The future of the network: 5G, Fiber Optics & Edge Computing 

 

A digital network is, in layman’s terms, a transportation system for information. Imagine the system to be a factory floor conveyor belt. In this scenario, edge computing processes are ‘stations’ placed as far out as possible on the belt to make it faster and easier for products on the belt to reach the next stage of the process. If you translate this analogy on to the digital network, edge computing expedites the server processing times for users on the network. 

 

As such, audio and video streams can be received at faster rates with fewer latency issues. Therefore, when servers are separated by a very minimum number of routing points, users experience fewer to no pauses in data streaming. By the same token, for large scale logistics including the application of IoT (Internet of Things), when processors are closely stationed, the speed at which they deliver functionality is expedited. However, with edge computing, closer doesn’t necessarily mean geographical proximity. Instead, since the internet isn’t set up like a straightforward telephone connection from a central location, ‘closer’ simply means routing expediency. 

 

Enterprise network centres are currently held in three locations: on-premise, at a colocation facility or on the cloud. Edge computing will seek to add a fourth location: one that leverages the power of micro data centres to reduce the distance between consumption point and processing point on the server. 

 

As the digital network continues to expand, 5G and edge computing will become intricately woven, making fiber optic advances part of the equation, as well. 5G and edge computing are positioned to improve application performance as well as the data created, stored and aggregated on the network. 5G offers substantially increased speeds whilst edge computing provides low latency computing power on the network that’s closer to the consumption point. As a result, 5G and edge computing work together to enhance the capacity of the network to host the incalculable number of devices on it. Therefore, edge computing can benefit from global 5G rollout thus making edge computing essential rather than optional. For example, plugging edge computing within a 5G network allows not only a faster connection but one with low latency. To posit the relationship within an example, a driverless car will require extremely fast edge computing power on a 5G network as the vehicle’s performance on the road is dependent on the signals it receives by analysing the environment. The processing power should have the capacity to alter the actions of the vehicle by the second. 

 

Similarly, faster data processing on edge computing seeks to do more than satiate the demand for enhanced customer experience. Rather, as with automated cars, the medical industry is seeing a rise in medical wearables. In cases of emergencies, a lag in data processing of IoT within the industry blurs the line between life and death. Edge computing on a 5G network reduces the risk because it provides access to expedited services. 

 

By the default relationship of 5G and edge computing, fiber optic cabling becomes integrated into the network. The rise of 5G relies on the expansion of fiber optic cabling and as a result, all three factors scale at relatively the same pace. With more data-reliant devices surfacing on the network, the expectation of low latency in an always-on network becomes imperative. With 5G blossoming capacities to host millions of devices at home, at work and within community spaces, the capability to use data from these devices to make decisions need to be instantaneous. 5G is touting itself as one to provide an enhanced user experience which means that it also has to accommodate the traffic burdens on the network and edge computing is the answer.

 

Within enterprise networks, organisations are beginning to demand automation as a necessity for decision-making strategies. Real-time data processing through computations becomes synonymous with success. For instance, future-oriented factories will take advantage of unmanned warehouses with robots performing redundant tasks. Processing data stemming from these locations are critical to monitor progress and productivity. 

 

In summary, 5G, edge computing and fiber have already become integrated into the way the digital network evolves. Although leaps within all three have increased immensely over the last few years, the adoption process by individuals and businesses won’t likely start until late 2020. The gap that currently exists is the need for devices to support 5G functionality and the spread of edge computing nodes on the network. However, what is certain is the ongoing progress within the network that will seek to drive innovation, create agility and undergo transformations in the way businesses are conducted, regardless of its nature. As a business, simply adopting these technologies isn’t sufficient, but rather understanding its impact and how your business model should change is key. As such, take advantage of the network with those who know-how. 

About The Author

Fiber Pro at VIAVI Solutions, the world leading provider of Network and Service Enablement.

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