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The rollout of 5G will dawn a new era for edge data centres – but there’s work to do yet

(Image credit: Shutterstock.com / Who Is Danny)

The arrival of 5G has dawned a new era in connectivity and data sharing, and edge data centres will have a crucial role to play in its full rollout. Gartner’s recent report highlights this, as it predicts that by 2025 edge computing will account for 75 per cent of enterprise-generated data. The first major impact of the introduction of 5G will be the movement of massive amounts of data through faster and virtualised networking, as well as wireless infrastructure. Data centres will be at the heart of enabling 5G in all applications for the foreseeable future, and 5G itself will both drive new edge deployments, and enable new edge use cases.

There are a host of issues to be ironed out before 5G can achieve its full potential, though. The infrastructure of data centres must be strategized effectively to cope with the huge demand in data that 5G’s full rollout will bring; new regulatory requirements will need to be negotiated, introduced and adhered to, and potential security vulnerabilities will have to be addressed, too.

This is by no means unachievable, however, and once 5G becomes a reality it will unleash the full capability of IoT, morphing the world into an environment that we would have never seen before. But before this becomes a reality, there are questions to be answered surrounding 5G’s arrival.

The security concerns surrounding 5G

5G will vastly increase the number of devices that can be connected to core networks – which increases the opportunities for cyberattacks. The increased number of connected devices hugely expands the volume of information that will be transmitted and shared between users and devices, making it difficult for businesses to process and maintain data securely.

One of the ways of addressing this data volume challenge is through decentralisation - bringing analytics as close as possible to the data centre where information is processed, easing the burden on businesses of having to move around large data sets. Moving data to the edge means internal IT teams can reduce the amount of data they have to store, which is crucial when addressing cybersecurity.

As more processing takes place at the edge, new analytical approaches and updates will be able to be quickly pushed and spread around the wider network once they’re optimised by a central analytics engine. As the threat landscape evolves, so too must an automated approach to security. By working in a more distributed way and utilising edge data centres, organisations will be able to focus on stopping the next attack, rather than scrambling to recover from the last one.

Ultimately though, the government must take the lead on how cybersecurity will be delivered – not only for data centres to adhere to, but also for the peace of mind of both businesses and consumers. The government has a key role to play in establishing a framework that data centres, and other IoT providers adhere to, to ensure accountability, if and when an attack does occur - but also good practice to mitigate against such attacks.

Data centres will be replacing data at a fast rate as they keep pace with the increasing volume of information that is created, as more devices become connected. However, the more data has to be updated or replaced, the greater the chance of suffering a leak. Having a strict guide that provides best practice on how to do this securely will provide assurances, and defences, against data leaks taking place.

Edge data centres’ role in 5G’s future

With billions of devices to be connected globally, it is inevitable that not all these devices will be located in urbanised areas throughout the UK. As a result, edge data centres must be deployed as an extension of centralised data centres throughout both urban and rural areas, as well as coming out of the Greater London conurbation too. This will ensure that connected devices throughout the country are serviced, no matter where they are operating.

Edge data centres will play a key role in ensuring the whole of the UK is reaping the rewards of 5G, not just its major cities, by overcoming the latency issues and having wide-spread data centres present. And while centralised data centres still have a crucial role to play as they are the hubs of data distribution networks, it’s edge data centres that will continue to act as the local depots of data, for regions across the country.

The growth of edge data centres will also lead to a required shift in the whole operations of data centres and their deployment, not just for the rollout of 5G - but forever. Because of the ever-increasing customer demand and surface areas requiring network coverage, the business model of data centres must change entirely.

The topology and infrastructure of data centres itself will naturally evolve into a business model where data is stored and transmitted equally, through edge data centres. In fact, by 2025 Gartner predicts that 80 per cent of enterprises will shut down their traditional data centres.

Regulatory issues and traditional rivalries

With IoT devices connecting around the world, it is inevitable that countries across the globe will have to collaborate and agree on blanket regulations, which is no mean feat. Different countries have different regulations when it comes to 5G installation, but new standards must be set and adhered to in order for rival countries, rival product makers and rival network operators to put aside their differences. As we have seen with Huawei, this is easier said than done, after the US banned the use of its equipment in their 5G networks, and is calling on the UK to do the same. Rivalries aren’t so easily laid to rest, it seems. And geopolitics is only one of several key issues that need to be ironed out, if 5G is to reach half of its capability potential around the world.

New technical standards

To make global interoperability possible, new technical standards must be set for network infrastructure equipment, smartphones and IoT sensors alike. Ongoing standards deliberations are fraught with geopolitical and commercial rivalry challenges as well as the core technical ones.

Deployment of additional network transmission capacity

Massive infrastructure is still to be deployed and developed in many countries, and to support 5G networks, regional edge data centres on mass are still needing to be connected to cell towers with fibre optic cabling, both in the UK and the wider world. This is absolutely necessary to support 5G’s implementation.

Licensing spectrum

Each national government must allocate, and licence, sufficient spectrum for both fixed and wireless links, as well as mobile 5G connections. 5G networks need spectrum within three key frequency ranges to deliver widespread coverage and support all use cases. There remains a key focus on establishing international agreement and allocated licensed spectrums. If unlicensed, there is no legal protection against outside interference to the networks.

A new chapter

While there are many barriers yet to overcome, 5G will eventually change the world. But for it to do so, it will need to rely somewhat on edge data centres for its comprehensive delivery. Not only is the next evolution of internet connection going to change the way business and people operate, it will certainly birth a new chapter for edge data centres, too.

John Hall, leading customer engagement, Proximity Data Centres