Where is the Edge and Why put Data Centres there?
Many organisations, and dare we suggest some Countries, are struggling with the definition of Edge and what it might mean to them.
Over the years Oper8 has seen customers downsize and possibly close down on-premise data centres with their move to cloud, software as a service (SaaS) and colocation facilities.
However, as pointed out in a March 2020 report by the Site Selection Group, having compute capacity at the Edge enables faster response times and supports the demands of new technologies and solutions.
In the not so distant past, the majority of cloud and colocation data centers were concentrated in a handful of markets nationwide, meaning that a large percentage of the U.S. population faced slow network speeds as a result of the distance needed to click their browser to then have those instructions executed at a data center halfway across the U.S.
Oper8 is also seeing a heavy push towards Edge data centre solutions, with latency a key consideration raised back in January 2020 and which is still a key driver today.
Not only did this latency make it problematic, but this centralized data center geography also caused bandwidth problems.
When you also consider the current marketplace across large distributed businesses and countries, cloud, SaaS and large metro-based colocation can be seen to hasten urbanisation at the expense of jobs, skills and capacity in regional, remote and smaller cities.
In Countries like Australia it’s fair to say we’ve seen IT and data centre skills lost across smaller towns, cities and regions as centralisation of IT functions move to the larger cities (namely Sydney and Melbourne).
The long-term impact on supporting the demands of new technologies and solutions across Australia’s regional areas will be interesting to see over time.
The opportunity is for Edge enabled solutions to refocus local innovation and jobs retention in regional and non-capital city areas.
As noted in our May 2020 article:
There might be millions of companies using the cloud, but there are millions of locations with no cloud infrastructure.
It might be time to think whether your country is taking the same centralisation path as Australia, using population as the determining factor, only to drive further urbanisation of skilled jobs.
Where is the Edge?
We could be contentious with this question as the answer is “it depends” on your perspective.
If you are a global cloud provider, the Edge might be a city with a population of 2 million people, while for a large Government agency the Edge might be a location with at least 500 employees.
But, if you’re a local Council or local government authority, or a local business with only 20 to 50 employees, the Edge might be your office locations regardless of location (anywhere). In these scenarios the Edge is where you do business, where your staff are located and your business processes operate.
In business process terms, the Edge could be where IoT sensors aggregate and pre-process their data prior to sharing with cloud enabled analytics tools.
It many cases it may not be a good fit to operate from a data centre 1,000km away with dependency on a single telecommunications or internet connection running your business and/or operational processes.
How Big should my Data Centre be at the Edge?
Well, as noted above it depends on who you are and what your core business is.
As you might not be a global cloud provider (though we’d love to help them too), we should probably consider that you might live in cities or towns with less than 2 million people, and be located some distance from the nearest cloud data centre.
Some Edge data centres can be justifiably large to meet particular regional or business community or company needs (e.g a city of 500,000). Modular Edge data centre solutions in the 2MW to 5MW range might fit the bill ensuring the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and operations aligns to the market opportunity and your budget.
And, considering Oper8’s HPC solutions support rack densities in excess of 100kW per rack, the onsite footprint really doesn’t need to be that big. You can fit a lot of compute and data storage capacity into an IT rack now.
The key is to right-size the Edge data centre solution to your particular need, with all standard data centre inclusions such as redundant power, cooling, security, monitoring, operations and maintenance, delivering high availability uptime.
Can I Over Capitalise?
Absolutely. Oper8 is seeing some organisations deploying oversized Edge data centre solutions in regions and locations that simply can’t afford the investment, with the local business community unable to value the benefits of the associated data centre costs for their business.
Knowing what and how Edge data centres deliver both the financial and technical outcomes for a business in a location is part of the solution right-sizing approach.
Having a large manned Edge data centre in the wrong location can be a recipe for financial pain.
Is Edge the only option I should Consider?
No. Oper8 is not suggesting Edge data centres are the only option you should consider for your business – particularly in light of your email and other SaaS platforms not being located locally.
However, your business should be mindful of your compliance obligations regarding privacy, the location of your data, which laws govern those locations, and how you can access and/or retrieve that data during extreme events (such as COVID-like pandemics). It should also know the likely impact on business processes and operations should data centre operations be located in distant locations.
Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery should also be front of mind when reviewing your data centre strategy and data locations.
In summary, you should consider cloud, SaaS and colocation solutions as part of your data centre strategy, with Edge also playing part in the best fit, right-sized solution that aligns with your business and technology needs.
Oper8 also supports customers in the design, construction, operation, business and technology planning for large modular and hyperscale data centre solutions.
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