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Data Center

5 Considerations When Building an Edge Data Center

5 Considerations When Building an Edge Data Center

3 August 2018 | Reading Time: 5 minutes


Building an edge data center to provide a cloud computing environment within a service provider central office can be challenging; extensive planning and preparation are required to ensure that it delivers the necessary end goals. Software-defined network (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) technologies are bringing services online faster, so it is no surprise that service providers are increasingly investing in these architectures – opting for technologies that enable CapEx and OpEx savings through increased efficiency.

Equally, the need for higher bandwidth with lower latency, and the convergence of wireline and wireless networks is driving the cloud computing environments to the edge of the networks. Central offices (CO) are typically on the network edge, where the access network (fiber optic cables) terminate; making them prime locations for an edge data center. However, the continued evolution of cloud computing and SDN/NFV technology means that the edge cloud computing environment design and supporting infrastructure must take the future into consideration. Data center planners today, must consider how this new environment or “edge data center” might take advantage of future developments, to ensure efficiency in future.

To help plan a successful edge data center, below are five tips that data center planners should keep in mind.

Edge Data Center Considerations

1. Where will the data center be built?

The location of the data center refers both to the geographic area where the service provider plans to build an edge data center and to the physical site itself. It’s important to assess if a potential data center site satisfies the requirements of an edge data center once a possible site has been identified, typically by asking:

  • What is the best location for the edge data center? Is it close to the desired target market?
  • Is the geographical location prone to natural disasters that would impact the operation of the data center? For example, the area may experience earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms or excessive heat.
  • How much square footage is available in nearby existing facilities or central offices? If an existing site has limited room, is there room outside of the building that can house a modular data center or can old equipment be retired?
  • Does the building already have any infrastructure in place? Is there already a sufficient power supply? How easily can the building be retrofitted?
  • Can the building obtain multiple high-speed network links? It’s best for network connections to enter and exit at different points in the building.
  • Does the building provide security? Windowless facilities are best to control indoor climate and security.
  • Are pathways such as doors, aisles, hallways and freight elevators large enough for equipment, racks and/or cabinets to be moved in or out?
  • Do regulations or internal rules require that the edge data center area be physically separated from the rest of the telecom spaces in for example an existing central office?
  • Does the edge data center space need to be separated by a physical firewall?

2. Have you planned for power requirements?

Power is a crucial planning consideration for an edge data center; power supply must meet the needs of the data center both now and in the future. So, to ensure that the edge data center is always operational, consider:

  • Can the utility company or multiple companies provide enough power now and in the future?
  • Can the building be serviced by multiple utility grids? Power should enter the facility form different entrance points in the best case scenario.
  • Can power be supplied directly or will conversion equipment be required? Conditioning the electrical power helps to avoid spikes or surges.
  • Is there enough back-up power from the generators? Generators should be able to support the edge data center for at least 48 hours during a power outage.
  • How many uninterrupted power supplies (UPSes) have been planned to be used? USPes should support the entire infrastructure for at least 150% of the time it takes for the generators to come online.
  • What is the average power requirement per rack or cabinet? Typical data center racks require 5-10 kW of power while ultra-high density racks may need up to 50-60 kW.

3. Do you have an effective HVAC system?

Heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC) are crucial to successful data center operation. Nearly 50 percent of all power used by a data center is consumed by HVAC so it’s important to make this function as efficient as possible to keep OpEx down. It’s important to address:

  • How many BTUs can the space/building support? Ideally, the ambient temperature should remain around 70°–74° F (21°–23° C) with 45–50 percent humidity.
  • How will the data center’s temperature be monitored? On-rack temperature sensors are the best way to monitor temperature.
  • How will the data center be cooled? You may want to consider using a hot-aisle/cold-aisle design to simplify temperature control, raised floors if cooling the data center from below, or slab floors if you are considering an in-aisle cooling solution.
  • Consider a plan to minimize climate control costs. Adopting a free-cooling design can be a cost-effective solution to temperature control.
  • Should you wall off or utilize curtains to better control the climate of the data center equipment? Controlling humidity and dust is crucial to healthy servers and switches.

4. Is the design secure and considered?

Planning the infrastructure is a crucial part of data center design, whether converting a telecom site like a central office or building a data center from scratch. When considering overall design and security, identify:

  • Does the data center design account for lighting? LED lighting can be a good option as it uses the least amount of power and doesn’t generate heat.
  • Is there a plan to secure the physical premises? You may want to consider biometrics in addition to key cards for an extra layer of security.
  • Consider a way of protecting rows or racks of equipment from visitors if creating a customer co-location area.
  • Make sure that the facility has enough fire alarms and escapes; local codes inform how fire safety preparations should be made.
  • What kind of fire suppression is right for the data center? To prevent expensive equipment from getting wet, special inert fire-suppression systems are often employed.

5. Is the physical infrastructure layer able to scale?

To see the benefits of cloud computing and SDN/NFV, the physical layer of the data center must be examined in detail. Since the lifecycle of most SDN/NFV equipment lasts about 2-3 years, it’s crucial to plan the physical layer infrastructure to support future technology and connectivity. To futureproof your data infrastructure you should consider:

  • Adopting a phased 3-5 year roadmap for the data center architecture, allowing for the design to support multiple upgrades – with migration paths that can support up to at least 400G.
  • Choosing multimode fiber optic cabling. Because many carriers/service providers will build the majority of their SDN/NFV or Cloud/compute environments on the edge of the network, the size and scale of these facilities can be supported by multimode fiber optic cabling.
  • Identifying if your data center design proposes longer channel paths or extra connections. If so, you should consider using components that adhere to low loss budget parameters. Using a link loss calculator, such as the one that can be downloaded free from CommScope, can help confirm the correct installation.
  • The data center’s ability to support both duplex and parallel applications. It should be able to support both.
  • Whether there is a plan to manage the infrastructure and its connectivity as the data center grows. You may want to consider an automated infrastructure management (AIM) system to help the data center become more efficient by mapping ports and switches; AIM making moves, adds or changes easier and reveals unused ports.

These five considerations are just some of the elements that are necessary for planning and designing the edge data center. Since there is so much that goes into data center planning and design, this is by no means a comprehensive list; however, considering data center location, power, heating and cooling, design, and physical infrastructure can help you develop a data center which is prepared for the capacity needs of the future.

You can learn more about considerations for the modern data center here.


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