The time may (finally) be right to talk seriously about high density edge data centers. High density is one of those data center industry predictions raised consistently over the last decade that will enable all of the futurist dreams fueled by the promise of AI, IoT and automated everything else. Regardless of how often this pet prognostication is invoked, it just never seems to happen.

What is so different this time? Frankly, the world has changed and the idea of the data center is changing with it. At the edge, the data center is no longer simply a product seeking to fit any problem to its solution, and companies no longer need to bear the cost on their own. Deployments that have the most impact are those planned as a set of capabilities tailored to serve the growing and varied needs in a specific location.

What Took So Long?

In the enterprise and hyperscale world, the answer was simply space at the location that offered inexpensive land and power. The core was built around sprawling centers with massive connectivity and robust power where more compute simply meant more racks. There was plenty of space, plenty of power and conventional cooling was easy and cheap, all things considered. Basic economics held rack densities constant at or around 5kW, despite the futurist projections.

We see the downside of that path playing out today. We have massive but inefficient data centers where cooling and power max out well before rack capacity. Even in Data Center Alley, we have a hodgepodge of ad-hoc data centers that sprang up to meet exploding needs and driving land prices to astronomical levels. These were the days when edge was still a concept based on micro data center products. But those days are fading and gone.

Not the Same as the Old Boss

Predictions for high density edge data centers, no matter how inaccurate on timing, made sense to so many for so long because they were hopeful, and equally wrong, as to how IoT and automation would play out. Of course everyone would want sensors and devices to grow, build and move things cheaply and efficiently. Until, that is, we really looked at what it would take to serve all of that from the core model. Today, we see it. Milliseconds have become millions in lost revenue, where clunky page loads mean lost eyeballs. The speed of light simply isn’t fast enough to monitor and irrigate an Iowa farm from Chicago.

But that model is changing. Infrastructure edge investment brings content, storage and interconnectivity together in combinations tailored to the digital ecosystem already on the ground. Hybrid models keep local data local while peering brings content and applications close enough to the workloads to be both efficient and cost effective.

Space is still at a premium, but not because of land or power prices bid up by demand. Modern edge data centers are shaped by different factors, but commonly emerging themes include land use, access to connectivity and network footprint, sustainability, energy efficiency and total cost. Enter high density edge data centers.

Putting More Punch in Your Power

High density edge colocation data centers can offer many operators and users a better option. More power in the rack means they can accommodate more customers in the same space and pass along lower costs and enhanced service. Smaller facilities delivering the same capabilities are more efficient to staff and manage. And when they are well-planned, high density edge facilities will be easier to expand and upgrade by increasing the density. Which brings us to cooling.

There are some amazing new technologies out there making all of this increasing rack density not only possible, but feasible. For example, DartPoints and TMGcore are looking to deploy TMGcore’s OTTO platform, which features two-phase liquid immersion cooling technology, to create the most compact, high-density and low Power Usage Efficiency (PUE) design. Advanced designs like this are solving some of the most pressing challenges across the data center industry today: rising operating costs and growing concerns over environmental impact.

OTTO is just a tenth of the size of a traditional data center solution, offers ten times more processing power and serves as a fully integrated power, cooling, racking, networking and management platform. OTTO units start at just 4.5 Kilowatts and go up to 600 Kilowatts, remaining scalable and dynamic to support more than 1.2 Megawatts of power in under 320 square feet. This allows any market to leverage the compute infrastructure and interconnection capabilities that are typically only realized in major urban markets.

High density edge colocation data centers are primed to play a major role in transforming the infrastructure edge by moving the storage, content and applications close enough to where they are so desperately needed to support remote work, learning and business. High density is another tool in the toolbox that is transforming the capabilities at the edge to meet the needs of underserved communities.