Opinion piece:  Leveraging IoT with Prefabricated Edge Datacentres

By Jonathan Duncan, Vice-President Anglophone Africa, Secure Power Solutions, Schneider Electric

With many organisations moving from a centralised approach to data management towards a more distributed model, IoT-generated data is moving closer to the edge and with it the emergence prefabricated datacentres, often modular in design.

However, an important feature of a well-designed prefabricated datacentre is that it should come with a system-level service and maintenance plan – integrating all the components UPS, cooling, switchgear, environment management and container itself. 

To this end, companies, in their efforts to optimise operations, should take care to ensure that these distributed datacentres have been built to integrate hardware, software, and facilitate services that enable them to be connected to products and devices at the system level.

A competitive edge

By opting for prefabricated datacentres, organisations stand to gain numerous benefits such as:

  1. IoT device level data

Overcoming the drawbacks of a piecemeal approach, the modular, pre-engineered form factor approach enables an efficient, repeatable cost-effective way to collate data. It allows manufacturers and high-volume data customers to minimize latency and decrease costs by performing localised real time data processing and assimilation of multiple sources or sensor inputs. It also allows service providers to leverage today’s high bandwidth applications like augmented reality (AR) service tools etc and enable futureproofing for the continued evolution towards machine learning and outcome-based analytics! The prefabricated data centre can be designed to capture sensor-based equipment and device data in multiple language formats and present it in a more standard, holistic data mode.

  1. System-level data

The data modelling at the system level can provide valuable insights on the overall performance and could lead to reduced costs, increased performance, assisting to mitigate risk and human errors.

The alternative remains a disjointed approach, which accumulates individual equipment data but doesn’t necessarily link the data at a system level, resulting in it being isolated and not immediately providing the actionable insight that organisations need.

  1. Maintenance services

The challenge with most traditional datacentres is that no two are the same; hardware selections often vary which means data is shared within using various protocols which often leads to scattered information that places limitations on defining a holistic data-driven view of the entire facility.

This lack of uniformity between deployments makes it a challenge to deploy consistently manage and service them and would require bespoke service approach to each. This makes it more costly or negates the opportunity to deploy a digital twin or 3D modelling technologies.

With prefabricated datacentres, companies can easily leverage new digital technologies like AR, which enable inspection and maintenance activities to take place as guided processes, even remotely. The typical benefits include:

  • Reduced human error,
  • Increased employee safety.
  • Improved tracking and accountability.
  • An embedded digital repository of assets, operational maintenance records as well as other critical documentation to be readily available when needed.

These prefabricated Edge datacentres can be hardened from an environmental context and are ideal for environments where they are required to be placed close to where the data is generated but typically is very hostile to sensitive IT equipment.

The data from IoT devices can be used to activate alarms, analysed to provide actionable insights and using cloud-based machine learning systems the data can even be used to predict future events. This capability can ultimately improve performance, optimise energy utilisation and determine when maintenance is really required.

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