Home Cloud Computing The Edge Files – Digital Transformation Is Out There

Regional Manager Sales and Business Development Africa & Middle-East, Pieter van der Merwe, Stratus Technologies talks about the latest campaign that highlights the revolutionary Micro Data Centre.

I was delighted to be involved in the recent recording of The Edge Files, a series to showcase the  Schneider Electric EcoStruxure Micro Data Centre (MDC) with Stratus ftServer and highlight the value to be found at the edge. Ahead of episode one, I wanted to unpack some of the themes we discussed and explain a little more about how and why this topic has become important. The series launches on 28th February, 2022 with the following episodes available weekly. Viewers will learn the rationale and driving forces behind the collaboration between Schneider Electric and Stratus, the region specific challenges of Africa and the Middle East, the value brought from each team, and ending the series will be a live demonstration.   

I’d love to know what you think about the topics – let me know if you are affected by any of the issues we discuss or if you’d like to understand better what the latest thinking and solution building might look like for your own application. I hope by the end of the series you will have a keen understanding about what an MDC can do, but more importantly, what it can do for your business. Naturally, if any of the following gives you pause for thought or you have an opinion about the best way of approaching any of the themes discussed here, feel free to get in touch through the website or my LinkedIn profile.

Critical applications are just that, critical. Any unplanned downtime can be catastrophic for a business of any sector, in pharmaceutical or brewing a server going down can lead to entire batches being lost, in retail and banking you risk losing profits for any second that a payment system isn’t working. It could be a failed Point of Sales (POS) system or a historian malfunction in a manufacturing facility, in fact, I bet everyone reading this can think of a business-critical application that is fundamental to continued operations. Losing profits isn’t the only concern, across process industries, oil and gas for the Middle East and mining for Africa, unplanned downtime can mean the difference between safe and unsafe working conditions, putting the lives of workers under unnecessary risk.

Fairly known in the IT world – a Micro Data Centre is a smaller or containerised (modular) data centre that is designed for computer workloads not requiring traditional facilities. The Schneider Electric EcoStruxure Micro Data Centre with Stratus ftServer is fully integrated, fault tolerant, and it brings traditional data centre capabilities to where it is needed, whether that is the factory floor, an offshore platform, or anything in between. This solution is tested and validated to provide Stratus’ continuous availability in an enclosed rack that is purpose-built for the rigors of an industrial environment which are remote, inhospitable, or with zero or limited IT resources.

Joint expertise

Using the Micro Data Centre with an integrated Stratus ftServer means organisations can deploy data centre power and storage locally. Including an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) and physical environmental protection from Schneider Electric, operators can reliably collect, process and store data from critical equipment and processes at the network edge. The open architectures are ideal for deployment by VARs especially system builders, system integrators, and end users looking to install micro data centre solutions. It can be used in applications like monitor and control and integrate into control rooms or command centres, it can even work alongside the world-class AVEVA software and the Unified Operations Centre. The MDC can also be utilized to consolidate advanced applications like on-prem Historians, MES/APM, Material Handling, AI/ML, and Cyber Security. It can be deployed in a variety of industries like Water Wastewater, Mining, F&B CPG, Pharmaceutical/Life Science, Power, and Oil and Gas.

With the unrivaled fault tolerance from Stratus Technologies, Schneider Electric set to work creating the fully encapsulated environment. Although smaller in size, it comes with a built-in security camera, fluid vibration and smoke sensors. This combined product could be described as a packaged ‘datacentre-in-a-box’ allowing for deployment in locations where traditional data centres cannot be deployed effectively due to the environment or the remoteness of location.    

Rohan de Beer – Channel Manager – Southern Africa
“We specialise in physical infrastructure for all sizes of data centres. Digital transformation is accelerating and data centres are the heart of it, more data will continue to flow through the heart as enormous volume and processing demand is generated by IoT technology. The EcoStruxure MDC was created with a vision of four key factors; sustainability, efficiency, adaptability, and resiliency. With the combined effort of Schneider Electric, Stratus Technologies and AVEVA, we have achieved this while creating a platform that future-proofs users as more applications move to the edge, not matter their environment or unique challenges.”

Fully monitored and protected, the all-in-one compact system has an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) to ensure operations can continue even under the worst-case scenarios. 

Micro Data Centre for region specific challenges

As a preview to the series, I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about those region-specific challenges that are pushing data centre operations to the edge, particularly the distance between the asset and the IT room. The MDC is applicable across the business landscape, but I will focus on an extreme example that is very relevant across Africa, mining. By its very nature, the sector is extremely hostile for delicate IT equipment, constant vibration and changing temperatures don’t exactly mirror the air-conditioned environment of the traditional data centre. Distance adds another issue to mining when it comes to dedicated IT expertise, mines are often difficult to reach and if operations are at a halt until help arrives there is nothing a business can do but wait. The next challenge brought on by distance is data latency. Many regions across Africa don’t have access to the levels of bandwidth needed for continuous operations, any loss of connection to the cloud can cause unplanned downtime. In mining especially, unplanned downtime can be the cause of unsafe working environments and can lead to loss of life. I appreciate that not every downtime event in every business is a life or death situation, and this is an extreme example, but it should prompt enterprise leaders to ask the question, could my business remain operational if my system goes down?

The Schneider Electric EcoStruxure Micro Data Centre solves all these distance challenges in a single enclosure, truly an Edge based Data Centre. Protected against the environmental factors, the MDC is secured against cyber-attack and even delivers the operational control room with a live video feed of who is opening the unit. The issue of bandwidth and latency is removed as operators have all the computing power they need, right where they need it. Operations can continue and in the case of unplanned downtime, nothing suffers. Applications will continue to work and essential data is stored locally.

Stay tuned

I can’t stress enough how far and wide the benefits of the Schneider Electric EcoStruxure stretch. The Micro Data Centre comes in three sizes: 6U for small applications, 12U for medium sized applications, and a 42U for large applications. It immediately provides huge benefits like 40% less field engineering time, 20% faster time-to-market, and 7% less maintenance costs. Securely collecting and analysing raw data and turning into actional information for those who need it. Business owners across Africa and the Middle East can have the collated capabilities of IT (from the traditional data centre) put directly into the hands of OT.

Stay tuned for episode one in the Edge Files, the transformation is out there, and it doesn’t have to come with costly infrastructure changes or dedicated IT staff. It is available to every business, of any size, with the Schneider Electric EcoStruxure Micro Data Centre with Stratus ftServer.


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