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What to know about managing power for edge devices

Keeping edge devices powered constantly can present challenges in sourcing and managing it. Learn the basics of getting and keeping power at the edge.

IT admins in charge of edge projects don't always understand the scale and scope of power resources edge devices require. Certain locations -- such as manufacturing sites, warehouses or hospitals -- already possess robust power systems on site. However, other edge locations, such as pipeline inspections and mining operations, must more carefully source and manage power for devices.

Organizations should consider both obtaining and maintaining power in edge locations, and carefully consider the setup of edge power systems accordingly.

Powering edge devices

The best place to start when it comes to powering the edge is with wired on-site AC or DC power.

"Batteries are always an option for certain network edge needs. However, batteries are often problematic and do not last forever," said Ron Howell, managing network architect at Capgemini, an IT consulting company.

For outdoor network edge installations, organizations can also consider solar electrical power. However, solar power's efficacy depends on the type of edge device and the device's electrical current draw requirements. Simplicity leads to reliability. Complicated power setups have a higher rate of failure, and as a result, system availability can go down.

Another emerging edge power option is tapping into the overcapacity of 5G networks. Organizations can use a Rotman lens-based rectifying antenna for millimeter-wave harvesting at 28 GHz. The innovation could help decrease reliance on batteries for charging devices. This turns 5G networks into a wireless power grid that can power edge and IoT devices.

Power storage

"When managing power for edge devices, always assume your primary power will fail and make sure you have a backup," said George Burns, a senior consultant at SPR, a Chicago-based consulting firm.

Organizations should design power control systems to manage themselves locally, write their state information remotely and then monitor that state information. Local control enables those devices to continue functioning without network connectivity. In addition, requiring a device to record its state history can provide insights into degradation and restoration processes or trigger alerts for repair or remediation.

The amount of electrical energy edge devices require depends on the size and type of device. Common edge devices come in a variety of sizes and vary widely in their power requirements. For example, a typical internet closed circuit television (CCTV) camera consumes between 4 watts to 15 watts of power per day, but the digital video recorder connected to that CCTV camera consumes 10 to 40 watts. Other common edge devices include routers, routing switches, integrated access devices, multiplexers and a variety of metropolitan area network and wide area network access devices.

Maintaining power at the edge, therefore, depends on the type of edge device just as much as obtaining that power in the first place. Hospitals and manufacturing sites often already have uninterrupted power supplies and backup generators to ensure resilient power. For more remote locations, as business and operations increasingly become digital-first, they require more resilient power and connectivity.

Tracking and managing edge device power

Organizations track energy usage through the site battery management system or data center infrastructure management. Hardware OEMs also have tools that create transparency into energy usage.

As sustainability reporting becomes more commonplace, we will see more attention on energy consumption but today, most of the attention is on energy capacity," said Jennifer Cooke, research director at IDC.

Automation tools can provide increased control and improved power efficiency, especially in times of high power draw. Such tools and applications can be found in places such as 5G base stations, data centers, automobiles and the internet of things.

"Many of the best practices we use to manage electrical power solutions for edge network solutions and other network connected solutions are found in automation tools such as an [electrical power management system]," Howell said.

The best tool for power management, however, is preparation. Organizations should remain on alert for power failure and ready to quickly replace any failed nodes.

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