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IoT’s Impact on the Data Center and the Role of Intelligent Power

By Marc Cram, Director of New Market Development, Server Technology

Once dubbed the next Industrial Revolution, the Internet of Things (IoT) has proven to be the movement that will drive the evolution of network, IT, and data center design into the future. To sum up the net impact of all of the new devices situated at the edge of all of the networks, consider this: there will be some 24 billion Internet of Things devices online by the end of 2020, which is actually more than double the 10 billion devices that will be used directly by people. Intelligent PDUs will play a critical role in the management of networks that support that traffic.

In fact, IoT has had a number of impacts on data center infrastructure, as well as data center services. Not only has IoT driven the creation of more robust networks and IT systems, it has also pushed the boundaries of what was previously understood as cloud and edge computing, and the networks that support those systems.

Lean and mean

When we look at the impact of IoT on data center infrastructure, the greatest tangible effect has been on data center networks. Most facilities have had to adapt in order to keep up with IoT—especially 5G IoT. This has meant an increase in the number of connections and in the overall speed of networks in most deployments, even ones that lean heavily on edge computing. Those edge devices still need to push data back to a central hub for more detailed computing and analysis.

Because of this, the majority of data centers are upping their networking and connectivity game. Another key impact IoT brings to data centers is a different type of capacity demand. IoT devices are continually running and delivering data, meaning that many data centers now have a much smaller window than before to take a network offline or make adjustments. Traditional maintenance windows are now closed, and network architectures have to be adapted to support uptime. The impact on data center infrastructure? It needs to be equally flexible.

More secure

An unexpected impact of IoT on data centers has been the need for an increased security presence at the edge. This new security challenge is the unwanted passenger on the train of network safety. It is the result of having more passengers on the new IoT touchpoints and endpoints.

This increase in the number of devices has presented a unique challenge for those in charge of their company’s networks. The proliferation of traffic has meant that companies are investing in new tools to monitor and manage traffic on their networks. While these tools are mostly in the form of software and IT appliances, there has also been an increase in the adoption of network PDUs.

Everything needs power

While they may seem like an unlikely player in new IoT data center infrastructures, intelligent PDUs are serving a key role in securing networks, supporting uptime, monitoring traffic, and managing systems.

Switched PDUs are the gatekeepers of all the power that is fed to the rack. After all, everything needs power, right? Not only is the rack PDU the bridge between the data center’s entire electrical infrastructure and the devices that run the network, it also provides the nearest touchpoint to monitor and manage that power. Talk about up close and personal!

Monitoring the edge

IoT computing demands more sophisticated monitoring solutions at the rack and PDU level. By definition, edge compute sites are not adjacent to the core data center facility. Lack of proximity means that there is an increased reliance on the ability to monitor power and cooling conditions remotely, as well as the ability to remotely control and reboot single outlets. As IoT has pushed monitoring to the distant reaches of the network, intelligent PDUs have likewise been deployed to provide feedback and control.

Monitoring the core

Intelligent PDUs arguably play a more critical role at the core, thanks to IoT. They provide information about equipment operation by metering the input and output power at the PDU. They also provide remote control operations that allow you to turn power on and off to individual receptacles. Having a network connection allows the data center manager to enable or disable outlets from a remote location or within the facility itself. As IoT has required more flexibility and fewer maintenance windows, intelligent PDUs have stepped in to assist with controlling the computing environment.

Monitoring to manage

Increased data traffic and shifting workloads increase the complexity of the data center manager’s power and cooling resources within the facility. By using intelligent PDUs, you can access real-time usage data and environmental alerts. All power usage data is easily tracked, stored, and exported into reports using intelligent PDUs and DCIM software. By analyzing accurate power usage information at the cabinet level, data center managers are now able to more accurately shift power resources within the white space.

In short, an intelligent PDU can be the control your data center infrastructure needs to support IoT applications. This is increasingly important as this infrastructure is being pushed closer to the edge with even less time for maintenance. Higher device demand comes with higher power demands, which means more challenges to the network. PDUs help you meet them and anticipate the next IoT evolution.

Marc Cram is Director of New Market Development for Server Technology, a brand of Legrand (@Legrand). A technology evangelist, he is driven by a passion to deliver a positive power experience for the data center owner/operator. He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Rice University and has more than 30 years of experience in the field of electronics. Follow him on LinkedIn or @ServerTechInc on Twitter.

Customizable Cloud-Computing Ensures Successful Commercial Drone Missions

By Barry Alexander, Founder and CEO, Aquiline Drones

Although awareness of and appreciation for commercial drone systems is growing, many businesses remain unaware of the opportunities drones offer to achieve better business results, help streamline business solutions, and elevate profitability. Drones are unique aerial vehicles and are ideal for providing crucial aerial perspectives to assess emergency situations like the recent Australian wildfires, and for delivering critical medical supplies to those in need. Drones are even being used to deliver information to the public, as in the current coronavirus pandemic.

