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How to right-size edge storage

7 November, 2021


Edge computing provides greater computation, network access, and storage capabilities closer to the source of the data, allowing organizations to reduce latency.

Since edge computing’s basic mission is rapid data delivery, edge data centers require fast and reliable storage capabilities, but that’s not without challenges.

When compared to data stored in a traditional data center, most data arriving at the edge is either ephemeral or raw. This means a significant amount of edge data will only remain in storage temporarily before being replaced by fresh incoming data.

When various data types are involved, there may be a need for storage tiering at the edge, depending on their lifespan.

Each edge-computing application is unique, so planning storage tiers for them is different from a traditional data-center approach.

Capacity, Power, Connectivity

Determining edge storage requirements is similar to estimating the storage needs of a traditional data center, but workloads can be difficult to predict.

Edge-computing adopters also need to be aware of the cost of upgrading or expanding storage resources, which can be substantial given size and speed constraints.

One new way to expand edge-storage capacity independently from edge-compute capacity are computational storage-drive devices that feature transparent compression.

Computational storage-drive devices can increase the effective storage capacity of edge devices and are very power-efficient.

When selecting memory and storage options for an edge data center, project leaders must carefully analyze power requirements for both consistency and maximum power demands.

For use cases where power failure is a high probability, EEPROM would be a top choice to store critical data rather than a low-quality battery-powered device that may not be a reliable back-up.

Additional data storage options include journaling file systems, embedded failsafe data formats, and flash wear levelling.  All of these capabilities can be important at the edge.

For facilities dependent on cloud storage and planning to use edge storage will need redundant network access.

Device size matters at the edge

Edge data centers come in many different forms, most only a fraction of the size of a traditional installation and positioned in locations as varied as spare offices, storefronts, cell towers, and even lampposts.

Larger edge centers use more traditional 1U, 2U or even larger form factors, which broaden storage options and as well as graphics and networking components.

For installations with restricted space is smaller SSD form factors, like M.2 and E1.S could be necessary, or possibly even custom storage form factors.

Physical size considerations are typically determined by the nature of the industry, data replacement cost, and data security requirements.

Off-the-shelf vs. vendor-supplied appliances

As when constructing any type of data center, enterprises face the choice between committing to a single vendor’s master plan or deploying off-the shelf products from multiple suppliers. There are benefits and drawbacks to each.

“Off-the-shelf hardware may provide more flexibility, but more investment in application compatibility testing,” cautions Gary Kotzur, storage business group CTO at chipmaker Marvell. “Vendor appliances integrate a total solution … but typically cost more for a given function.” Another downside is that while vendor-suppled appliances can be attractive for their compatibility and simplicity, they also bring the risk of lock-in.