Cross-Connect Blog

Cooling Strategies for Edge Computing

May 14, 2024

Edge computing is a modern approach to data processing that involves deploying computing resources closer to data sources, such as IoT devices or local edge servers, to minimize latency and reduce bandwidth usage. This decentralized model is increasingly vital in modern IT infrastructures, especially with the proliferation of IoT devices and the growing need for real-time processing capabilities in various sectors including manufacturing, healthcare, and autonomous vehicles.  

As edge computing extends the reach of network technology, ensuring the reliability and efficiency of these systems becomes crucial. Thermal management plays a significant role at the edge as it helps to maintain optimal operating temperatures, thereby preventing hardware failures and ensuring consistent performance. Effective thermal management solutions are essential to maintaining the reliability and efficiency of equipment at the edge. 

Challenges of Cooling in Edge Environments 

Edge computing facilities often operate in environmental conditions that present unique obstacles to maintaining operational stability. These facilities can be in varied climates, requiring adaptable thermal management systems. Edge computing nodes frequently must fit into compact and unconventional spaces, such as on-site at manufacturing plants, alongside roadway infrastructure, or embedded within retail environments. These environments limit the options for airflow, cooling infrastructure, and the physical separation of heat-generating components – which compounds the difficulty of effective thermal regulation. 

One of the most overlooked and misunderstood considerations of protecting IT equipment at the edge is how to keep equipment cool enough to perform reliably. Compute devices, especially those installed in edge applications, often require much greater airflow than what is provided in standard cabinet configurations. Many of these cabinets have a single fan and filter, but industrial installations that include both inlet and outlet openings require filtration for both. To enable proper cooling, at least two openings are required to ensure that the required level of airflow is provided. Fans and filters must be large enough to support the required airflow for all devices installed. 

Ineffective thermal management in edge computing environments can lead to significant consequences. Excessive heat accumulation can cause hardware to operate beyond its thermal design limits, leading to increased failure rates and reduced lifespan of components such as CPUs, memory, and storage devices. Overheating can also trigger system throttling, where processing speeds are deliberately reduced to lower temperature, thereby impairing computational performance, and reducing overall system efficiency. In scenarios where data processing and decision-making need to be executed in real-time these delays and failures can be particularly catastrophic, potentially leading to system downtime and critical data loss. 

Key Principles of Effective Thermal Management 

Effective airflow management and cooling cost reduction requires the elimination of bypass airflow within or through the cabinet. The following are considered best practices of effective thermal management: 

  • User proper racking techniques to block airflow around rack-mount equipment 

  • Use blanking panels to seal all unused rack-mount spaces to block airflow between rack-mount equipment 

  • Use air dams and seals around rack-mount equipment to prevent recirculation of hot air around the sides of the equipment 

  • Use seals around cable openings in the cabinet body and raised floors 

  • Use seals between cabinets to block airflow between cabinets into the contained space 

  • Use panels to block airflow under the cabinet into the contained space 

If the installation is in a clean, nonhazardous environment with an ambient (outside the enclosure) temperature range that is lower than the temperature required in the enclosure, a simple forced-convection cooling system utilizing outside air is adequate. Filter fans can also be used to propel the cool ambient air into the enclosure and include fan housing, fan, filter, and installation hardware.  

The image below depicts a sectional view of the cabinets showing bypass airflow around equipment (left) and showing good airflow management guiding air through equipment and blocking recirculation (right). It is critical to utilize baffles and blanking panels within cabinets to seal openings that would allow air to bypass equipment. All air that passes through the cabinet should pass through equipment and transfer heat away from it. 

A diagram of heat and air conditioning

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Blocking bypass airflow through cabinets (and openings in raised access floors used for airflow delivery) is a critical component of any effective airflow management solution and may temporarily solve cooling issues without the need for additional ducted exhausts or aisle containment.  

Proactive Cooling at the Edge  

When it comes to thermal management at the edge, adopting a proactive approach is far more beneficial than a reactive approach. Proactive strategies involve the design and implementation of cooling solutions that anticipate heat generation and mitigate its effects before it becomes problematic, rather than dealing with excessive heat after it has already compromised system performance. This forward-thinking approach includes the use of advanced predictive analytics to monitor and manage workload distributions that optimize heat production, as well as the integration of smart cooling technologies that adjust in real-time to changing thermal conditions.  

By focusing on prevention, proactive thermal management not only enhances the reliability and longevity of the hardware but also ensures consistent performance levels without the risk of thermal throttling or unexpected downtime. Such strategies are essential for maintaining the efficiency and operational continuity of edge computing infrastructures, particularly in environments where service interruptions or hardware failures can have severe repercussions. 

Innovative Thermal Management Solutions by Chatsworth Products  

Chatsworth Products is known for being the pioneers of innovative thermal management solutions specifically tailored for the demanding environments of edge computing. CPI's offerings are designed to ensure optimal performance, efficiency, and reliability of equipment in various edge scenarios, from urban locations to remote sites. Our solutions help manage the heat generated by densely packed technologies operating at the edge, which is crucial for maintaining system integrity and uptime. 

Passive and Active Cooling  

One of the standout products in our lineup is our specialized cooling units. These units are engineered to handle the specific thermal needs of edge computing facilities, which often face space constraints and harsh environmental conditions. CPI’s cooling solutions are versatile, ranging from passive cooling options to active cooling systems that involve air conditioners, air handlers, and liquid cooling solutions. These systems are crucial in maintaining a controlled environment, preventing the overheating of critical components, and enabling consistent performance irrespective of external temperature fluctuations. 

Environmental Monitoring  

Additionally, CPI offers a suite of environmental monitoring tools that are crucial for proactive management in edge computing scenarios. These tools allow for real-time tracking of various environmental parameters, such as temperature, humidity, and airflow. By using sensors and management software, operators can receive alerts and automate responses to potential thermal issues before they escalate into system-threatening problems. This capability is vital for minimizing downtime and ensuring that thermal management remains efficient and effective without constant manual oversight. 

Airflow Management 

Moreover, CPI enhances thermal efficiency through a range of airflow management accessories. These include ducting kits, blanking panels, and air dams that help direct and optimize airflow within the computing enclosures. Effective airflow management is essential in preventing hot spots and ensuring that cool air is efficiently delivered to where it's most needed. These accessories help to ensure that cooling efforts are not wasted and contribute to overall energy efficiency, reducing the operational costs associated with running edge computing infrastructures. 

Overall, CPI’s comprehensive approach to thermal management at the edge encompasses not just reactive elements but a robust proactive strategy that keeps edge computing systems running smoothly and sustainably. 

Effective thermal management is indispensable for the success and sustainability of edge computing infrastructures. As these systems continue to increase across diverse and often harsh environments, the ability to proactively manage and mitigate heat-related issues becomes paramount. Innovative solutions, such as those provided by Chatsworth Products, offer sophisticated tools and strategies that not only combat the adverse effects of heat but also enhance the overall efficiency and reliability of computing operations at the edge.  

By integrating advanced cooling systems, environmental monitoring, and strategic airflow management, organizations can ensure that their edge computing deployments perform optimally, even under the most challenging conditions. Embracing these proactive thermal management practices is not just a technical necessity; it's a strategic imperative that can define the future readiness and resilience of edge computing landscapes. 

Chatsworth Products provides complete enterprise and edge solutions that offer a scalable approach to ensuring faster deployment and high network availability.

Click here to learn more about our edge network solutions.  



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