A lot of buzz surrounds the edge these days—and with good reason. Small and midsize data centers are springing up in small cities and regions to support the ever expanding need to bring data closer to customers. Cloud providers employ data centers on the edge to offer faster data access reducing latency. Colocation data centers host the applications for enterprise businesses. Both desire a faster and more reliable user experience.
“Close proximity drives lower latency, which then creates superior performance,” said Clint Heiden, chief commercial officer for EdgeConneX. “As for data storage, it used to be that you were less concerned about data in motion and the application, but today transfer has become critical. The last mile of access is key.”
For enterprise companies, the edge includes network closets and IT spaces at satellite offices. These operations help to drive revenue. Previously, they were often afterthoughts, but today, they’re critical to an organization’s continued success. And their numbers are growing.
Edge Data Centers: Efficient, Reliable, Scalable and Low-Cost Operations
At the edge, service must be efficient, dependable and scalable. And operational costs must remain low. In fact, the edge magnifies the need for a reliable, cost-efficient infrastructure. Heiden indicated that many EdgeConneX edge data centers run lights out. Remote monitoring and a nearby service provider familiar with the facilities are critical to success. They ensures that even though the lights may be out, someone’s virtually always home.
Companies are adopting new ways to cool edge data centers and computing spaces. Chilled water and DX (direct expansion) systems, which once constituted the majority of cooling solutions, are giving way to new technologies. Indirect-evaporative and pumped-refrigerant-free cooling systems are taking hold in data centers.
“We’ve looked at chilled water, but not for the current architecture,” Heiden said. “We prefer other methods of cooling, which allow us to scale as our operations grow daily. It helps us provide more localized services to keep pace with innovation and enterprise demand.”
One of the most popular options today is the pumped-refrigerant-free cooling economization system, which requires up to 50 percent less energy than legacy systems. This advantage, plus the elimination of water-supply infrastructure and water treatment, reduces operating costs through energy savings, lower peak power, fewer moving parts and simpler maintenance. It offers a sustainable cooling solution and is an ideal option for edge data center operators seeking high efficiency and scalability.
The technology employs only four components—a condenser, pumps, a compressors and an evaporator—and it designed to optimize operation for outdoor ambient temperatures and IT loads to take advantage of all potential economization hours. The system is adaptable on the basis of ambient season temperatures and the data center’s overall IT load.
In full economization mode—particularly during winter months—the system shuts down unit compressors and engages a refrigerant pump that consumes less energy than the compressors. During mild seasons and at night, the refrigerant economizer can provide partial free cooling to offset some of the compressor’s power usage. A supervisory control system eliminates the need for manual adjustments, and it offers remote cooling management with fast access to diagnostics, condition trends and actionable data. Because it has fewer points of failure than chilled-water systems—which include chillers, cooling towers and piping—reliability is greater. The system also prevents contamination from outside air and requires none of the maintenance of louvers and dampers that’s common in other economizer systems.
The annualized power usage effectiveness (PUE) depends largely on how many hours the system operates at each temperature. Colder climates will therefore log more hours at lower ambient temperatures, resulting in a lower annualized PUE than a climate that has fewer hours of low ambient temperature. Data centers in warmer climates can attain a lower annualized PUE by deploying a pumped-refrigerant-free cooling-economization system and raising return-air temperatures.
Small Spaces: Cooling Is Critical to Reliability
Thermal protection is just as important to managers of small IT spaces who must ensure that remote closets and IT spaces maintain uptime. But cooling those spaces must also be efficient and affordable.
Adding more IT equipment in smaller spaces—given their critical nature—often means building air conditioning is insufficient. In mission-critical IT closets, reliance on building air conditioning can be a gamble most companies are unwilling to take.
Small, dedicated cooling systems run ceaselessly and control both temperature and humidity, factors that are important for high-availability environments. And because space is at a premium, some cooling options can ease the tight quarters by mounting above dropped ceilings.
Additionally, these systems can easily connect to building-management systems (BMSs). A properly designed system should offer remote control and monitoring capabilities to provide fast access to thermal conditions and cooling-system performance. Ideally, the remote monitoring system will employ an IoT app on mobile devices and control capabilities over PCs and laptops, as well as connections to BMSs, allowing staff to manage and monitor it from virtually anywhere.
Tomorrow: Expanding the Edge
As long as the demand for faster, easier access to data, IoT-based systems and related products continues to grow, so too will the edge. That means we’ll see more data centers ranging from 0.5 to 5 megawatts in design load. We’ll also see more focus on distributed IT spaces. Application of efficient, effective cooling systems and controls is critical to the success of the edge.
About the Author
Greg Haggy is Manager of Strategic Marketing, Thermal Management, North America, for Vertiv. He handles product management of perimeter cooling systems, including the widely used Liebert DSE, Liebert DS and Liebert CW lines. Greg’s focus on the thermal-management requirements of large data centers has made him a much sought-after expert for training on thermal management, precision cooling technologies, applications, and evolving trends and issues. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical engineering from Miami University and a master’s degree in business administration from Ohio University. Greg Joined Emerson in 2009.