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Modular Edge Data Centers Offer Minimum Footprint, Maximum Efficiency


The pressure is on to move data closer to the edge.

Edge computing is an IT architecture that features decentralized processing power — as opposed to transmitting information all the way to a huge data center many leaps away, edge devices process themselves or are processed by a local computer or server. This offers a unique opportunity to bring data centers closer to the edge, closer to the end user. 

“Edge connectivity is especially relevant today,” said Dave Meadows, director of technology at STULZ, a data center cooling solutions provider. “Internet of Things devices have limited computing abilities and will increasingly rely on computational power, access to data storage, high bandwidth and low latency connectivity. Local end users expect to experience improved media and security features with better performance at a lower cost.”

Meadows said the best way for tech companies to meet the growing demand is to build their data centers close to the edge, and the best way to do that is to invest in building a modular facility. 

Small, flexible, modular data centers are a unique solution for edge computing. Modular components for any type of data center can be placed on a skid or platform, assembled in a factory environment and shipped to a site for final set-up and integration. The global modular data centers market was worth $4.83B in 2019 and is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 19.5% from 2019 to 2025.

“Modular is not a new concept, but it does offer an advantage that is well-suited for IT implementations with increased efficiency and improvements in operations and cost,” Meadows said. “These benefits can be achieved without negative impact on key functionality, scalability and performance.” 

Meadows added that as 5G continues to roll out and be optimized, data center rack density demands are also growing, making planning and scalability a challenge for traditional data center applications. Additionally, because traditional stick-built data centers are a one-size-fits-all approach that can be capital-intensive, there is the possibility that they are also overprovisioned, especially when it comes to power and cooling. 

According to Meadows, however, a modular data center, when implemented correctly, can be applied and configured to an application’s optimal power distribution needs, optimized cooling load requirements and specific rack density all within a flexible, compact and optimized footprint. 

In modular data centers, Meadows said, there is a tightly coupled relationship between power and cooling. To optimize this relationship, providers need the right cooling approach specific to the IT application, which can be tough to determine. 

Direct expansion, or DX, cooling systems are common for edge data centers, because they work in almost any climate without the use of water and are easy to maintain and operate at a lower capital cost. But DX units require a lot of space. Chilled water distribution solutions, Meadows said, are great for densities above 10 kilowatts and allow increased resiliency, more flexibility and better efficiency with the use of water, but water may not be readily available. Row-based cooling solutions, however, offer a large chilled water capacity — up to 75 kilowatts — at a smaller size.

“Each micro data center can be configured for low- to mid-density IT loads using precision air cooling,” Meadows said. “The solution can be scaled up to higher density workloads using a combination of precision air cooling and direct liquid-to-chip cooling.” 

He added that there are many benefits of precision air cooling, including quick configuration and delivery, easy installation and the fact it doesn’t require a lot of space — modular design with a removable Integrated Cooling System can fit through a standard doorway. Additionally, it is scalable as demands shift for multi-rack configuration with various IT loads, movable for future IT relocation and each unit is configured and tested. 

As companies focus on high-growth emerging markets such as modular technology, where data creation is still in a nascent stage and edge data center construction is still new, solution providers are jockeying for elbow room in these high-growth markets. 

“Partnering with innovative participants like STULZ will help colocation and cloud service providers find the right solutions to be successful and drive growth for edge applications,” Meadows said. “Working alongside the professionals at STULZ finding the right cooling solution for a modular solution is easy. STULZ leverages a proven and robust supply chain and expert global teams to deliver optimal cooling solutions at the edge and beyond.” 

Join Dave Meadows on March 23 for the webinar The New Normal — How the Pandemic Shifted Data Usage & Why Modular Might be the Answer. Register here

This article was produced in collaboration between STULZ and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content. 

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