How to Protect Hybrid IT Infrastructure Against Physical and Environmental Threats

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Edge deployments have significantly changed the power and cooling dynamics across geographically dispersed data processing environments. Unlike large data centers, the edge can be anything — as small as a single rack enclosure that holds one or more servers or a manufacturing warehouse storing critical information technology equipment (ITE) in a LAN room.

While software-defined data centers, supported by sophisticated power and cooling infrastructure, operate in a controlled environment, these unsupervised edge outposts, outfitted with off-the-shelf IT equipment, lie in less-than-ideal conditions, often close to the outdoors.

Despite the fact that the edge is a crucial enabler for telemedicine, video streaming, remote learning and much more, the IT equipment is often housed under suboptimal conditions, exposing it to harsher external environment hazards such as rapid temperature changes, humidity, industrial pollutants, smoke, fire and more; risking the reliability and fault tolerance of hybrid IT infrastructure.

ASHRAE, a global professional society focused on advancing innovations across heating, ventilation, air conditioning in all industries, posits that edge data centers face higher risk levels than well-managed data centers. In a technical bulletin published in October 2020, ASHRAE member and lead author Jon FitchOpens a new window lays bare the inadequacies in edge computing — a game-changing paradigm meant to further digital growth across all industries.1

According to Fitch, “A major risk in edge computing is that it can expose information technology equipment to adverse environmental conditions that compromise reliability and uptime.”

Without question, as the hybrid IT footprint grows, so does the need for monitoring the conditions in which equipment is housed and operated.

Further, the network-critical physical infrastructure (NCPI) layer — power, cooling, rack access, cabling and security, is relatively undervalued in enterprise IT compared to its high-tech hardware peers like servers, storage and networking gear. But its interconnectedness shows a clear need for an efficient, fully automated web-based approach to keep IT environments in an optimal and secure state, without staff ever leaving home.

Edge Computing Is Changing the Game

Within the next few years, a lot will change in edge computing. By 2023, 50% of new enterprise IT infrastructure deployed will be at the edge rather than in corporate data centers, predicts IDC.2 This necessitates the need for sound physical IT infrastructure – the foundation for processing and storage.

The 2020 edition of the State of the Edge report reveals more than $700 billion will be spent on edge IT infrastructure and data center facilities.3 The report spotlights “the value proposition for the infrastructure edge is expected to accelerate once the edge transitions from user-specific to platform-centric architectures after the 2024 timeframe.”

This data point clearly signals edge equipment density shall increase, placing an additional burden on IT and facility managers. In the not too distant future, the rise of edge architecture will lead to a new type of IT environment, characterized by distributed IT resources in remote locations, where technical staff can’t be present on-site 24/7 to troubleshoot issues in essential gear.

That’s why embedding physical IT infrastructure with intelligent environmental and security monitoring is critical to elevate operational efficiency, right-size equipment, optimize energy consumption and reduce unplanned shutdowns.

Environmental and Physical Security Risks at the Edge

There are several factors at play that affect the reliability and uptime of hybrid IT infrastructure.

1. Limited floor space: Remote edge sites, such as warehouses, plant floors, retail stores or branch offices, aren’t always well-planned to accommodate high-end technology equipment. Smaller spaces also often lack the floor space to properly deploy and manage valuable IT equipment, such as servers, routers and storage gear. In uncontrolled edge environments, this space constraint can significantly affect the power dissipation capacity of devices, hobbling IT’s power management strategy. This is because the heat generated at each step requires additional cooling power. To offset the heat, cooling fans in physical IT equipment such as UPS systems and servers kick into high gear to cool devices. But over time, this can wear down the hardware, shortening its lifespan.

2. Temperature: While edge deployments, purpose-built for specific use cases, bring game-changing benefits of speed and scale to the forefront, they have also created other challenges. For instance, to cut down on the number of racks being used, IT professionals tend to pack each cabinet with as much computing resources as possible to increase the raw processing power. This can lead to excessive temperature intake, raising the possibility of hardware degradation and even causing a service outage. Another critical consideration is that edge infrastructure is tailored as per the application requirements and may lack sophisticated cooling racks or modules, making it difficult to maintain environmental efficiency in smaller, condensed IT environments.

So when the operating temperature exceeds the particular threshold within the server rack (e.g., above 80°F), it can cause overheating. Over the long haul, exposure to warmer temperatures can affect the reliability and lifespan of essential hardware such as servers, UPS battery backup, electrical switches and more. Enterprise IT gear comes with low and high-temperature ratings, but working under suboptimal conditions from the ones recommended by the manufacturer can cause equipment failure without warranty repairs. Hence, IT managers need to monitor various physical factors like power consumption, heat dissipation and inadequate cooling to build resilience at the edge. Per the State of the Edge report, the IT power footprint of edge computing infrastructure in North America will reach 14508MW by 2028 and account for 21% of the global edge footprint.

3. Humidity and condensation: Meanwhile, another important environmental consideration is high humidity and condensation levels that place additional demand for environmental monitoring across dispersed hybrid IT infrastructure. Especially in small LAN rooms and cabinets, the air moisture content building up within devices can lead to mold, corrosion, electrical short-circuits, and even potential system downtime. Maintaining the ideal relative humidity (RH) level, between 40% and 60%, is crucial for device longevity and reliability.

