As organisations seek to reduce data latency and bolster security by running their computing workloads closer to end-users and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, many are increasingly turning to edge computing to meet their needs. In fact, at least one co-working firm in Australia has even gone as far as to deploy an edge data centre from Schneider Electric within its main office, allowing tenants to access uncontested, high-speed bandwidths in its locations across different parts of Australia.
As the adoption of edge facilities grows, organisations are faced with the task of securing them and ensuring the seamless delivery of around-the-clock services. This is no trivial challenge, considering how they are often deployed in remote or outlying areas with no IT experts nearby. Below are some suggestions on how organisations may secure their edge data centres.
Start with physical security
Unauthorized human presence is the bane of physical security everywhere. Unfortunately, it is also extraordinarily difficult to enforce in remote locations where edge facilities are typically located, especially for industrial edge deployments in the oil and gas industry or offshore sites. The ideal security setup will consist of a locked room that is wired up to a standalone HID card access system that maintains an audit log of visitors.
In situations where a dedicated room is not possible, one alternative is to use a lockable rack or enclosure. These are available in varying heights and include speciality enclosures that offer built-in power distribution and cooling for micro data centre deployments, or even soundproofing for use within corporate offices.
Managing edge systems without being physically present requires some form of remote access capability that allows straightforward day-to-day management, without having to hire new team members for that sole purpose. For instance, an advanced cloud-based management system could allow hundreds of micro data centres running edge applications in the field to be simultaneously updated through a simple command.
In addition, remote sensors are vital for rapid identification of problems or security breaches. Raw data from strategically placed sensors such as digital cameras, motion sensors, door contacts, glass-break sensors and vibration sensors can be automatically aggregated and analysed across dozens or even hundreds of edge sites. This allows remote support teams to quickly respond to an emergency or outage.
Modern edge applications play a vital role in keeping applications running, as unscheduled outages can be costly in terms of lost productivity or damage to costly machinery. This means that each edge facility must be protected against power outages, just like your average data centre.
Depending on the size of an edge deployment, this could be adequately powered by an on-site Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), which provides a few minutes of near-instantaneous emergency power supply to the data centre in the event of a break in power input. This gives users a window of time to properly shut down equipment or repair the outage, preventing loss of data or equipment. In situations where more battery runtime is required, the use of external generators may also be necessary and must be factored in.
Don’t forget the environment
Some edge deployments such as traffic signal applications require ruggedised components to enable them to operate under harsh environments. As noted in a Schneider Electric blog post, this starts with a Battery Backup System (BBS) designed to withstand temperatures that range from negative 37°C to 74°C and that can tolerate dusty, dirty and humid environments.
In other scenarios, protection from poor air quality and extreme environments such as high temperatures and humidity may be required – so be sure to get the equipment adequately designed to withstand such conditions. While it may not be possible to protect your data centre from every conceivable disaster, investing in the right components can prolong the longevity of such vital equipment.
Edge data centres are here to stay, though adoption is still in its infancy. As such, expect guidelines on best practices to evolve over time. For now, you can learn more about securing edge facilities here.