressed in order to fully meet the potential of the edge.