For the past 10+ years, IT teams have been focused on consolidating workloads within small numbers of modern, virtualized datacenters and public clouds, but the concept of edge computing is the complete opposite of that. Deploying and managing tens to thousands of sites at the network edge presents some new challenges and layers of complexity that don’t exist when deploying infrastructure in highly specialized environments like datacenters that are designed to have ideal power, cooling, and managed by a full-time staff.

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) has emerged as the preeminent data center modernization platform and is a great fit for edge due to its software-defined flexibility, building-block style scalability, and unified management (to name a few). As good as HCI is for addressing edge use cases from a compute and storage perspective, edge deployments must be looked at in a holistic manner to ensure there are no potential gaps.

Addressing gaps through ecosystem partnership and integration

Edge deployments need to be thought of as a micro datacenter, set-up as a complete and independent IT environment to ensure always-on operations.  You need to build up a complete stack for each site to provide proper compute and storage resources, secure connectivity, and address physical security and ensure it has reliable power – all while ensuring each site is optimized for low touch resilient operations. Ecosystem partnership and interoperability between multiple vendors’ products become increasingly important to ensure continuity being there is limited or no on-site support.

Cisco and Schneider Electric have a long history of partnership in the datacenter, but the unique requirements of edge deployments continue to demonstrate the value of our partnership.  In my previous blog titled Cisco and Schneider Electric Simplify Edge Computing, I discussed how we’re partnering to deliver complete turnkey Micro Datacenter Solutions, but we haven’t stopped there.

Introducing the Embedded Local Witness for 2-Node clusters

I’m excited to announce an industry first – the Embedded Local Witness for 2-node HyperFlex Edge clusters, an innovation made possible through joint engineering between Cisco and Schneider Electric.

When we brought 2-node HyperFlex Edge to market, we introduced the Invisible Cloud Witness, which utilizes a SaaS delivery model through Cisco Intersight to eliminate the cost and complexity of hosting a VM or dedicated witness appliance in the datacenter or co-location. While the Invisible Cloud Witness simplifies 2-node operations and reduces both CapEx and OpEx costs, it still relies on WAN connectivity to ensure cluster operation.  The new Embedded Local Witness runs within the enclosure on the APC UPS Network Management card to provide the on-prem resiliency of a 3-node cluster without the need for consistent WAN connectivity.  This new option will still allow IT teams to leverage Intersight for remote install and management of HyperFlex Edge clusters but will decouple cluster availability to solve for deployment locations like ships, oil rigs, and very remote locations where connectivity is not always available.

Certified integration with APC PowerChute Network Shutdown

Reliable power is a foundation to any datacenter, but edge clusters are often deployed in locations not designed for IT infrastructure. While the HyperFlex Data Platform offers a strict data consistency model that is engineered to be resilient enough to handle a sudden loss of power, a graceful shutdown is always preferred by applications.  For this reason, Cisco has worked with Schneider Electric to certify APC PowerChute Network Shutdown for HyperFlex Edge. Running as a VM, PowerChute gracefully shuts down a HyperFlex Edge cluster when the APC Network Management Card in the uninterruptable power supply (UPS) senses a power outage protecting both data and cluster hardware from damage from a sudden shutdown. When power is restored, PowerChute powers up the HyperFlex Edge cluster, and its workloads.

Final thoughts

In an increasingly digitally driven world, edge computing has become top of mind for many businesses today. Application experience and enhanced digital services are have become the new battleground of product differentiation, and improving operations by converging Information Technology and Operational Technology (IT and OT) are driving the critical need to move compute and storage resources closer to the source of consumption and data generation.

Edge deployments do not have to be complex. Cisco and Schneider Electrics ecosystem partnership is enabling us to deliver end-to-end turnkey solutions. You get predictable results, very low-touch operations with each site.

To learn more about Cisco HyperFlex visit: www.cisco.com/go/hyperflex

New Cisco HyperFlex innovations: Software-only version, new Kubernetes, storage and edge solutions