Protecting outdoor edge computing equipment

Eaton Electrical (Australia) Pty Ltd
By Chris Barson, Eaton Product Manager - PQ/Telecom DC
Wednesday, 01 September, 2021

From cellular networks to mine sites, from transport infrastructure to oil and gas processing and distribution, increasing digitalisation is leading to an increasing need for computing capabilities in remote and outdoor locations. Referred to as ‘edge computing’, the processing of data from Internet of Things (IoT) devices tends to be performed closer to where those end devices access the network, pre-processing the data to reduce the latency in moving large amounts of data from the outdoor or remote location to a distant data centre, private network or the cloud.

Since so many of these technologies are deployed outdoors or in otherwise hostile environments, the requirement for quality, secure, sealed and rugged outdoor enclosures, with a reliable and secure power supply, becomes obvious.

A quality outdoor marine-grade aluminium cabinet or enclosure will fully seal the critical equipment and backup power system against ingress of weather, dust and insects, and also secure the internal equipment from access by non-authorised personnel.

Providing a good strong box is not enough

Maintaining the sealed environment of the enclosure, to ensure the critical equipment can be protected in any and all conditions over a long period of time, is not always as simple as putting the equipment into a sealed box. For example, a regular enclosure when placed into direct sun, will have a very significant heat rise even before the equipment is powered on, which can quickly lead to the equipment shutting down or even failing entirely.

Properly engineered outdoor enclosures for edge computing and similar applications will take into consideration the material of the enclosure for a long life, with shielding to mitigate radiant heat from the harsh summer sun. It may also include built-in self-cooling systems such as air-conditioning or high efficiency heat exchangers, and even the type and colour of external paint to be used can be important.

Eaton’s solution

To meet the protection needs of edge computing technology deployed outdoors, Eaton has developed the ExoCab Outdoor Enclosure range of IP rated cabinets that can be used to protect vital computing, telecommunication and DC power or UPS equipment in challenging outdoor environments. Easily adapted to specific needs, these are cases that help protect remote networks and related equipment with minimal external support to ensure that they’re up and running around the clock.

Constructed from marine-grade aluminium and stainless steel for long life in harsh environments, they come in a range of sizes supporting 18U – 42U of space. They typically come provided with an anti-graffiti paint finish as standard.

Cooling options

The basic Standard option provides a fully sealed cabinet in which Internal air is circulated by fans, and heat is dissipated through the walls. These cabinets are maintenance-free and are recommended for low power equipment (typically 200W heat load). In these cases, the internal temperature will be equal to or higher than ambient.

The Vented option allows for higher heat dissipation. They are also low cost and air filters offer some protection from contaminants, though the filters will need periodic cleaning and replacement. They are recommended for cleaner environments, and where the cabinet’s internal temperature will be close to ambient.

For increased power needs (200–2500W heat load), the Heat Exchanger option provides full environmental protection. This option has a very low energy cost and near zero maintenance; however the internal temperature will be equal to or higher than ambient.

The Air Conditioner option provides a fully sealed cabinet with a stable internal temperature and high power dissipation rating. It can work in a wide range of ambient temperatures and offers a high degree of protection from environmental contaminants. Air-conditioned cabinets are typically utilised with highly sensitive customer equipment.

Made to order

Eaton ExoCab systems are engineered or configured to order based on specification. The selected solution will be based on environmental conditions at the site (temperature, dust, water, noise), internal equipment specifications (temperature range, lifetime, heat losses), mechanical restrictions (dimensions, rack space), and the electrical requirements (AC, DC, run time and power consumption).

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