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Is liquid the answer to security at the edge?

David Craig, CEO at Iceotope explores how liquid could be the answer to securing the edge.

For those meeting edge computing infrastructure requirements, security issues at the edge are not restricted to being able to operate in harsh environments and remote locations.

The physical and operational security provided by sealed, low maintenance infrastructure is an absolute necessity, which address space constraints and autonomous operation. Edge design must provide efficient and secure performance across a range of locations where traditional IT has never operated before.

Shifting critical infrastructure from traditional highly secure non-descript data centres located in compounds protected by double fenced razor wire topped perimeters, full security camera coverage, 24/7 on site security guards, crash barriers, border force level infrastructure with non-tailgating access is risky.

However, a new breed of data centres is being deployed outside traditional physical security perimeters to serve the need for processing, storage and sharing of data close to where it is generated and consumed in retail outlets, factories, offices and on the roads.

Instead of only tens or hundreds of giant data centres being operated and secured we will live in a world where hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of data centres will run at the edge. These sites will need to be made as secure as possible.

All of this is being driven by digital transformation of manufacturing processes, consumer behaviour which moves seamlessly between the digital and the physical, IoT and sensor data generation and of course the expected rise in data traffic as 5G coverage extends globally.

Automation is changing every business. Robotic process automation is changing office work by digitising repetitive tasks. In manufacturing it improves industrial robots, whilst AI and ML and RL (re-enforced learning) are improving productivity and streamlining operations across multiple industries.

Sensors monitoring the operation of manufacturing plant or processing industry productivity will use small edge data centres located nearby. Smart autonomous vehicles will capture and generate large data volumes but will pass on small data sets to local data centres.

Retailers are looking to optimise supply chains and logistics allowing shoppers using mobile VR and AR to make in-shop purchasing decisions and have their goods waiting for them when they return home. The world is embracing digitisation and there are many emerging use cases.

Depending on the exact nature of the deployment this points to a range of related but different security challenges for anyone installing and operating digital infrastructure.

Early edge data centre concepts were simply attempts to shrink down a giant data centre, which uses air movement for cooling, into a physically micro footprint. This type of design is impractical and insecure by the very nature of its key components, chiefly air-cooling technology.

Iceotope’s sealed unit technology for edge environments protects vital IT infrastructure from the chip to the chassis to the shell. Inside the sealed unit, security layers protect highly dense system-on-chip architectures, GPUs, edge storage flash, network, IoT sensors and industrial embedded technologies.

Secure units sit inside many different physical shell form factors whether standard or bespoke including physically secure shipping containers. They can be fitted in harsh factory floor environments, in public areas and where physical space is constrained.

Operationally, Iceotope’s chassis-level immersion liquid cooling has many advantages over traditional air cooling. It eliminates the threat of air particulate contamination – it also raises security resilience by doing away with many moving and fixed parts such as fans and filters which are prone to failure and require increased maintenance through regular servicing. Human Interventions are a major cause of system vulnerability, which increase points of failure.

If you want to hide a tree – put it in a forest, is good advice. But if your tree is noisy and buzzing it probably won’t take too long to find. Reduction or elimination of air movement devices allows silent edge data centres to be developed, which increases the anonymity and adds to physical security.

There is no escaping malice and misadventure and edge computing will attract criminal behaviour from bad actors, whether for gain or vandalism. When asked why he robbed banks, gangster Willie Sutton reportedly said, “Because that’s where the money is.”

Current events demonstrate that edge is becoming critical infrastructure and therefore demands better physical and operational design and security than that afforded your average public telephone box, if you can find one.

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