The Quest In Building Resilient And Sustainable Edge Data Centres

By Schneider Electric Secure Power Business Vice President for Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei, Michael Kurniawan.

The 2020 Forrester Analytics Business Technographics survey revealed 34 percent of firms in Malaysia are accelerating their digital transformation initiatives this year in response to the pandemic. Among those currently driving transformation efforts, more than half is looking to increase their spending.

With companies expediting their digital transformation and tech adoption now more than ever, a real-world data processing solution like edge computing helps companies tackle latency issues, operational strain, and security, especially in the current environment. It can unleash the power of local data that is generated from digitised and connected devices of all kinds. Data, as we know, is the currency of success. Businesses depend on data to make better decisions, establish competitive advantage, and drive revenues.

Today, edge data centres are highly important as the nature of work performed by IoT devices within commercial environment is creating a need for much faster connections between data centres or cloud and the devices that are being widely used through remote working and cross-border collaborations. This means that people and businesses are more dependent on data centres.

Increase in demand must be met with sustainable data centres

To meet increasing demand, it is absolutely critical for data centres to be both sustainable and resilient. At our current pace and based on internal projections at Schneider Electric, energy consumption by data centres is expected to double by 2040; an increase largely attributed to the continued rise in edge data centres. And with 7.5 million new micro data centres expected to be installed by 2025, the global footprint at peak power stands at a staggering 120 GW for edge facilities alone. This adds up to between 450,000 to 600,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Just as how we must keep ourselves accountable for our carbon footprint, so will the public at large keep us on our toes, as it very well should be. Increased energy consumption by the data center industry will not go unnoticed by the public and governments as sustainability remains high on the agenda for both private and public sectors.

In fact, recent report from 451 Research shows that global co-location providers are aware of their responsibilities in ensuring sustainability of data centres. Most respondents (57 percent) believe efficiency and sustainability will be highly important competitive differentiators in three years, a large increase from the current reading of 26 percent. It is no surprise that the top driver for efficiency and sustainability programs is customer expectations (50 percent), followed by long-term operational resiliency (40 percent) and regulatory guidelines (36 percent).

In Malaysia, businesses are mindful of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), however only 20 percent had included the SDGs in their published business strategies, according to PwC Malaysia’s SDG Challenge report in 2020.

That said, the government is pushing forward the national environmental sustainability roadmap 2030 target as well as a number of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – and has expressed its commitment in emphasising sustainability efforts and measures in the 2021 Budget. In the next couple of years, we should see more focus placed on sustainability, including discussion of policies, resource support and collaborations that will support companies in their own efforts.

Four elements of resilient edge data center of the future

Companies undergoing digital transformation require critical networks, systems, and processes that are highly available, resilient – more importantly, done sustainably. Deployed at scale, edge data centres are both resilient and sustainable when they factor the following:

  • Standardisation and integration: Most edge deployments have limited or no IT staff, which means that good reference designs and digital design tools are more important than ever. Standardization simplifies deployment and maintenance which is an added benefit for everyone, including partners. In parallel, integrated systems offer the added benefit of simplified deployment and management.
  • Improved efficiency: Given the increasing demand we are currently seeing for local edge data centres; it would be a tall order for IT staff to manage a high number of deployments. Data insights, benchmarking, and predictive analytics are key differentiators that drive greater efficiency and lower costs.
  • Monitoring and management: It is important for us to anticipate and have the right systems in place to react efficiently when issues arise. A cloud-based, next-generation edge management platform gives end users and partners the ability to manage sites remotely and moreover, enables the collection and analysis of data that leads to better performance with predictive capability. Better still, software and services that are built on an open, vendor-agnostic, next-generation platform will enable IT staff to optimise management of edge computing sites by reducing cost to service and mitigating risk while improving availability.
  • Simplified Deployment and Maintenance: When deploying at scale, preconfiguring the site as well as the micro data center to match the site becomes important. A plug and play installing is desirable. In addition, these micro data centres should be designed for minimal maintenance as the site may be difficult and expensive to access. If maintenance or trouble shooting is required, it should be able to be handled by a non-skilled person on-site that could be remotely guided.

As digital transformation initiatives accelerate, sustainability remains an essential cornerstone in our digital-centric world. While the world moves towards leveraging the edge, we need to keep in mind that the solution is only as strong as the coordinated efforts that are put in place to optimise systems and processes. By pushing the limits of technology and innovation, successful and sustainable business operations are entirely within the realm of possibility.

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