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How Edge Computing is Shaping Data Center Networking Trends

By: Alan Seal on March 21, 2019

The miniaturization of computer processing has caused a fundamental shift in the ways networks gather and analyze data. While the traditional network is very centralized in structure, today’s internet of things (IoT) devices operating on the network’s edge are increasingly capable of handling heavier processing workloads. Rather than constantly feeding data back to a centralized network, IoT devices are processing more data on the edge of the network to improve overall performance and reduce crippling latency.

Edge computing architecture makes this new approach possible. Data center networking trends are increasingly incorporating edge computing principles, resulting in facilities with far more flexible architectures than ever before.

How Edge Computing is Shaping Data Center Networking Trends

Location Matters

While the location of a facility has always been an important consideration, edge computing has caused quite a shift in data center networking trends. Whereas companies once tried to keep their data centers either close to them for easy access or far away for backup purposes, today location is everything. Latency is one of the primary challenges facing service providers across multiple industries. Consumers expect to be able to access the services they want to use right away and are not likely to put up with slower, high-latency connections.

Although network speed is limited by the equipment being used (not to mention the laws of physics), content providers can greatly reduce latency by physically moving closer to end users. By collecting data and performing key processing functions closer to the edge of their network, these companies can deliver content faster and greatly reduce service interruptions. Through a combination of IoT devices and edge facilities, data center networking trends are emphasizing location as a vital element of infrastructure planning.

Network Agility

Smart sensors on manufacturing equipment that enable more efficient production methods. Autonomous vehicles that collect, analyze, and transmit massive amounts of data every second. Medical devices that connect healthcare professionals in isolated regions to vast depositories of health data. These are just a few edge computing examples that demonstrate how networks have had to adapt to rapid developments in internet of things technology.

Today’s networks cannot be the clunky, hierarchical behemoths once associated with old computing mainframes. With IoT devices and edge computing architecture pushing networks far beyond the traditional confines of the cloud, data center networking trends have adapted to facilitate that expansion. Companies cannot afford to take a single-minded approach to network design. Instead, they’re developing agile networks that incorporate traditional hardware, virtualized assets, cloud computing, and edge computing to redefine the nature of connectivity.

Multi-Data Center Strategies

Data center networking trends are changing the ways companies approach their infrastructure strategy. While a single enterprise or on-premises facility might have been sufficient for the needs of organizations a decade ago, meeting today’s business needs often requires a level of flexibility that can only be met through a multi-data center strategy.

For instance, if a company is trying to expand its internet of things capacity, it may need to utilize edge data centers located nearer to its intended users. These facilities may not be well suited for big data analytics, however, requiring the company to place some portion of its infrastructure in a hyperscale facility. To ensure that no data will be lost in the event of a natural disaster in its region, the company could also decide to enlist a third data center in another part of the country to provide redundancy. The flexibility offered by edge computing will surely continue to push companies into diversifying their data center strategies in the coming years.

Go Small

Speaking of edge data centers, these smaller, more versatile facilities have become an important part of recent data center networking trends. With so many companies offering cloud services, streaming content, and IoT integration, the added strain on their networks has forced them to explore viable and scalable solutions for reducing latency. By incorporating smaller edge data centers located in key emerging markets into their networks, organizations are able to push their services closer to end users. These facilities also reduce strain on other areas of the network, caching popular content and providing local processing for some analytics platforms to reduce the amount of data being transmitted back to the network’s core. Edge data centers have also been a boon for managed service providers (MSPs) looking to extend their services to customers in growing markets outside major cities, which in turn creates new opportunities for other companies looking to get in on the action.

Go Smaller

In addition to edge data centers, some companies are taking the principles of edge computing even farther by incorporating micro data centers into their network infrastructure. These small, self-contained enclosures allow organizations to place servers in places where a traditional data center could never be built. Whether it’s a portable server cabinet set up in the lobby of a busy public building or a modular shipping container retrofitted to incorporate a few server racks and cooling equipment, micro data centers are an ideal way of extending the reach of an edge network on short notice, especially in cases where a temporary increase in demand is expected. While they lack the long term viability of a true edge data center, micro data centers will surely play an important role in future data center networking trends.

Edge computing has already transformed the way companies think about their network infrastructure, but they’ve also barely scratched the surface of what could be possible with the internet of things and other edge computing examples. As networking technology continues to develop and new IoT devices hit the market, data center networking trends will undoubtedly push forward and continue to expand the reach and scope of existing services to meet user demands.

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