Telecommunications companies today are deploying edge computing resources across their networks, with a volume and speed that reflects the urgency of an industry that wants every piece of a big, luscious pie. The revenue generated by the 5G network in 2021 will increase by 39% at $19.1 billion on their way to the estimated release of some $12.3 trillions in economic returns by 2035. It is a race to launch these networks and the prize is considerable.
5G networks can be up to a 500% faster than 4G network and support 100x increase in traffic capacity. These are massive upgrades that require fundamental changes to network architectures. Edge computing is critical to delivering on this proposition, offering the compute and storage that eliminates the backhaul latency issues inherent in reliance on a central data center. Every year, the industry invests $265 billion in R&D and capex directed to the 5G network, much of this to edge computing.
The urgency is real, but there are significant challenges in deploying these edge sites quickly and cheaply. Carriers need hundreds—and in some cases thousands—of new edge sites to fully realize the potential of their 5G networks; however, each site is different. Geography, climate, IT load and power demand, as well as myriad local and regional regulations and guidelines create architectural and engineering challenges for every site. It’s understandable that operators feel like they’re discovering warm water with each edge deployment.
That is precisely the problem we are trying to solve by introducing a set of edge infrastructure models, which were designed to simplify and standardize the design and deployment of various edge sites, including those supporting 5G networks. These models comprise the natural evolution of our originals edge archetypes, which classified various implementations in the bode based on the use case. New research goes a step further, leveraging input from professionals across various industries—including telecom operators—to define four different models for today’s edge infrastructure.
The four models are Device Edge, Microedge, Distributed Edge Data Center, and Regional Edge Data Center. On The report (registration not required) that explains our research, you can learn more about each one.
The telecommunications industry differs from most because it is both a customer of edge computing and a provider of edge facilities. As customers, telecommunications companies use micro-edge or distributed edge data centers to run their internal network functions. As providers, they invest in Data Centers for distributed edge data and offer these resources to their customers through co-location models, public cloud partnerships, and their own Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
In addition to that, telecommunications companies take advantage of cloud service providers to meet their equipment and infrastructure standardization needs. Tower companies and collocation service providers are also at the forefront, working with and for telecom operators to devise implementation for the operators, as partners, and as potential providers. It’s a complex and evolving landscape and many of these potential partners add a Regional Edge Data Center component to their network mix.
Telcos can use these models to get ahead of any new edge deployment and quickly and easily adapt their sites to the right model. In this way, the design and architectural outlines are already present and the necessary customizations can be done quickly along with other tasks. Instead of 1,000 original designs, operators can focus on one or two edge infrastructure models, making initial ordering and deployments easier, and future maintenance easier and more consistent across sites.
The models offer value for all segments of the industry, but clearly address some of the main obstacles telecom operators face when launching the 5G network, i.e. unfamiliarity with IT systems, slow planning and implementation timelines; and high cost of customization. The models allow for a kind of custom standardization desired by telcos and represent important advances in edge computing since the beginning of the edge revolution.
We’d love to hear from our friends in the telecommunications space. Which model best applies to your edge deployments, and how would you use these models to simplify your 5G network rollout?
By Scott Armul, Vice President and General Manager, DC Power at Vertiv, North America
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.