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How 5G Adoption Will Impact Data Centers

By: Kayla Matthews on October 8, 2018

People around the world are eagerly getting ready for the widespread adoption of 5G networks and wondering how they'll change experiences related to browsing the internet, consuming streaming media and otherwise interacting with online content. But, besides looking at the end-user experience, it's necessary to consider how the arrival of 5G will influence data centers.

Data centers will play an instrumental way in how people access 5G networks. Although some of the ways they will are still speculation, analysts think there are some near-certain factors about the relationship between 5G and data centers.

More Local Data Centers Will Likely Crop Up

The introduction of 5G brings with it the likely possibility of more edge-based localized data centers. They process data locally and only send some data to the cloud. That approach would reduce latency and promote the speeds people expect from 5G networks.

This more distributed approach to data centers could be positive for people who live in isolated areas. Efforts to bring reliable internet access to people in rural areas pose persistent challenges. However, individuals familiar with the obstacles are hopeful about what 5G could provide.

That's primarily because the narrowband technology of 5G can reach ten times further than existing LTE technology. The broader reach, combined with more local data centers, could give rural residents much-improved access to the online realm.

However, one possible downside of increasing the number of local data centers to get ready for 5G is that staffing difficulties are already present in data centers, primarily due to an aging workforce.

Statistics also show a lack of women and young workers showing an interest in data center careers. If these problems already exist, the local centers required by 5G networks will likely exacerbate them.

The Impact of 5G on Data Center Infrastructure

People also suspect that 5G will change how we build the data centers of the future. Other technologies like artificial intelligence and streaming content have both made robust, expansive data centers more necessary than when those advancements were not yet so ingrained in society, and 5G networks will likely have a similar effect.

A forecast also shows that 5G networks could drive expenditures for IT infrastructure as high as $326 billion by 2025, with 56 percent of the expenses related to data center and public cloud upgrades.

Data Centers Must Become More Efficient

Research shows that 5G networks have bandwidth and transmission rate requirements that are 100 times greater than what 4G networks need. So, it's time for individuals involved in data center operations to look for energy-efficient and cost-effective upgrades that can handle resource-intensive data, such as content related to machine learning and virtual reality.

A Potentially Negative Impact on the Planet

As data centers ramp up their offerings and start preparing to tell customers they're well-equipped to handle 5G, it's essential that those entities also make environmental sustainability a priority. A paper published in 2017 found the information and communications technology (ICT) industry could consume up to 20 percent of the world's electricity by 2025.

Moreover, the ICT sector could generate more carbon emissions than any country except for the United States, China and India. If 5G networks provide the substantial improvements people expect, the demand for them could put stress on the planet, as well as the data centers themselves.

5G Readiness Could Give Data Centers a Competitive Advantage

A July 2018 opinion piece from Gartner analyst Dave Cappuccio warned that traditional data centers are dead and that most of such operations will shut down by 2025. However, success in a changing industry means adapting to new needs as they arise.

That could mean if data centers do what's necessary now to get ready for 5G networks and promote that thorough preparedness to customers, they could successfully compete in a crowded marketplace and make their investments pay off.

A McKinsey and Company report highlights how wireless operators need to prepare for what's ahead, in part by creating 5G-specific offers for customers. Executives associated with data centers could do the same by appealing to anxious customers after implementing substantial data center upgrades.

News broke of Nokia unveiling what's reportedly the first 5G-ready data center in Spring 2018. If other providers follow suit, those entities could set themselves apart from the pack.

5G Will Disrupt Current Data Center Operations

For better and worse, 5G networks will undoubtedly have a disruptive effect on the way data centers operate. However, the facilities that get ready before 5G networks become mainstream over the next several years could find that preparedness not only helps them survive, but also thrive.

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