However, most businesses do not realize the intrinsic benefit of integrating drones into their day-to-day operations, whether it be for asset inspection and management, perimeter security, precision farming, aerial ranching, video production, or surveying and mapping. The list continues! But a point of note is this: A drone is just mechanical hardware unless used optimally to gather information. Such reconnaissance activity allows users to capture, analyze, manage, model, and share data insights – usually in real-time. This level of application calls for a robust computing platform that supports complex drone operations and the footage they generate. This is facilitated with cloud computing technology.

According to a recent survey by RedLock, only 7% of businesses firmly believe they have decent visibility over all important company information from drone usage in a well-structured and well-secured enterprise cloud. To address their inadequacies, companies are now seeking out unique, customizable, technical platforms such as the AD Cloud. These platforms offer everything involved in completing commercial drone operations in one centralized setting. The AD Cloud in particular provides a variety of salient features ideal for building highly customizable and large-scale solutions.

Building a Cloud from the Ground Up

Core features and services offered by some of the nation’s most notable cloud companies that have mastered and integrated artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet-of-Things (IoT) include:

  • Modularity – Scalability for high-density drone operations across industries requires a modular cloud design, in which services can be added a la carte, allowing businesses to start small, then scale up as needed.
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Specific – It is important for cloud environments to cater to the industries for which they are being used. Specialized cloud platforms such as the AD Cloud provide algorithms for UAV operations, manufacturing, and maintenance, making the AD Cloud more valuable and more desirable for businesses that want to integrate UAVs into their operations.
  • Aviation Compliance – Drones are aircraft. Accordingly, they must operate and should be held to the same or similar standards as manned aircraft. These standards should be established and regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). A drone-specific cloud should maintain built-in compliance rules to ensure that connected devices remain safe and compliant with regulations and the law.
  • True Autonomy – Allows for autonomous UAV operations with plug-and-play mission capabilities.
  • Data Insights – Specialized algorithms can be created for flight control, traffic management, enhanced awareness, terrain modeling, and image recognition, along with specific additions for more sophisticated scenarios.
  • Full Lifecycle Governance – This includes providing connectivity and insights across the drone lifecycle – from product development, to manufacturing, to UAV operations and MRO – resulting in greater efficiencies and reduced downtime.
  • Dynamic Dashboard – A full-capability digital dashboard accessible on any device delivers a comprehensive, standardized, and flexible user experience (UX) with the power of the cloud at one’s fingertips. Users can plan, collaborate, and execute missions, livestream data and video, and obtain real-time data insights – all from within a single and customizable enterprise asset management (EAM) system.

Further, a comprehensive cloud system such as AD Cloud can also aggregate data, which enables companies to make statistical forecasts and logical inferences for future resource planning and allocations.

A Bright and Lofty Future

Despite its extreme growth within the past decade, the global cloud computing market is forecast to exceed $623 billion by 2023 as 80% of organizations – many using drone technology – migrate to the cloud by 2025.

One key projection is that cloud computing will change the hardware architecture of drones by simplifying these flying robots. With low latency, higher bandwidth, and a highly reliable connection to the cloud, a drone only needs to carry sensors, without requiring any additional power.

Drones and edge computing technology will continue to grow exponentially, allowing for more resolution, more sensor types, and more flight capabilities, while supporting demand for higher frequency and more data. In fact, drone fleets and swarms will have the ability to launch from edge computing hubs to further automate the process.

Another major highlight will be the quick creation and activation of a comprehensive cloud computing-drone infrastructure as directed and overseen by the FAA, the regulatory agency for all UAVs – ensuring safety remains paramount.

Lastly, the recent introduction of a bipartisan bill in Congress entitled, The American Security Drone Act of 2019 essentially bans the use of foreign drones – mainly Chinese drones – and other unmanned aerial systems that have been purchased with federal dollars.

The drone industry continues to gain in purpose and popularity, empowering companies that use them with powerful, customized cloud computing capabilities. Cloud-enabled drone technology increases these companies’ operating efficiency, efficacy, safety, and ultimately, their bottom line. As more of these cloud computer-connected devices take to the sky, we’ll see a world that is truly interconnected within the technological atmosphere.

Bio

A veteran pilot, serial entrepreneur, and visionary leader, Barry Alexander is founder and CEO of Aquiline Drones, a full-service, US-based commercial drone company that boasts an integrated manufacturing and supply chain, world-class MRO services, and real-time data insights to improve ROI across a variety of industries. Barry’s ultimate goal is to revolutionize the entire American drone market through innovative technology and key community and governmental partnerships to create a world in which humans and drones live and operate in harmony for the betterment of society.

