The datacentre industry is always evolving, and many organisations face a growing demand to combine on-site computing with hyperscale based cloud services. Few will outsource all their IT functions and will retain an on-site server room but what will this look like in the future? The answer to this lies in how the organisation intends to make use of the latest innovations within computing and telecoms.
Current trends include Edge computing to remove latency issues, the roll out of 5G (fifth generation) wireless communications and the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) as well as Industry 4.0 and a host of other innovations. Underlying all of these is demand for digital capacity, the need to remove latency from user orientated applications and development of the infrastructure required for artificial intelligence and big data processing.
Improved infrastructure and connectivity allow organisations with multiple operating sites to consolidate their compute environments into a smaller number or even a single on-premise datacentre. This is leading to a more sophisticated critical infrastructure and environment on-site and it is one that can be best served by a micro data centre which may or may not be installed within an existing server room.
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Micro data centres (MDC) take advantage of high-power density server racks and may contain one or more of these. The MDC also includes the necessary critical power, cooling and connectivity to ensure operation as a completed self-contained environment. It is a mini-datacentre or server room in a metal box.
The micro data centre is installed closed to the point of data capture and processing and can provide a server related workload and output locally or connect to a larger datacentre. The point is that everything required for IT functionality is installed within the micro data centre cabin itself. MDCs provide organisations with faster processing speeds, lower external network traffic and potentially lower operating costs.
Like any complex server room or datacentre, a micro data centre faces similar challenges. The critical infrastructure systems installed in any of these environments must be resilient and present 100% uptime. This is even more important within a high-speed automated and connected network in order to maintain services. If any system within a micro data centre environment fails, then the complete unit can fail. In this worse-case scenario, the organisation would have to have a solid disaster recovery (DR) plan in order to minimalise the impact of the failure.
The complex systems within the micro data centre structure also require regular preventative maintenance, replacement of consumables, cleaning and service engineer inspections. The actual service work requires specially trained micro data centre service engineers.
Whilst the critical infrastructure systems themselves may be more complex than standalone power and cooling systems within a server room or datacentre, it is their build into a self-contained unit that raise the need for experienced and trained service engineers.
This leads onto the next point which is the need for an organisation operating multiple micro data centres to standardise on one design. This approach simplifies their overall management and maintain as there is some standardisation of hardware within the units.
The benefits of a micro data centre far exceed the challenges faced. If one views a micro data centre as simply the miniaturisation of a complex datacentre, then adopting similar management practices will ensure the benefits and advantages are delivered as effectively as possible.
This means optimising the critical power and cooling systems to ensure resilience and energy and thermal efficiency. This is even more important for remotely managed and controlled micro data centres. Environment and critical system monitoring are vitally important both locally and remotely via a centralised data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) software package. This helps to ensure thermal efficiency, efficient airflow and the prevention of ‘hot-spots’.
Less cooling need means less energy usage and overall load on the local power supplies. Risk management and the neutralising of cyber-based threats is another important facet to consider. A layered security approach is recommended which helps to optimise network connectivity speeds whilst ensuring protection from external malware and viruses.
The on-site server room has been evolving for years and many now operate at the digital capacity levels of smaller datacentres. Today, it is rare to find on-premise server rooms that do not today include some form of outsource and cloud-based software interaction. It is anticipated that the same will be true in the coming years, with micro data centres simply replacing a range of server room systems and infrastructures. The installation of a micro data centre reduces the amount of space required whilst increasing the overall compute and power density of the facility.
With the roll out of Edge computing and 5G wireless connectivity, the number of micro data centres and server room facilities may well increase. The reason behind this is the greater need these technologies have for more local datacentre services in order to deliver the speed and volume of digital compute required for example, for autonomous self-driving electric vehicles.
Cisco predicts a tripling of digital traffic over the next five years, led by developments in Edge computing and the deployment of 5G wireless technologies. For data processing at the Edge, new types of datacentre are being developed which will also play a role in 5G (fifth generation) wireless connectivity.