5G, with its promised high-speed, low-latency performance, is finally here and with it a plethora of intriguing cloud computing developments loom. It is a near-future tech boon that is impossible to overstate as 5G’s impact on the ability to create, store, use, and share data will be felt across most business sectors, especially those using the Internet of Things (IoT), AI, and machine learning. Already redefining business networks, 5G will also shift the role that cloud computing and networks play in storing, moving, and accessing data as innovation drives and creates more technological applications for digital business transformation.
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Over the past ten years, cloud computing has been an integral part of maintaining healthy IT infrastructures as businesses demand better, quicker collaboration and productivity from their distributed workforce. Increasingly safer and scalable, the cloud has been a remarkable workaround for universally slow network speeds — allowing the easy transfer and sharing of large files between devices while also providing backup and recovery services to safeguard that data in case of a cybersecurity attack or natural disaster.
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 house the onslaught of data. This is especially true at the enterprise level, leaving cloud providers to up their storage capacity and adjust prices accordingly.
Yet, cloud providers stand to benefit too as investment in cloud services are set to explode, with growth forecasted at 18.4% in 2021 to total $304.9 billion, up from $257.5 billion in 2020.
“The pandemic validated cloud’s value proposition,” said Sid Nag, research vice president at Gartner. “The ability to use on-demand, scalable cloud models to achieve cost efficiency and business continuity is providing the impetus for organizations to rapidly accelerate their digital business transformation plans. The increased use of public cloud services has reinforced cloud adoption to be the ‘new normal,’ now more than ever.”
Born alongside the proliferation of internet-connected (IoT) devices, edge computing cuts latency issues in applications associated with real-time data processing by bringing that processing and storage closer to the endpoints where that data is being collected and consumed, rather than to a centralized or cloud-based location possibly thousands of miles away. Notorious bandwidth hogs, IoT devices generate enormous amounts of data during their operation, creating an expensive bottomline for organizations that rely on IoT devices. By localizing data processing and storage, edge computing services and devices reduce bandwidth usage by processing data and only sending the relevant data through to a central data center or cloud.
In a 5G world, edge computing and IoT are the twin engines of Industry 4.0, the fourth iteration of the Industrial Revolution that sees automation and smart technology transforming manufacturing practices that will allow for autonomous cars, smart cities, telehealthcare, and better data analytics. Currently, with 20 billion IoT devices already in use and other future-forward technologies requiring low latency for critical operations, network congestion is almost inescapable. 5G and edge computing are poised to set each of these technologies into new tracks of innovation by localizing the processing and storage of their systems.
“Without edge compute, 5G would continue to rely on back-haul to centralized cloud resources for storage and processing, diminishing much of the otherwise positive impact of latency reduction enabled by 5G,” Furiom’s 5G, IoT and Edge Compute Trends notes. “Thus, 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.”
To meet new demand pressures, Furiom suggests that edge computing’s infrastructure will need enhancements in concert with data centers, virtualization providers, and network integration companies. It is all part and parcel to another evolutionary element of cloud computing: network cloudification.
Also read: How AI Will Be Pushed to the Very Edge
Many computing giants, including Intel and IBM, are investing in network cloudification, which is the process of extending cloud platforms, technologies, and virtualization capabilities throughout a network to make it more agile, flexible, and scalable. As consumer and enterprise bandwidth needs grow, networks are harnessing 5G to rapidly move toward this software-defined architecture to meet operational and application demands.
Network cloudification allows network providers to basically optimize and automate the network for greater functionality of applications operating on the edges of the network. To achieve this requires moving away from a hardware-driven infrastructure to a software-based architecture using software defined networking (SDN), network function virtualization, microsegmentation, and 5G-MEC (multi-access edge computing).
5G-driven network cloudification is the gas pedal needed to accelerate emerging technologies operating at the network’s edge into hyperdrive by:
- Furthering the development of purpose-built server platforms for deployment in harsh environments at edge locations
- Paving the way for micro data centers for deployments at the edge
- Allowing remote management of edge computing software and hardware
- Allowing monitoring of network traffic patterns and resource consumption for anomaly detection and threat management
As 5G continues its global rollout, its anticipated benefits to digital business transformation as a consequence of its impact on cloud computing are already shining through. Bringing together long talked about technologies in a collective push, the marriage of 5G and the cloud promises to launch many paradigm shifts in operational efficiencies for businesses, while at the same time overseeing the convergence of mobile and enterprise networks, server platforms, emerging technologies, and the business of IT itself. As these lines continue to be crossed and blurred, the definition of a network will change and along with it the relationship between service providers, innovation, and end users.