After what seems like an eternity, 5G has arrived – and with its much-anticipated speed and low-latency performance, comes a range of exciting cloud computing developments. The impact of 5G on the creation, storage, use and exchange of data will be felt across a range of sectors, particularly the Internet of Things (IoT), AI, and machine learning. As innovation evolves and creates more opportunities for technologically-driven digital business transformation, 5G promises to shift the current role that cloud computing and networks play in the storage, transfer and accessibility of data.
Redefining the Function of the Cloud
Cloud computing has played a key role in the optimisation of business IT infrastructure over the last 10 years, as a response to the demand for better, quicker collaboration among distributed work teams. Owing to its safety and scalability, cloud computing has suitably addressed the issue of universally slow network speeds – facilitating the easy transfer of large files, as well as offering data backup and recovery solutions for protection against adverse events (e.g cybersecurity attacks or natural disasters).
With the rollout of standalone 5G networks picking up pace in 2021, the cloud faces a renewal of purpose. 5G will enable mobile devices to easily transfer large volumes of data. The cloud and its various architectures (hybrid, on-premises, and public) will be necessary to manage the increase in storage needed for these devices to meet up with the demand. This applies especially at the enterprise level, with cloud providers needing to adjust both their storage capacity and pricing.
A resulting industry-wide growth is almost certain, with investment in cloud services forecasted at 18.4% in 2021 (to $304.9 billion, up from $257.5 billion in 2020).
According to Sid Nag, research VP at Gartner, the pandemic validated the cloud’s value proposition, offering organizations an opportunity to rapidly accelerate their digital transformation plans through on-demand, cost-effective scalable cloud models. He stressed that this increase in the use of public cloud services had reinforced cloud adoption as the ‘new normal,’ now more than ever.”
Transforming Edge Computing
Born in the era of internet-connected (IoT) devices, edge computing addresses application-level latency issues associated with real-time data processing. IoT devices, notorious for high bandwidth demands, generate enormous amounts of data in operation as well as hefty costs for organizations that rely on them. By bringing data processing and storage closer to data collection/consumption endpoints (rather than centralised/cloud-based servers possibly thousands of miles away) edge computing devices can significantly reduce bandwidth usage, and subsequently bandwidth cost.
Combined with 5G, edge computing and IoT as complimentary technical innovations could drive a new Industrial Revolution through transformed manufacturing practices which allow for autonomous cars, smart cities, Telehealth and better data analytics. With 20 billion IoT devices already in use in combination with other future-forward, low latency-dependent technologies, network congestion is almost inevitable. By localizing data processing and storage, the combination of 5g and edge computing is poised to usher these technologies into a new phase of innovation.
Futuriom describes a future without edge computing as one where 5G continues to “rely on back-haul to centralised cloud resources for storage and processing, diminishing much of the otherwise positive impact of latency reduction enabled by 5G”. They highlight that on the other hand, an “ edge-compute approach enables users and devices to store and access much higher volumes of data by way of direct access to the Internet rather than relying on transport through the core of cellular networks.”
Futuriom further suggests recommendations for the future necessary to meet new demand. The infrastructure of edge computing will need enhancements in tandem with data centres, virtualisation providers, and network integration companies, as a part of the new evolutionary element of cloud computing: network cloudification.
The Dawn of Network Cloudification
Major computing incumbents such as Intel and IBM are investing in network cloudification – the process of extending cloud platforms, technologies, and virtualisation capabilities throughout a network to increase its agility, flexibility, and scalability. The growth of enterprise bandwidth needs leads networks to harness 5G towards this software-defined architecture in a bid to meet operational and application demands.
For providers, network cloudification allows for the optimisation and automation of the network to increase the functionality of applications operating on the edge of the network. This is achieved by a move away from hardware-driven infrastructure, towards software-based architecture using software-defined networking (SDN), network function virtualisation, micro-segmentation, and 5G-MEC (multi-access edge computing).
5G-driven network cloudification is the accelerant required for the evolution of emerging technologies operating at the network’s edge for several reasons:
- The ability to further the development of purpose-built server platforms for deployment in harsh environments at edge locations
- Creating the optimal environment for micro data centres for deployments at the network edge
- Remote management of edge computing software and hardware
- Network traffic pattern monitoring and resource consumption for threat management and anomaly detection
Converging in the Cloud
As the global rollout of 5G continues, its impact on cloud computing and consequent enrichment of digital business transformation becomes more evident. The combined effect of 5G and the cloud promises to drive a paradigm shift in business operational efficiency while facilitating the convergence of mobile/enterprise networks, server platforms, emerging technologies, and the business of IT. As these advancements continue to be made, the definition of what a network is will change along with the relationship between service providers, innovation, and end-users.