As edge computing increases in popularity, Dennis Frize, Wisetek UK Managing Director, asks what does this mean for existing data centre equipment as businesses consider modernising their digital infrastructure?
As a concept edge computing is – on one level – easy to understand. While the so-called ‘cloud’ isn’t really a cloud, and ‘fog’ computing isn’t grey and murky, edge computing is all about localising computing power on the literal ‘edge’ of networks. Think of it as data ‘locally sourced’.
Gartner defines edge computing as ‘solutions that facilitate data processing at or near the source of data generation’. Traditionally, data generation would mean your office / home PC with predictable data requirements.
However, with the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) the sources of data generation are usually things with sensors or embedded devices such as mobile phones, GPS, and health monitors, for example.
With more and more devices generating and processing data, and typically in real-time, there is mounting pressure on data centres to provide efficient processing power to its users.
Furthermore, as users are mobile, it can be hard for the traditional data centre to predict what its processing requirements can be from day to day.
Edge computing attempts to solve this by decentralising the network, and placing smaller ‘edge’ data capability closer to where its data is being generated. It’s similar to how mobile phone networks have lots a masts positioned around their territories to ensure coverage; in the future edge computing is predicted as the way to guarantee our ravenous appetite for data.
The traditional data centre
Over the last couple of years, data centres – driven by cloud computing – have focused on the ability to rapidly scale their operations in response to their clients’ needs. This has led to the hyperscale data centre as developed by the likes of Google and Amazon, where vast processing power allows to scale up as demand requires.
Yet the advent of edge computing is a response to the inefficiencies in this model. Vast numbers of servers positioned hundreds of miles from the data generation source is not necessarily the best way to process this data.
In response to this, Gartner predicts that by 2025, around 75% of all enterprise-generated data will be processed outside a traditional centralised data centre. At the moment it’s only 10%.
Existing data centre equipment
What does this mean for existing data centre equipment? In the short term, if your company has invested in new equipment, you will still get your three to five years of life out of them before they reach the end of their lifecycle and face decommissioning.
However, once that cycle is over, the transition to the edge will start. Edge computing will have a major influence on – not only the investment you make in your IT equipment – but the entire rollout of an edge network.
Furthermore, this will greatly influence your IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) strategy going forward.
Different data, different centres
Let’s start with what won’t change. Amazon, for example, have a product called AWS Glacier Cloud Storage. It’s all about long-term storage where corporations and governments store data in the understanding that it’s for archiving and record keeping.
Such data doesn’t need to be near the edge.
But to serve data that does, micro-data centres will start springing up, typically in urban centres. Where we now see small electricity facilities in our neighbourhoods, we will soon see small data centres.
IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) Implications
While decentralised data centres will be good for the end-users, it’s tricky from an IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) perspective.
Firstly, there are security issues: the risk from theft and vandalism increases and therefore the building which they are housed must meet such challenges. Also, a physical audit of the IT assets must occur on a regular basis in order to ensure that assets ready for decommissioning are in fact decommissioned.
Failure to house only the latest IT assets in a micro data centre decreases its performance and thus your competitiveness, and as micro data centres will be in high-cost locations – such as urban centres – you will not get a return on your investment.
When it comes to decommissioning micro data centres, never has hiring the right ITAD provider been so important from a data protection perspective. It’s one thing working in a remote data centre, quite another when the data centre is in a busy urban environment.
The option of decommissioning on-site may not be possible, so you will have to ensure that the assets are transported securely and safely for destruction.
If you are considering rolling out an edge network, it’s advisable to have a robust ITAD strategy in place. While we all want to benefit from being close to the edge, none of us want to fall off it.