Schneider Electric announces Edge Module for IoT processing
Schneider Electric is the latest player to jump into the edge computing game for Internet of Things (IoT) devices with the announcement of its Edge Module for mobile and IoT applications. It follows the trend of processing IoT data where it is generated rather than sending it to a remote data center.
Schneider Electric is a European giant that mostly specializes in energy management and power systems. So, it’s no surprise that the Edge Module comes with integrated power and cooling systems. That includes single- or three-phase power with a flexible power train in multiple ranges, N+1 standard cooling, and package cooling units mounted on the outside of the module to eliminate the need for external condensers or piping.
The Edge Module is specifically suited to the cell tower edge with its single-phase design equipped for 208 volts of power with the flexibility and scalability needed to manage a flexible power train up to 48 KW. Six racks can be configured into two bay racks, as a single bay rack, and/or a custom four-bay rack.
Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxture software platform allows the platform to be remotely monitored and controlled, and security includes key locks, rack-mounted and exterior cameras, exterior lights, and a card kit key reader.
“Shifting computing needs to the edge is critical to meeting the needs of today’s technologies, but the distributed and remote nature of edge endpoints themselves create management and oversight challenges for our customers,” said Jay Owen, senior vice president for Schneider Electric's North American IT Division, in a statement.
IDC predicts that this year, 45 percent of IoT data will be stored, processed, and acted upon at the edge rather than sending it to a data center. So, there has been a growth in vendors offering edge computing — small ruggedized containers placed in a city, usually near cell towers, to do the computing there. These vendors include Dart Points, EdgeMicro, and Vapor IO.
The pros and cons of edge computing
IoT is turning the internet on its head. From the beginning, it’s been about sending data to the endpoint. When you click on a hyperlink, just a few bytes are sent from your PC, but many megabytes are sent down when the page loads. The same holds true with YouTube or Spotify or anything streaming. It’s always in the direction of the end user. That’s why Speedtest.net says my internet is 72Mbits down and 6Mbits up; your internet speed is probably similarly lopsided, unless you have FIOS.
But IoT reverses that. With thousands of smart cars on the road, a flood of data comes into cell towers that has to be sent up to a data center, and the internet isn’t designed for that. To ease the load, processing is done at the edge, which is defined as wherever the devices are located, and little to none is sent upstream.
It’s a good solution, but it’s also a stop gap and not viable long term. For adequate IoT coverage in a big city for smart cars, you are talking hundreds of containers. Someone’s got to pay for all that. And when they are overwhelmed, then what? A longer-term solution is to restructure the internet for faster upstream transfers, but that isn’t cheap either.
For now, processing will be done at the edge and carriers and service providers will eat an enormous cost.