Unmanned Edge Operations Are the Future

By Michael C. Skurla, Chief Technology Officer, BitBox USA

The growth of edge is an interesting phenomenon. The rise of edge computing closed the IT infrastructure gap with edge data center deployments. The rise of public cloud and centralized computing paved the way to hybrid cloud and decentralized computing. However, within a distributed infrastructure, the IT ecosystem demands a mix of telecom and web services.

Whether on-premise, or closer to end-users, edge computing complements the current public cloud or colocation deployments.

The increased demand for connectivity-driving data proliferation positions IoT’s critical role as an edge enabler. But adding more “client” devices to networks isn’t the only role of IoT within an edge ecosystem. The often-overlooked side is for the required IoT technology to enable edge operations.

While cloud computing shifted the data center to a third-party network operations center (NOC), it didn’t eliminate on-premise data center operators who manage and respond to facility problems. Edge introduced a new challenge to network operations: autonomous management with limited access to the individuals who are local to equipment to address problems or perform maintenance. The new norm does not have in-house IT staff, equipment and machines under one or several roofs. It distributes data center operations into thousands of smaller facilities, most of which are not readily accessible in a short drive or walk.

Describing the edge as, “the infrastructure topology that supports the IoT applications,” Jeffrey Fidacaro, Senior Analyst for 451 Research Data Centers, underscores the importance of building a “unified edge/IoT strategy” that taps into multiple infrastructure options to manage the onslaught of IoT and facility systems while dealing with the needs of constant change.

Interestingly, the platforms around IoT solutions, not the hardware itself, are the answer to this quandary. Based on IT standards, IoT sensing and monitoring hardware offers granular, a la carte-style monitoring solutions. These solutions are often easy-to-install, flexible form-factor hardware packages that equip small sites, from shelters down to small electrical enclosures. Since these devices offer a multitude of functions and data points, they make reliable and remote facility management possible.

For instance, the sensing technology of ServersCheck allows granular site data to be generated from hardware, which complements an IoT platform that allows large amounts of sites to be monitored in concert while also tying in more complex control sub-systems such as HVAC, generators, access control, and surveillance equipment. These IoT platforms expand monitoring and remote management to a global scale, allowing customized alarming, reporting, dashboarding, and more, for a geographically distributed portfolio of locations.

This style of IoT management solution allows a flexible, customized design for each site. Its scalable infrastructure reduces the need for NOCs to monitor multiple separate software packages to determine conditions at each site. This facilitates rapid remote diagnostics and a triage of problems before dispatching staff to remedy issues.

Edging to Cellular Levels

Telecommunications keeps pushing further to the edge. In particular, remote monitoring is more crucial than ever, with the planned 5G rollout that ensures rapid growth of small-cell technology piggybacking on shared infrastructure such as streetlights, utility poles, and existing buildings.

As wireless transmitters and receivers, small-cell technology design allows network coverage to smaller sites and areas. Compared to the tall cell towers enabling strong network signals across vast distances, small cells are ideal for improving the cellular connectivity of end-users in densely developed areas. They play a crucial role in addressing increased data demands in centralized locations.

The rapid scalability of small cell technology can not only meet the demands of 4G networks, but can also easily adapt to 5G rollouts to expedite connectivity functions closer to the end-users. In clustered areas, small-cell technology allows for far superior connectivity, penetrating dense areas, and in-building sites.

Consider small-cell technology as the backbone of the fourth industrial revolution. Enabling the transmission of signals for transmitting even greater amounts of data at higher speeds, small-cell technology empowers IoT devices to receive and transmit far greater amounts of data. It also enables 5G technology, given the density requirements of the technology.

Enterprises face a flood of data from IoT connectivity. In fact, Cisco estimates this data flood to reach 850 zettabytes by 2021. This is driving edge buildouts of all sizes and shapes. To accomplish this, edge operators must rethink how they manage and monitor this explosion of sites. IoT platforms have proven to have the scalability and flexibility to take on this challenge in a highly affordable way.

As Forrester research predicted, “the variety of IoT software platforms has continued to grow and evolve to complement the cloud giants’ foundation IoT capabilities rather than compete with them” and it expects the IoT market to continue to see dramatic and rapid change in coming years.

It’s time for the technology that edge is being built to support – IoT – to play a role in managing the critical infrastructure that enables it. IoT platforms can tie the knot for this marriage.

Bio

Michael C. Skurla is the Chief Technology Officer for BitBox USA, providers of the BitBox IoT platform for multi-site, distributed facilities’ operational intelligence, based in Nashville, Tennessee. Mike’s in-depth industry knowledge in control automation and IoT product design sets cutting-edge product strategy for the company’s award-winning IoT platform.