Edge data centres are fast becoming the most talked about subject within the data centre space and for good reason. John Hall, Managing Director – Colocation, Proximity Data Centres, discusses the vast number of benefits of Edge Computing and delves into the capabilities of this modern technology.
Edge data centres are increasingly pivotal to successful Edge Computing deployments. These are regionally located and serve as the latency-busting missing links between centralised data centres and the network edge – the place where your target business users, consumers, machines and devices actually reside.
Enterprise users and modern software now demand increasingly fast response times, driven by cloud and Software-as-a-Service utilities as well as e-commerce. This requires low latency which is also seen as essential in delivering future 5G and IoT-enabled technologies and applications: from driverless vehicles to remote surgery and automated factories. With this, mission-critical applications are securely contained within private Edge cloud environments with only data that is non-time critical sent back to the public cloud – for further analysis or archiving.
Out of necessity – to minimise latency-induced lag times – Edge facilities must be highly connected and located in proximity to large conurbations and densely populated cities. The more strategic these are in terms of location, the better for carriers, ISPs and new application providers looking for opportunities to connect and target new customers.
In a country the size of the UK, it may sound relatively straightforward to pinpoint the optimal locations as the physical distances involved between large cities are relatively small compared to say, the US. However, away from the London metro area – easily the most densely populated area with around 9.4 million – there are some 57 million people, many of which are dispersed somewhat unevenly.
For example, the large conurbations of Greater Manchester and the Birmingham area have around 2.5 million people apiece. But the east coast and south-west populations are considerably smaller by comparison – and spread more thinly. Scotland has a much smaller population than England but there are anomalies with very large populations around big cities such as Glasgow – there’s no one-size-fits-all data centre solution.
Additionally, consideration must be given to the number of hops and where on the network an Edge colocation site will be situated – these factors will impact on its suitability to meet specific latency use cases. Access to local Internet exchanges and public cloud infrastructure via gateways are further factors.
Not surprising, many cloud service providers, CDNs, mobile operators and enterprise organisations are now leaving Edge location to the regional Edge colocation experts. These specialist operators make it their business to work closely with network providers in identifying where fibre and Edge data centres are needed.
Follow the fibre
The Liverpool city region is a useful practical example of how targeted regional fibre network infrastructure can combine with strategic colocation data centres. There is a population of 1.5 million and over 37,000 active businesses which need access to computing, applications and IT services hosted locally.
A resilient 212 km fibre backhaul network is being built by ITS, connecting three transatlantic cables and major economic clusters in each of the six local authority areas. Once completed, the network will enable carriers and ISPs to provision gigabit-capable broadband services to the local authorities, businesses and consumers. With this, Proximity Data Centres’ Edge colocation facilities in Liverpool and Chester will serve as strategic Points of Presence (PoP) for providers such as Zayo, helping to reduce latency and data transit costs for thousands of businesses.
In the West Midlands, Glide Group has recently directly connected Proximity’s Edge data centre in central Birmingham to its 30 km fibre ring spanning the city. This puts the data centre in easy reach of all the major fibre networks traversing the UK for the benefit of nationwide hyperscalers, CDNs and gaming providers while also allowing low latency for local businesses, retail parks and education campuses.
Not only do Edge data centres address network latency, bandwidth congestion and data transit concerns, adopting a colocation Edge strategy will remove the financial burden of operating on-premise facilities. Businesses avoid major Capital Expenditure (CapEx) by funding immediate and future IT requirements from Operating Expenditure (OpEx), effectively renting space for housing racks along with the critical infrastructure to run it such as power, cooling and network connectivity. This can be scaled up or down depending on computing and cloud needs, rather than being stuck with an in-house data centre which is either too small or too large.
However, while top priorities, the ‘need for speed’ in terms of achieving low latency connectivity should not distract from the other fundamentals of colocation: continuous 24/7 data and storage systems availability through the provision of secure and resilient critical infrastructure, bringing into focus power availability, cooling and security.
Don’t overlook proof of uptime service record, proven certifiable security and operational credentials as well the DR and Business Continuity contingencies. Ask about forwards power availability, the types of cooling systems used and overall facilities energy efficiency (PUE) – use of 100% renewably sourced power.
The level of on-site engineering competence available is also important, especially for configuring and interconnecting complex Edge cloud environments. These may involve public, private, hybrid and perhaps on-premises legacy applications. With this, the flexibility to carry out pre-production testing in the data centre will be a bonus to ensure everything works prior to launching.
The agility to respond extremely quickly to new opportunities or challenges is clearly a further important factor. Moving servers into a new strategic Edge data centre location will need to be done quickly and may require specialist support. To save time, an operator providing door-to-door migration services could be a major timesaving.
Consider too the management overhead of dealing with a number of smaller data centres owned by different suppliers with different SLAs and terms and conditions. There are also the tactical ways of doing business such as access to site, security levels and health and safety considerations, all of which are hidden costs – straightforward SLAs and single contracts covering all Edge colocation sites in an operator’s portfolio might well be beneficial in the interests of saving time.