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Addressing Edge Computing’s Unanticipated Risks

Addressing Edge Computing’s Unanticipated Risks

From ASHRAE Journal Newsletter, October 13, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased traffic in edge computing, which supports eCommerce, online meetings, online learning, telemedicine, streaming and more, said Don Beaty, P.E., Fellow/Life Member. Amid the increased traffic, ASHRAE Technical Committee 9.9, Mission Critical Facilities, Data Centers, Technology Spaces and Electronic Equipment, has addressed the unanticipated risks associated with edge computing design and operation through a new technical bulletin, “Edge Computing: Considerations for Reliable Operation.”

Before the publication of this technical bulletin in late September, edge computing/digital infrastructure had no global, unified source for environmental conditions, said Beaty, who is the first chair (2004) of TC 9.9. Organized to be easy, fast reading, the overall intent for the technical bulletin is to initially inform readers and then serve as a quick reference guide, he said.

Edge computing spaces can be as a small as a single enclosure, said Beaty. There are many definitions of edge computing, which challenged the TC to find a definition broad enough to be sufficiently universal, he said. For the purposes of this paper, “edge” refers to computing that is carried out at or near the source of the data, Beaty said.

“There is inadequate awareness of the information technology equipment (ITE) increased risk in edge computing,” he said.

A major risk in edge computing is that it can expose ITE to adverse environmental conditions that compromise reliability and uptime, said Jon Fitch, Member ASHRAE, lead author of the technical bulletin. In collaboration with leading ITE manufacturers, TC 9.9 carried out years of research and development on best practices to mitigate risks, Fitch said.

Beaty said the new technical bulletin provides critical insight into the ITE increased risk. For example, the risk varies from minimal to very significant, depending on location and conditions (air quality, access, seasonal wind, etc.). The technical bulletin incorporates provisions to mitigate those conditions through design and operations that can make a big difference, he said. Provisions such as mantrap at entrance and temporary tent.

The technical bulletin also addresses ASHRAE’s commissioning guideline, which emphasizes the importance of owner’s project requirements (OPR) and basis of design (BOD) agreements. For edge computing, it is particularly important to have a well vetted OPR/BOD, because it is important to identify how it will be operated and how excursions will be addressed, said Beaty.

TC 9.9 published another groundbreaking and foundational resource in 2004: the first edition of Thermal Guidelines for Data Processing Environments. Before, there was no global, unified source for environmental conditions, and data centers relied on recommendations for each IT manufacturer, said Beaty. The book provides guidelines for ITE and defines both a “recommended environmental range” and “allowable environmental envelope.”

ASHRAE TC 9.9 is composed of industry representatives, including equipment manufacturers, consulting engineers, data center operators, academia, testing laboratories, and government officials.

To download a free PDF of the full Technical Bulletin, visit