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Monitoring the Edge of Everything

June 18th, 2019

Comprehensive IoT Platforms tackle the management and monitoring challenges of the growing Edge Data Center market.

Even the most casual followers of IT trends recognize that providers of Cloud, SaaS, and content solutions need to move their functionality closer to end users. Latency is the greatest obstacle to operational effectiveness and customer satisfaction. This has given rise to the Edge datacenter which as a market has been exploding to accommodate the growth of cloud technologies. These cloud-based applications require storing, moving, and processing massive amounts of data. This Edge Data Center market is expected to exceed 13 Billion Dollars by 2024 to keep up with these evolving demands. Though a pervasive challenge for many cloud dependent services, Internet Service Providers (ISP)s have been rapidly increasing scale to keep up with business and consumer demands. A good portion of this growth has been at the last mile; close to the customer; at the metaphoric ‘Edge.’

Edge Connectivity

Though ISPs have been using fiber for truck backhaul connections for decades, Fiber to the home (FTTH), has been increasing in demand. Providing this service however drives the need for Edge datacenters to deliver service closer to the customer. Edge-based data centers bring a unique set of additional challenges to the forefront compared to their big-brother counterparts. Due to their core requirement of being close to the customer, Edge data solutions are deployed in-mass; typically in the hundreds or thousands across large swaths of geography. This rollout methodology leads to some different challenges compared to large data center environments. Much of the same infrastructure used in large datacenter construction such as HVAC, security, and power monitoring is the same between traditional and edge deployments. What differs, however, is the sheer quantity and geographic diversity. 24×7 staffing of these data-centers is impractical. This leads to the need to be able to monitor and manage their operations entirely remotely while also taking on additional functions typically taken care of by on-prem staff. This is where the BitBox platform enters the picture for Edge applications.

The Edge monitoring challenge

When dealing with FTTH style solutions for ISPs the backhaul fiber network extends throughout the country. Fiber is then fed to the consumer by a variety of remote site huts (or Edge data-centers), colocated servers, and often, space in wholesale data center facilities. The heterogeneity of their network components and this infrastructure design dictates the need for a single centralized monitoring and management solution capable of managing this scale of infrastructure remotely. Within each hut remote management and monitoring of power, cooling, access control, surveillance and network operation are a requirement. Previous avenues at conquering this management problem often were typically thwarted due to both the diverse nature of sites and the narrowness or functionality within the solution alternatives. Although several platforms are available in the marketplace, usually they align to specific building technologies. (e.g., Building Management systems could handle cooling monitoring, but not concurrently deal with SNMP, and generator status information). The need to normalize and analyze the data from geographically diverse site locations in a single platform was a custom adventure most ISPs would not want to undertake. The BitBox platform takes on this challenge from a different perspective. Unlike deploying multiple monitoring and management solutions for each building trade, the BitBox platform does not work to displace existing infrastructure, but globally collects all building and infrastructure data available, organizes it, and then easily allows custom tailoring of the monitoring solution.

Diversity is the standard

Sub-system diversity is often the pitfall of enterprise co-location monitoring solutions in mass. Fifty sites may have one brand of generator, but seven may have another, that communicates differently. Cooling systems may be different between generations of roll-outs. BitBox tackles this through using the uniquely designed BitBox hardware which allows for a single lightweight hardware edge device to collect data and communicate with all sub-systems. It then normalizes the data and pushes critical monitoring and management infrastructure information to a consolidated dataset in the cloud. This methodology enables Bitbox to accommodate all existing facilities regardless of the deployment mode or hardware set, without interrupting operations and quickly allowing for provisioning on future deployments.

Changes on the fly

Even the most well-coordinated implementation plan can is capable of being derailed by previously unrelated information in the construction process. A simple generator brand change can result in a change in communications technology to gather critical information. Typically this would require on-site alterations to programming. The BitBox platform allows for on-the-fly changes such as this to be implemented via the cloud to reallocate data requirements to accommodate these changes without the need to fly individuals to geographic sites.

Data is only as relevant as the information it translates to

Most critical systems in a facility provide data. The key is being able to see it all in one location from everywhere and take action when needed. This universal visibility is the key to uptime while minimizing labor expense in a distributed environment such as an Edge Data-Center deployment. BitBox’s cloud infrastructure, the BitEngine offers a centralized and user configurable dashboard allowing a single source of truth to all the distributed infrastructure globally. The alarming infrastructure built into the BitBox platform allows site alarms to announce that there is something amiss at one or more sites. Since not all alerts are of equal severity, a “ranking order” can be established to determine the imperativeness of the problem. In any distributed infrastructure the triage for alarms reflects what problems require immediate attention as opposed to those whose condition is more rectifiable on a convenience or routine maintenance basis. This configurable alarming hierarchy helps to limit ongoing operational costs by limiting the number of “truck rolls” to resolve a problem while also allowing for more monitored preventative maintenance.

Distributed Growth

The expansion of distributed Edge infrastructure due to the demands from cloud ecosystems is undeniable. This growth fuels the need for comprehensive management and monitoring platforms to handle the unique requirements of this diverse Edge space. A multitude of elements must be considered to ensure a cost-effective and successful implementation by any provider. Flexible remote infrastructure management solutions, like the BitBox Platform, are uniquely positioned to address the complexity in this environment.