Rugged Edge Computing Solutions for Infrastructure as a Service

By Amy Goetzman | February 13, 2024

An alternative to traditional IT infrastructure enables organizations to access advanced computing resources in harsh environments or remote locations without investing in proprietary data centers. Interconnects in edge nodes transmit data without the data center.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) allows organizations to tap into scalable, high-speed networks without investing in onsite data center equipment. Instead, users can “rent” a portion of offsite servers, networks, storage, and machine capabilities from internet service providers that deliver computing services via the cloud. IaaS providers manage and maintain hardware and physical infrastructure, provide cybersecurity, and offer services such as data storage and processing, including the ability to run virtual machines. IaaS enables users to manage data remotely, an especially valuable capability for automated operations located in harsh environments.

Harsh environments, including outdoor, offshore, research, and military installations, pose numerous challenges to network and communications equipment. Maintenance in these locations is difficult, environmental conditions can degrade hardware performance and decrease longevity, and industrial sites produce shock and vibration that can impair and disrupt signals. IaaS eliminates some of these concerns by using offsite IT infrastructure for bandwidth-intensive computing functions, although onsite edge computing equipment, or nodes, are required. This equipment includes end user devices such as routers, tablets, communication devices, power systems, and network and Ethernet cabling. Sensors play an especially important role in IaaS; application-specific smart sensors can transmit data about onsite conditions to the cloud to process data and activate functions.

Phoenix Contact’s mGuard security routers

Phoenix Contact’s mGuard security routers allow remote access for automation, maintenance, and control in Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) architectures, including Phoenix Contact’s own mGuard Secure Cloud.

Phoenix Contact mGuard helps protect industrial networks from cybersecurity threats. The router includes an uncomplicated, powerful, flexible, and fast firewall.  In addition, the VPN functions (IPsec and OpenVPN Client) enable secure remote connections over the Internet for troubleshooting, maintenance, and support. The device is hardened against harsh environmental conditions and features ruggedized RJ45 ports for Ethernet in RJ45 twisted pair.

Remote industrial sites may be infrequently accessed by ground personnel, so all onsite edge computing equipment, from routers to cables, must be selected for reliability and designed with materials that resist corrosion, with secure mating and locking mechanisms, sealing strategies to resist ingress of moisture or contaminants, and shielding or hardened enclosures to protect against interference. Edge devices are also often in smaller packages, meaning high-density connectivity solutions are required — without sacrificing performance.

ATTEND's robust MXM connectors

ATTEND’s robust MXM connectors offer a high-density PCIe solution to support advanced server system architectures. These connectors serve as an interface between the carrier board and embedded GPU modules, transmitting all I/O signals. MXM interfaces are used in industrial controllers, edge computing, and edge AI accelerators.

Smarter Factories

FeatherWings are a series of stackable prototyping boards with different functions. Würth Elektronik has a range of such development boards on offer. These include sensor wings, wireless communication with WE Pro-Ware Wireless or WiFi, and various power supplies. The Sensor FeatherWing combines four sensors for temperature, absolute pressure, humidity and 3-axis acceleration, all connected via a common I²C bus.

Würth Elektronik helped a customer retrofit an operational manufacturing facility with new predictive maintenance sensor systems  — without shutting down its production line — using sensor-based edge computing technologies. The customer used the Würth Sensor FeatherWing to monitor industrial cutters, determine utilization based on current measurements, and detect potential problems with cutters before they occur. The system could be installed without downtime, and will result in less future production downtime. In addition, current measurement makes it possible to determine machine utilization and simplifies the planning process.

Smart predictive maintenance systems are especially valuable in remote and harsh environments where they can remotely report conditions and alert operators to damage or performance issues, as well as deliver accurate data to the cloud to facilitate automation, security, and reporting functions. These systems and adjacent interconnects must all be ruggedized for performance and longevity.

Six elements in a durable IaaS ecosystem

Industrial Ethernet Industrial Ethernet offers durability and resistance to environmental stressors. Features like wide temperature tolerance, shock resistance, and protection against electromagnetic interference help them endure harsh environments.

WAGO's edge devices

WAGO’s Edge Devices serve as a gateway between industrial networks, SCADA systems, and cloud services in automation environments, mobile equipment, and demanding computing operations such as applications such as AI and digital twins. These devices for edge of network computing provide low latency control and simplified connection with cloud-based services providing multiple interfaces for connection to field devices and monitors.

Outdoor Wireless Access Points Outdoor wireless access points provide Wi-Fi coverage. Cellular routers provide connectivity in areas with no traditional wired infrastructure and need robust enclosures, high ingress protection (IP) ratings, and support for various cellular technologies.

Times Microwave Systems SiO2 rigid cable assemblies

Times Microwave Systems’ SiO2 semi-rigid cable assemblies are used in applications demanding phase tracking performance in extreme environments.

Satellite Communication Systems In extremely remote areas without reliable cellular or terrestrial connectivity, satellite communication systems can be used to establish network connections. These systems include satellite modems, antennas, and associated networking equipment.

GreeneTweed’s Fiber Optic Extreme interconnects

Greene Tweed’s Fiber Optic Extreme interconnects are designed for the harshest environments, including remote operations in the oil and gas industry, subsea control systems, and ROV monitoring equipment.

Fiber Optic Cables and Connectors: Fiber optic cables are resilient to electromagnetic interference and can transmit data over long distances. Outdoor-rated and armored fiber optic cables are suitable for harsh environments, offering protection against moisture, UV radiation, and physical damage.

HARTING’s ix Industrial Ethernet connector

HARTING’s ix Industrial Ethernet connector is compact, robust, shock and vibration resistant, and has a compact IP67 aluminum housing for use in industrial and harsh environment applications. With PoE capabilities, it can reduce the number of components needed.

Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) Injectors and Extenders: PoE injectors and extenders provide power and data connectivity to devices like cameras and sensors in locations where traditional power sources may be unavailable. Ruggedized PoE solutions are designed to withstand harsh conditions and ensure reliable power delivery.

binder’s new 670/770 series cable connectors

binder’s new 670/770 series cable connectors are ruggedized for industrial applications such as sensor connections, metrology, and instrumentation. These connectors are sealed to IP67 with a protective cap.

Environmental Monitoring Systems Monitoring environmental conditions in real-time helps prevent damage to networking equipment. These systems can include sensors for temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors, providing early warnings for potential issues.

When deploying networking equipment in remote and harsh environments, it’s crucial to select products with the appropriate ruggedized features. Additionally, proper installation and maintenance practices should be followed to ensure long-term reliability in challenging conditions.

To learn more about the companies mentioned in this article, visit the Preferred Supplier pages for Attend, binder, Greene Tweed, HARTING, Phoenix Contact,  Times Microwave Systems, WAGO, Waytek, Weidmüller, and Würth Electronik.

Like this article? Check out our other Technology Trends articles, our Harsh Environment Articles, and our 2023 and 2024 Article Archives

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Amy Goetzman
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