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How the move to Edge Cloud will support the rollout of 5G

How the move to Edge Cloud will support the rollout of 5G

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Edge Computing has become increasingly popular as business leaders look to modernise their network infrastructure, resulting in a spike in demand for data centres across the globe. Jürgen Hatheier, Chief Technology Officer, EMEA at Ciena, says that in the next five years, we will see tens of thousands of additional scaled-down data centres at the edge of the network – forming the Edge Cloud.

The anticipation and excitement for 5G in the UK continues to reach new heights. 5G promises much faster speeds, far more connected devices and a plethora of new services that require significantly lower latency. 5G will fuel advancements in cloud gaming, IoT services, rich AR and VR experiences, e-learning and so much more. It is also predicted to power Industry 4.0 – the connected manufacturing revolution – promising to significantly improve the way we conduct business. All of this means more data traversing across the network. In fact, the GSMA recently predicted that by 2025, 5G networks will account for as many as 1.2 billion connections, bringing in a new era in which connectivity will become more fluid and flexible. However, none of this is possible without the help of data centres – particularly Edge data centres which will play a pivotal role in the 5G experience.

Edge Cloud as a critical component in advanced 5G networks

The Edge Cloud ecosystem consists of open and interconnected data centres that can reside at any number of network locations, depending on the quality of experience (QoE) expectations and resource requirements for a given application. In a nutshell, Edge Cloud is about bringing the data centre physically closer to end-users, humans and machines, encompassing commodity-off-the-shelf compute and storage components coupled to highly scalable and programmable networking components. The location of the Edge Cloud will vary depending on the perspective of an end-user, network provider, or hyperscale Internet content provider.

Regardless of the location, whether on or off-premises when data centres are at ‘the edge’, they enable networks to support 5G and adapt to the needs of users, securely and in real time.

Satisfying today’s digital-first lifestyle

Today’s consumer wants the best possible digital experience, whether it’s streaming live video content, multi-user online gaming or Smart City and home applications. In addition, it is also important to note that there are business drivers as well with enterprises looking to automate their operations or looking for ways to enhance customer experiences.

All of this expected growth in data means that traditional centralised cloud architectures alone will not meet the surging data requirements of 5G. Edge Cloud is the way forward for businesses and network providers seeking to improve their operations and to stay on top.

For all of this to become mainstream, these applications, processes and services need a dependable, reliable 5G network, and a key enabler of delivering these services is through Edge data centres.

Ultimately, a distributed cloud model will result in an estimated three-times as many data centres at the network edge and will require the entire cloud ecosystem to think differently about the role of network connectivity.  

Enabling a new world of connectivity

As aforementioned, 5G will power a variety of exciting, new low latency services. The cloud gaming industry is a key example which requires far lower latency because this type of gaming reaches its optimal performance when running on remote servers. Hence, servers in Edge Cloud data centres would be ideal because gamers would no longer have to worry about buffering and lagging issues. In addition, in a cloud gaming scenario, gamers would no longer require dedicated hardware, such as a traditional gaming console. They would continue to play their games using gaming controllers, but they would be connected to a gaming app on their device of choice. In an Edge Computing model, gaming videos could now be streamed to the gamer’s device from a server in an Edge Compute data centre. To match the performance of a local gaming set-up, both the low latency of these connections and the required bandwidth of gaming video, increasingly 4K, must be served from the cloud edge.

IoT services also require low latency and high network performance, particularly when it concerns smart manufacturing, as companies want to reduce manufacturing defects and maximise the safety of workers. For example, with a 5G network, a manufacturer can improve factory productivity by adding thousands of sensors to machines so that it can remotely monitor the status on the supply chain and assembly line. This has become even more important now that we have entered this new COVID-19 world where more businesses are looking at remote processes to help improve efficiencies.

E-learning is another key use case to watch out for. At the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, many schools and educational institutions had to make an unplanned and swift move to digital learning and tackle bandwidth and latency issues. Fast forward to now, students have headed back to school in-person. Although, the uncertainty of this pandemic could mean that educational institutions could once again become heavily reliant on e-learning resources and collaborative communications platforms. If this happens, institutions and schools will  demand their student’s data be hosted at the edge to address privacy and security concerns.

Establishing an adaptive network to support Edge Cloud

Currently, today’s centralised cloud is comprised of more than 10,000 data centres scattered across the globe. In the next five years, we will see tens of thousands of additional scaled-down data centres at the edge of the network – forming the Edge Cloud. In fact, the annual global Edge data centre services market is expected to increase by more than US$7 billion by 2024, according to ResearchAndMarkets.com. This shift means data centre numbers will explode across the globe, with thousands of Edge data centres set to rollout. 

This data centre expansion also needs to be supported by advanced networking and software capabilities. Automation and analytics will play an important role, particularly because the automation of Edge Cloud workloads allows applications, processes and services to meet demands in real time. Not only that, but predictive and Big Data analytics will enable networks to become more efficient and smarter to the point that they start to anticipate network demands before requests are even made. 

As the UK continues to prepare for the rollout of 5G, data centre expansion should be at the forefront of the conversation. With Edge data centres supporting 5G networks, we will be able to achieve the speeds and bandwidth it is set to promise. And, if network providers and cloud providers – even uniquely designed Edge Cloud-only providers – get this right, it will become a key growth driver for our industry. The business impact will be in the trillions of dollars. And how we function at home and at work-at-home, on the factory floor or in the vehicle, will become a much more immersive and productive experience. 

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