4. Physical security: Another focal point for IT managers is to ensure that critical assets and digital services are well protected against unauthorized access and unintentional human errors that can result in data loss and downtime. Because edge locations are often remote and disconnected, this increases the necessity for higher quality, integrated video surveillance systems to rule out any unusual activity and outages in “lights-off” edge environments out of bounds to IT staff. With an integrated environmental and security monitoring solution that offers the flexibility of video surveillance and event correlation, IT can monitor and get a real picture of a specific incident happening in real-time, hone in on video data for analysis, and quickly identify risks to minimize its impact. For example, in the face of an unforeseen outage, IT can use the video audit trail to get accurate details that led to downtime. Besides enhancing security, real-time monitoring and video surveillance down to the individual rack level enable IT managers to avoid accidental human errors caused by staff or contractors, ensuring IT gear is protected at all times and maintaining a smooth audit trail for compliance.

NetBotz & EcoStruxure IT Expert

It all starts with a better understanding of the room and rack-level environment, which underpins the business continuity of your edge infrastructure.

Fortunately, maintaining optimal environmental security across distributed, hybrid IT infrastructure doesn’t require an entirely new approach. By using a practical environmental and monitoring solution that has already proven successful in large data centers and remote edge sites, IT can centralize, secure and remotely monitor the NCPI layer — the foundational layer that lies below the server and storage infrastructure.

A viable option is the NetBotz product lineOpens a new window , Schneider Electric’s integrated security and environmental solution with built-in sensors that can harness critical information from network-connected devices such as remote network closets and densely packed racks or wiring closets. The solution allows IT to monitor even the most distant edge sites through EcoStruxure IT ExpertOpens a new window — a secure, cloud-based end-to-end monitoring and management software that centralizes the management of NetBotz appliances deployed across various locations.

The NetBotz appliance is designed to accommodate varying need levels — from a single rack enclosure to a five-rack server room and enables IT to prevent disruptions from reaching their edge IT infrastructure. The sensors collect a range of data on temperature, heat index, humidity, dew points, fluid leaks, dust, smoke, and other environmental parameters and issue alerts when any element exceeds the threshold. This, in turn, reduces the possibility of system downtime, increases the lifespan of business-critical equipment and lowers the total cost of ownership (TCO) across their hybrid IT infrastructure.

The NetBotz appliance gives IT several advantages:

  • NetBotz appliances, available in wall-mount and rack-mount form factors connect to existing IP networks and with a framework of sensors, cameras and access controls provide granular monitoring capabilities into all aspects of the IT environment.
  • EcoStruxure IT ExpertOpens a new window , Schneider Electric’s award-winning vendor-agnostic platform, provides IT admins a single pane of glass into all connected NetBotz appliances and helps them troubleshoot alarms quickly. Real-time monitoring places data at the fingertips of IT admins who need to make more informed decisions to better control the facility’s environment precisely and manage physical infrastructure.
  • With the pay-as-you-go EcoStruxure IT Expert, IT can access the live sensor and device data on any device via the smartphone and respond to environmental and physical threats in real-time without having to worry about ripping and replacing critical equipment. Further, by drilling down into customizable dashboards, IT admins can analyze data collected from sensor networks deployed across multiple, even the most difficult-to-reach locations and check heat, humidity and other sensitive environmental factors.
  • Third-party sensor integration for equipment like chillers and generators gives IT customized alerts and notifications on conditions like fuel level, gas detection, flow rate and much more. Additionally, real-time video surveillance allows IT to prevent any physical attack against assets, minimize thefts and reduce the risks of accidental human errors.
  • NetBotz appliances also reduce the need to deploy other hardware for alerts, environmental sensors, and access control, increasing overall efficiency and lowering operating costs. Plus, the environmental and surveillance portfolio scales easily across multiple locations anywhere across the world. As your business grows, IT managers can extend monitoring and management across remote facilities simply by increasing the number of surveillance points and sensors as per the requirements.


No matter what industry they operate in, IT decision makers (ITDMs) managing hybrid architectures have similar goals — near-continuous uptime, high network availability and energy efficiency across centralized data centers and unsupervised edge computing locations. They’re also well aware that any downtime due to environmental and safety conditions can cause a ripple effect across edge ecosystems, leading to loss of productivity and missed revenue opportunities in an always-connected world.

To be on the leading edge, ITDMs should leverage the industry-leading solution from Schneider Electric, a leader in monitoring and maintaining critical (physical) infrastructure. As organizations lay the groundwork for edge architecture, an integrated environmental security monitoring solution like NetBotz from an established vendor can help them overcome the physical limitations of the edge deployment, optimize capacity management and move from a CapEx to the more predictable OpEx model.

1 Addressing Edge Computing’s Unanticipated Risks |, 2020Opens a new window
2 Edge Computing Solutions Powering the Fourth Industrial Revolution | IDCOpens a new window
3 State of the Edge 2020: A Market and Ecosystem Report for Edge Computing, 2020Opens a new window