For advanced applications like AI, speed absolutely counts. And that’s why a new concept in data centres is emerging, providing organisations with the ability to put the processing where it’s needed.
By BS Teh
With the imminent introduction of 5G cellular connectivity in the country and the emergence of specialised data centres at the edge, new possibilities are emerging in how data can be turned into the information advantage. With the growing prevalence of bandwidth-hungry applications and technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) in its many forms, and simple reliance on connectivity for everyone, it becomes clear why a sharper focus on the edge is inevitable.
For advanced applications like AI, speed absolutely counts. And that’s why a new concept in data centres is emerging, providing organisations with the ability to put the processing where it’s needed. Where many cloud data centres are centralised ‘hyperscale’ facilities, the edge is powered by micro-modular data centres.
These are what they look like: a small self-contained ‘block’ of data processing compute and storage capabilities co-located with existing infrastructure. Cellular towers, for example, are ideal locations not only because they typically can accommodate a micro-modular data centre, but also because they are the literal ‘infrastructure edge’ and therefore the very definition of the ‘last mile’ in connectivity. Imagine, every time there is a ‘hop’ from one network to another (and there might be hundreds of hops between you and a hyperscale data centre), delays occur. This round trip creates latency.
But not when the computing is right there at the edge. The selection of appropriate micro-modular equipment warrants a word. Unlike the hyperscale data centres, these devices must go where no data centre has gone before. That means suitable design, including provision for little or no touch maintenance, dynamic provisioning (to cope with potentially unpredictable flows of data), and the necessary computing power and data storage hardware for high performance that avoids latency. And of course, impenetrable security.
The India situation
While India is home to the world’s second largest Internet user base, the country’s internet speeds remain substantially below its peers’. As a matter of fact, India’s mobile internet and fixed broadband speeds dropped three ranks globally in June to 74th and 126th position respectively, compared to 111th and 56th respectively in July last year, according to a recent report by Ookla. In the light of this, the probability of an ‘edge traffic jam’ is obvious. Some businesses are probably facing with the issue already.
But the onset of 5G offers a glimmer of hope. In February last year, India’s first 5G lab trial was conducted during which a user throughput of 3 Gbps was achieved. As per industry estimates, the next generation wireless technology will deliver 10 times faster speeds and will connect billions of new devices to the internet, which in turn will transform a wide range of services and industries. In fact, according to an Indian government appointed committee, the total economic impact from 5G in India can exceed $1 trillion by 2035.
It is clear that coupled with edge computing which brings immediacy to data processing, 5G has the potential to deliver the massive speeds demanded by a multitude of connected devices and complex applications powered by ubiquitous sensors.
The edge in context
As has always been the case for enterprise storage, the information generated by the edge devices and data centres will be tiered. It starts at the edge and will eventually offload to the ‘mother ship’ of the hyperscale data centre, where as its value decays it will be stored on assets of the appropriate performance and cost. Companies today need to examine how and where edge computing can add value in their businesses, understanding how they can tie in some of the recent developments in technology, including automation and AI. It’s all about understanding how the edge can work for you.
The writer is senior vice president- global sales & sales operations, Seagate Technology