How 5G and data
centers at the edge
can help improve
operational efficiency

Author: Keith Shaw

The continuing popularity of cloud computing—which has an annual growth rate of 16.3% according to MarketsandMarkets—is putting pressure on the data center industry to efficiently manage this growth.

Combining 5G and data centers at the edge can enable industries to tap into the low latency, high speeds and the massive bandwidth that 5G can offer so that they can leverage multi-access edge computing (MEC) and Internet of Things (IoT) technology to make their operations more efficient.

Challenges for cloud data centers

The data center industry is facing a number of challenges to the efficiency of its operations:

  • Increased demand for fast processing and low latency. Newer technologies such as autonomous vehicles, industrial robotics and crowd analytics not only require more processing power but also need near-instantaneous communication between sensors and computers. This poses a challenge to traditional data centers, which may be located thousands of miles away from the source of the data.
  • Rising costs. According to Advance Market Analytics, rising costs are a significant challenge for data center managers. Recent increases in the price of electricity have been particularly challenging for the industry, with some overseas centers going into administration.
  • Security and government regulations limit data movement. Some organizations that generate secure or private data do not want to move this data across public networks, opting instead for a private network.

Edge data centers

Traditional data centers may be located at a considerable distance from a device, which can create network latency. This slows the performance of an application and can cause frustration from end users that can't get sufficiently fast responses to their mobile device requests. New distributed computing architectures, such as MEC, can move many data center functions to the edge of the network in order to get closer to the end devices (whether it's a mobile device, robot or IoT sensor). These are known as edge data centers.

According to PwC, 5G is a key trend driving the creation of a "decentralized small cell network of edge data centers to provide low cost, low latency support for high device density" use cases.

Benefits of 5G and data centers at the edge

Moving technology resources, such as compute and related infrastructure, closer to the edge where data is generated can greatly improve performance for workload tasks that require low latency. A 5G network can also allow new technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), to be deployed at the edge, offering new actionable insights and fast decision-making.

There are several benefits that utilizing 5G and data centers at the edge could provide:

  • Reduced latency enables the delivery of mission-critical services that require ultra-reliable, low-latency communication (URLLC), according to 5G Americas.
  • Massive bandwidth could support the deployment of massive IoT initiatives to further drive advanced analytics and AI programs.
  • Better compute availability and security for remote locations can provide local processing and storage functions to secure data or keep it within regulatory guidelines.
  • Instead of massive amounts of data traversing a network, network traffic can be minimized so a 5G data center at the edge can process most of the data, reducing the amount of data (and costs) that moves across a wide-area network.
  • Energy consumption for endpoint devices could be lowered by removing compute power requirements. This could enable new devices, such as lightweight augmented reality or virtual reality headsets, to be developed at a lower cost since the compute power would be handled through an edge data center environment.

The possibilities of a 5G data center

By moving many processes to the edge, a company's traditional data center can then be freed up to process and compute non-latency required tasks, including bulk or batch processes, or business intelligence analysis that requires large amounts of processing power and data storage. The combination of a 5G data center with a traditional cloud-computing environment offers companies innovative processing at the edge and processing performance for advanced analytics in the cloud.

Learn more about how 5G and data centers can improve edge operations.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.