“Location, location, location” has long been the mantra in real estate. The idea is that location is the most important factor in determining the value of a property.
That same concept continues to gain traction in the data center space. “Edge” data centers are cropping up in Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets across the U.S. — cities such as Cleveland, Ohio, Nashville, Tenn., Pittsburg, Pa. and St. Louis, Mo. — bringing dynamic content and cloud services physically closer to customers. Data can be cached locally so that it travels a shorter distance, resulting in improved performance.
Traditionally, operators of large data centers have located their facilities in major metropolitan areas such as New York, L.A. and Dallas. However, insatiable demand for streaming video, online gaming and cloud-based applications is forcing service providers to look beyond these markets. When data is delivered to customers in Minneapolis from a data center in Chicago, latency can degrade the performance of real-time applications.
Edge data centers help ensure that consumers get the dynamic content they crave by expanding the “edge” of the Internet. They also enable service providers to cut transport costs dramatically by reducing the amount of data that has to travel across the Internet backbone.
But while location is a key feature of edge data centers, it isn’t the only one. To be considered an edge data center, the facility must reach at least half of the customers in the market, and serve up at least three-quarters of the dynamic content those customers consume. Otherwise, it’s just a data center in a smaller city that hasn’t moved the Internet edge.
Reaching that critical mass isn’t as difficult as it might sound — YouTube, Netflix and Akamai (the world’s largest content delivery network) account for almost 75 percent of Internet traffic. Although Google operates more than 70 points of presence in 33 countries, it can deliver some services more cost-effectively using edge data centers. And those facilities that are able to attract the major content providers will also be able to attract all of the Internet service providers in the area.
In addition to large service providers, edge data centers serve local businesses needing high-quality colocation facilities. Increasingly, they are also being used to connect building automation systems, smart cars and other Internet of things (IoT) devices. This enables organizations to process IoT data closer to the device, reducing costs and latency and supporting real-time analytics.
Edge data centers must be thoughtfully architected to deliver the levels of efficiency their customers demand. Because they are much smaller than the mega facilities in major metro areas, they need a power-dense design that allows for continued capacity expansion. They also need racks and cabinets that support high port density — ideally more than 100 ports per rack unit. The experts at Rahi Systems can help edge data center operators design and build out facilities that meet these requirements.
As the consumption of dynamic content and cloud services continues to increase, and more organizations leverage the IoT, location has become a key factor in the selection of data center facilities. Edge data centers bring the Internet edge closer to customers, enabling organizations to deliver data more efficiently and economically while improving the user experience.