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While there is a big shift to move data to the cloud, IoT & 5G trends are driving an increased need to process data closer to the data source. So, it should come as no surprise that the Edge Computing market (valued at $1.75 billion in 2019) is expected to reach a value of $8.3 billion by 2025. As with any growing market, there are multiple solution options, some suitable and others not so much. So, what sets one apart from another?

At Nebulon, we recently announced the Nebulon smartEdge™ solution from Supermicro to help DCI, a UK-based service provider specializing in providing data centre colocation and cloud solutions, complete their modular edge computing solution known as ‘DataQube’. The Nebulon smartEdge solution is a reference architecture under Nebulon smartInfrastructure™ and addresses the density, cost and remote management challenges experienced with traditional solutions for highly distributed infrastructure at the enterprise edge.

In order to deliver this innovation, DCI had to cherry pick the right technology to help run DataQube. I asked Chris Ward-Jones, CTO at DCI, to discuss what features he thought would be important to simplify deployment and operations at the edge; below are his must-haves.

Must Have #1: A solution which addresses the heating/cooling restrictions at the edge
DataQube is a unique approach to edge data centre deployments as it leverages liquid immersion cooling technology to maintain moderate temperatures of racks filled with Nebulon-enabled Supermicro servers. Delivered in modules a little larger than a standard data centre rack, the liquid cooling immersion technology is ideal in areas where power is available but cooling and heating is not. Have a parking lot and available power? The DataQube solution will work for you. Without the need for AC-based cooling, DCI can help their customers stand up a distributed cloud anytime, anywhere without needing any overhead infrastructure or cooling.

Must Have #2: High Performance Computing
Our team at DCI chose Supermicro for a few reasons, the primary one being that the Supermicro Ultra SuperServers line is designed to deliver the highest performance, flexibility, scalability, and serviceability to demanding IT environments. We knew that by choosing this solution, customers with deployments at the edge wouldn’t have to compromise on performance, which is often the case in distributed environments. Supermicro is leveraging advanced product design to provide flexible low-power, ultra-reliable computing, and partnering with forward-thinking software platform partners to build complete solutions for an array of significant vertical markets—especially ideal for customers with deployments at the edge.

Must Have #3: A cloud-based control plane so that the solution could be managed anywhere
With traditional edge computing deployments, you often have a distributed infrastructure setup with systems sitting in various locations. This can be a management nightmare especially when it is time for a software or firmware update, and it is not uncommon to have different edge deployments running different software versions. To avoid the pain of managing so many distributed systems and to keep our systems consistent across the board, it was important to us to have a solution which supported single top-down management and maintenance across our entire edge deployment. We chose Nebulon smartInfrastructure, as it offered a single API in the cloud to help us battle these issues. With Nebulon smartInfrastructure we can remotely manage our entire fleet with a zero touch approach and because automatic behind the scenes software updates are enabled through the cloud-based control plane, we can keep consistent software and firmware versions across our entire deployment.

Must Have #4: A cost-effective solution which offers a full suite of enterprise data services
At the edge, our customers need a solid compute and storage solution, but having been deliberately designed to have a very small footprint, space is at a premium. For this reason, most companies, including our customers, often prefer a server-based infrastructure solution, which doesn’t disaggregate the storage and compute components. By choosing a server-embedded, infrastructure SaaS solution like Nebulon, we get a cloud-managed approach to server-based infrastructure with a full suite of enterprise data services and avoid expensive external array costs.

Must Have #5: A solution which doesn’t compromise density
A big issue for our customers at the edge is density, which is often compromised with Hyper-converged Infrastructure (HCI) solutions. With HCI, enterprise data services run off the server and can consume up to 25% of available server resources. This means that as a customer my CPU utilization doesn’t start at zero. Furthermore, as I grow, I’m required to purchase additional servers and software licenses, and consume additional space and power. With Nebulon smartInfrastructure, all enterprise data services run off an IoT endpoint, the Nebulon services processing unit (SPU) so no server CPU, network or memory resources are consumed.

Must Have #6: High availability without physical access.
Remote edge solutions are difficult to maintain as site access is hard especially if skilled engineers are required. DCI have designed the DataQube to keep running even when failures occur. If a server fails, then they could continue to run a long period of time before it is replaced. A big benefit of the Nebulon solution is the separate fault domain of the storage from the compute even in the same chassis. If the OS or server has a failure, then the Nebulon smartInfrastructure can continue to use the capacity in that chassis for other servers still running.

DCI is just one example of how we’re bringing the easy and simplicity of public cloud on premises—and addressing edge deployment concerns around on-site management, space, power, and cost.

Want to learn more? Watch our webinar.

We recently sat down with DCI to discuss how are working together to deploy a simple, turnkey edge data centre when and where you need it. During this recording you’ll hear from DCI CTO Chris Ward-Jones and myself where we deep dive on the technology at play here. We’ll also be sharing use case for this solution, like setting up edge data centres for field hospitals in remote regions.

Watch webinar now

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Marc Caton