Data centers have long played a central role in the development of IT infrastructure. They have been quick to adapt to new technologies that enable companies to deliver the products and services that customers demand. As advancements in processors have made Internet of Things (IoT) devices more viable and cost-effective, data centers have responded by implementing edge computing architecture to expand the capabilities of networks. At the same time, data centers are bracing for the future of 5G, a next-generation telecommunications infrastructure that will transform the way networks are designed and utilized.
One of the biggest challenges facing the widespread implementation of IoT edge devices has been latency and bandwidth requirements. This is especially notable when it comes to self-driving automobiles, each of which could generate around 30 terabytes of data per day. Existing network infrastructure simply isn’t prepared to handle the sheer volume of information produced by tens of millions of autonomous vehicles.
The widespread implementation of 5G networks could change that. Experts estimate that 5G will be able to support data volumes 1,000 times higher than existing connections. This increased capacity will play a major role in removing connectivity restraints from IoT edge devices already populating edge networks and the more powerful, versatile devices that will surely be coming in the future.
Many organizations have responded to changing user demands by incorporating edge computing architecture into their networks. This strategy has required them to do more than change the design of their networks; they’re also making greater use of edge data centers rather than continuing to rely solely upon enterprise-level or hyperscale facilities.
Tony Bishop, VP of Global Vertical Strategy and Marketing at Equinix, sees the growing popularity of edge data centers as a natural outgrowth of changing data traffic patterns:
Today’s businesses have good reason to establish an IT presence at the edge. The catalyst for this transformation is the Internet of Things (IoT) and rapidly proliferating user devices and applications are generating extraordinary volumes of data traffic at the edge that needs to be stored, processed and analyzed. Due to the abundance of new edge traffic, along with more business services and workloads being deployed outside the corporate data center, traditional data center topologies will move toward more distributed digital infrastructures.
By relocating key processing functions to the network edge, companies can combat latency and deliver better performance for end users. Traditional cloud computing networks aren’t going anywhere soon, of course, but they will be made more efficient as critical processing workloads are handled on the edge without even needing to utilize the network’s core computing resources.
Edge data centers will surely continue to see significant growth due to the rapid proliferation of IoT edge devices. Although 5G networks promise to deliver great benefits in terms of bandwidth, placing as many processing functions as close to end users as possible will help to further combat the latency imposed by data traveling over long distances.
With the future of 5G right around the corner, demand for all types of data centers will likely remain high. The high-speed connections enabled by 5G networks may garner headlines for how much they’ll improve performance and content delivery, but they will also allow IoT edge devices to gather and transmit more data than ever before. That means more traffic and more unstructured data that needs to be managed.
According to a recent NPD Group study, the average US smartphone user consumes 31.4 gigabytes of data each month via Wi-Fi and cellular connections, which helps explain how the country as a whole uses 2,657,700 gigabytes of internet data every minute.
But that’s only the consumption side. In addition to data demands, those same users will be generating massive quantities of data as well. IBM’s research into global data trends puts the volume of data created each day at a staggering 2.5 exabytes each day, which amounts to roughly 2.5 billion gigabytes. To manage these steadily increasing demands, more data centers are being built every year, building upon the estimated 1450 exabyte global capacity available in 2018.
This demand will keep on growing steadily. For instance, online gaming will surpass “real world” gaming in the coming years. The steep curve might flatten a little, but double-digit growth is still an almost certainty (not taking into account massive macro events that could affect it). There should be an awareness that the, let’s call it, “data monster” will keep on growing; there is no way back. This means that businesses need to understand how this affects how they manage, store, and ensure the security of their data. Developing a scalable storage solution that is secure and also replicated (securely backed-up) is vital.
While the future of 5G networks will have a major impact on data usage and demands, data centers will continue to be important in the way companies manage their IT infrastructure. Edge computing architectures will empower IoT edge devices to offer a new range of services and collect more actionable data than ever before. With the right data center strategy in place, organizations can keep ahead of the competition and develop the innovative new services they need to drive business success.