The rise of edge computing could see the advent of a rapidly growing array of smaller data centers built closer to population centers.
— Rags Srinivasan
In almost every respect, the world is getting faster. We expect customer service problems to be resolved right away, we want our goods to arrive the day after we order them and have become used to communicating with anyone, anywhere, at any time.
For enterprises, this trend is reflected in the increased demand for real-time data processing. Look at the trends that will power the next generation of business innovation: AI, the internet of things and 5G are driving a surge in data production that, according to a Gartner study, could see more than 7.5 billion connected devices in use in enterprises by 2020. According to another report from Gartner, while 91% of today’s data is created and processed inside centralized data centers, by 2022 about 75% of data will need analysis and action at the edge.
This shift may power next-generation technologies from connected cars and smart drones to manufacturing and intelligent retail. More data will need to be analyzed in real time – according to the DataAge 2025 study commissioned by Seagate, by 2025, almost 20 percent of data created will be real-time in nature – rather than be sent to the core of the network for processing. This means enterprises will build on their central cloud computing architecture and develop the ability to process – and, equally importantly, securely store – more data at the edge.
Under an edge computing model, data analytics is only partly reliant on the network bandwidth as most knowledge generation happens locally – close to the data source. Data is monitored, handled and stored away from the silo setup and closer to the end users with processing taking place either in the device itself, the edge data center or in the fog layer.
An Additional New Role for the Data Center
The large traditional data center has been the mainstay of computing and connectivity networks for more than half a century – and essentially all processing of transactions have been carried out in a centralized core – but mobility, technological advancements and economic demand mean that businesses will increasingly add edge elements to this essential core.
IoT technologies and AI-enabled applications need computing to happen at the edge and this will have an impact on the size and location of data centers that are built in the future.
The huge data center model won’t become obsolete by any means and will still be used for a wide range of functions, but the rise of edge computing could see a larger number of smaller data centers built closer to population centers like cities and business parks.
Data center infrastructure therefore could change and slowly become more distributed. In this case likely there will be more storage hubs in regional markets and smaller cities, as well as micro data centers bolted onto parts of the existing communications infrastructure, such as telecom towers.
Those telephone towers are where the arrival of 5G, the next generation wireless standard, can really have an impact. As more computing power and storage are needed to handle rapidly growing numbers of edge applications, it makes sense to place this on top of existing infrastructure.
A New Network from the Old
Micro data centers could be deployed at the base of telecom towers and other important points in the existing wireless network. Therefore, there could be far higher numbers of data centers around, but the majority of these will be unrecognizable from the warehouse-sized locations of today.
Growing numbers of data centers, though, means that storage and security imperatives are more widely distributed, too. Businesses will demand that the same level of performance and security they enjoy from centralized data centers is replicated in this more distributed future. For this to happen, security and storage solutions must be considered at the start of planning processes and not tacked on at the end once new models are ready to roll out.
Edge-driven systems will work alongside cloud and the huge data center model will still thrive and be vital to all kinds of businesses. As demand for edge devices and applications increases, this part of the network could see big growth.