As commercial and industrial companies look to digitize their businesses end-to-end, it’s driving the need for machines that require increasing amounts of compute power – so much so that machine manufacturers increasingly need to incorporate industrial edge data centers as part of their solutions.
Machines in industrial environments have long required some compute power, but typically an industrial PC, programmable logic controller (PLC) or human-machine interface (HMI) panel was enough to do the trick.
Digitization demands industrial edge computing
But digitization brings new demands. Machines produce more data about their operations and are tied to other systems that report on everything from production data to supply chain status and machine maintenance. Some machines even have applications that enable users to simulate processes, to test new ways of doing things.
These applications and data are all valuable, able to make operations more efficient and productive. But they’re also real-time in nature, meaning they require not only significant amounts of compute power, but also low latency. That means the compute resources must be nearby, either on the manufacturing floor or in close proximity.
Machine builders face new compute requirements
Manufacturers that build these machines must take these requirements into consideration and provide an effective compute solution to do the job.
Consider a manufacturer of dairy farming equipment. They need to produce a complete line of machines for milking thousands of cows along with systems to store and transfer the milk. That transfer may be to a different location in the same facility for processing into various dairy products or to a truck for transport to another location. Each step of the process requires detailed reporting, to comply with requirements for accurately tracking the source of dairy products.
Manufacturers of such complex systems can add value by including all the compute resources necessary to process and store the data the system generates. Due to the latency requirements, those compute resources are going to have to be located either on or close to the factory floor – in other words, in an environment that is not at all like a traditional data center. It’s not a good idea to mix what are essentially operational technology (OT) requirements with IT resources anyway; if you run into a problem, you want your own OT engineers to be able to troubleshoot them without having to rely on IT.
Yet, the OT computing resources must be protected just as those in a data center would be, in terms of physical security as well as backup power and cooling.
Micro Data Centers: A fit for machine builders
That’s where the edge data center technology comes in. Machine builders have at least a couple of options for how to include this technology with their systems. One is to use a ruggedized Micro Data Center, with racks and enclosures that can withstand vibration, dust, and extreme temperatures.
For environments where such conditions aren’t an issue, or where compute resources can be placed in a separate room adjacent to the factory, another option is the new compact Schneider Electric EcoStruxure Micro Data Center C-Series 6U Wall Mount. It comes with integrated UPS, PDU and security, in an enclosure that’s 60% less intrusive than previous models yet big enough to support the types of servers industrial solutions require.