Edge computing is a recent development in which the data is processed locally at the edge of the network, making it closer to users and devices, which then reduces the latency. To grasp how edge computing can complement the 5G network infrastructure, an in-depth understanding of the mechanisms of edge computing is valuable. 


Two main components of edge computing are edge servers and edge devices. Edge servers are pieces of IT equipment that are built to compute IT workloads, these could be industrial PCs or half racks with four to eight blades, and others. Edge devices are pieces of equipment for some other purposes and possessing capacities, such as robots, cars, manufacturing machines, conveyor belts, and many others. 


A practical example is a factory with machines and in-built cameras connected to a half-rack server within the premises for product monitoring and analysis. Cloud computing, which is a predecessor of edge computing, would then require these machines to send data to the cloud for computation and vice versa. Like a warehouse, the ‘cloud’ computes data from countless sources, which could lead to a higher level of latency. Not only that, cloud computing requires continuous access to the internet, making it less ideal for remote or harder-to-reach use cases, which is where edge computing fills the gap. 


How Does Edge Computing Complement the 5G Network? 


Shared Goal 

The 5G network and edge computing share a common goal: to minimize latency and increase connectivity speed. This is in line with the core structure of edge computing, which is the processing and storing of data outside the core network to reduce the data travel time. In practical terms, edge computing allows data to be processed as close as possible to the 5G antennas, which will reduce the time and distance required for data transmission and increase the connection speed. 


Opens Up the Possibilities of New Technologies

As edge computing paves the way for worldwide 5G implementation, every device connected to the 5G network will experience up to 50x faster network connectivity. This means that more innovation and technologies that have never crossed our minds can have an adequate foundation for invention. These technologies include nanorobotic surgeries, fully unmanned vehicles, robotic food deliveries, and others. 


Lower latency and faster connectivity simply guarantee that machines and robots can be safely implemented and rolled out for life-or-death situations, such as heart surgeries. 


Challenges in Implementing Edge Computing


Diversity and Quantity of Devices 

With the different types of devices built for various purposes, this adds an extra layer of difficulty in determining the quality of data coming from the variety of devices. In addition to that, there are currently more than 15 billion devices in the market worldwide, and this figure is expected to increase to 50 billion by the year 2022. In response to this challenge, there needs to be an adequate amount of edge servers located strategically. 


Data Security 

As the data won’t be processed within the IT data center, this can result in higher risks of data breaches, due to an increase in the difficulty of breach detection. The perfect example of this is a potential cyberattack on an edge server through the injection of unauthorized software and hardware components, which could infect multiple different devices connected to it. 


Node replication, or the act of inserting a malicious node into the edge network and assigning it with an identical ID number of an existing node, can act as an undetected spy and steal valuable data or intelligence. Hardware trojans can pose as potential security threats by giving attackers complete control over a node’s integrated circuits, and thus their data and software. 


How to Combat These Challenges? 

As with other countless technological advancements, infrastructure plays an integral role in ensuring a smooth rollout. There needs to be an adequate investment in edge servers to combat the increasing quantity of devices. 


To intercept potential cyberattacks, side-channel signal analysis needs to be done to detect hardware trojans using timing, power, and spatial temperature analysis. This pretty much means that any malicious software or hardware can be detected through the change in system behavior. Circuit modification and replacement can be good countermeasures, which offer protection to the circuits and allows self-destruction of the nodes in the event of an attack. 


In Conclusion

Edge computing and the 5G network go hand-in-hand in building a world with lower latency and faster connectivity, which will be the perfect breeding ground for newer and futuristic innovations. However, special attention needs to be given to its challenges of device quantity, data security, and the amount of infrastructure needed for a smooth rollout worldwide. 

Since 2013, VIAVI Solutions has been an early driver in 5G adoption and we continue to deliver innovative and cost-effective 5G testing tools to customers. VIAVI’s 5G test and verification solutions will deliver essential validation, verification, and visibility for 5G. We can provide you with the opportunity to test, enable and assure your operations on 5G and optimize moving forward with essential experts in the industry. Discover our comprehensive portfolio and get ready to transform your network connectivity with us.

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