Edge Roundtable: “An Edge Deployment is Really Just a Node on the Cloud”

TORONTO, ONTARIO — 5G is coming like a tsunami. We can’t stop it. But as an industry, we have yet to truly understand or prepare for it. That’s why, at at CapRE’s Canadian Data Center in Toronto on May 22, we kicked off the panel Life on The Edge: The Advent of 5G, Micro Data Centers & Evolution of the Next Generation with a round-table discussion that asked each of the three panelists in the session to offer their thoughts on what’s to come as we prepare for this industry shift.

First, we heard from Bob Matthews, Application Engineering at CommScope Solutions Canada, who said that the key for 5G is going to be data. “Everything is going to be rolling up. In terms of opportunities, it’s going to be a matter of how do we process that data? How do we get the latency down? And how do we deliver that traffic back to the consumer, or the edge-user?” he replied. “From our perspective, what we see is a migration from traditional copper networks within our data centers, more to fiber solutions. So that’s a big growth area for us.”

data center summitMatthews also said that he is witnessing the advent of a new paradigm as well — single-mode vs multi-mode. “That’s always a comparison that everybody gets into,” he explained. “The cost of single-mode is extremely expensive compared to multi-mode. And the transition in terms of data rates, we’re seeing that multi-mode is capable of doing the same kinds of data rates that single-mode does today, at a fraction of the cost. So those are some of the things that we see as a manufacturer. And from our data center customers, we see them looking at that as more of a cost saving, that they can get the same kind of data rates and move data faster, at a less expensive cost overall.”

Next, Craig McLellan, Founder of ThinkOn chimed in. “From my perspective, when I started the business 5 years ago, I had a vision of three facilities all across the country, for me to service all of our re-seller sand ultimately our subscribers through those three. Fast forward five years and we’re at 12 facilities across the county, with much more remote geographical regions than I ever expected,” he revealed. “And I’d say that by the end of the year we will be in 15 or 16 facilities, and yet more geographically dispersed, with relatively modest footprints that have extremely high load.”

What’s more, the applications are numerous, he continued. “I could go on for an hour about the applications, but the traits that I find with or without 5G at the Edge, are a very high sensitivity to latency,” he shared. “A lot of these applications are just very traditional protection – I just need to get my data offsite and I don’t want it to go to the Iron Mountain van down the road. They don’t want to take a van to a warehouse across town, they want to move it digitally. But they can’t handle the latency effect of going to a smaller regional city and back to a large metropolis. So even those basic applications are still consuming very large and very high-density and high-intensity applications at the Edge.”

“As a provider of services, that’s what I notice. And as a provider of infrastructure to data center operators, I am very encouraged by the number of regional data center operators that really do a see a future in this, as opposed to workloads being sucked up into the hyperclouds,” he mused. “There is still a significant a significant amount of workload that will get pushed further out, as opposed to getting sucked back in. And it’s not one or the other. It’s going to be both. Collaboration is going to be key in all of this.”

Finally, Herb Villa, Sr. Applications Engineer at Rittal Corporation offered a third perspective. “That’s what we’ve seen as well,” he said, concurring with McClellan. “We’ve seen that an Edge deployment is really a node on the Cloud. So whether we have 5G or some other system to support that connectivity, part of what the Edge provides is that we’re going to go very far out, and the Edge will provide that local control and instant accessibility for the data. It’s not just a question of applications.”

In other words, it’s not just a question of IoT. “We also see it as IIoT – the Industrial Internet of Things,” Villa clarified. “We’re having that convergence of the operational technology people, the OT, and the IT people, our classic IT technologists who are providing the services – the Edge is being a vendor and much farther out than our traditional data centers. Even if you call it an Edge data center, the operative phrase is data center.”

“For us, as we look at what 5G will provide us, it’s the ability to monitor and control smart-anything,” defined Villa. “You hear about smart grids, smart connectivity, smart retail, smart government, smart manufacturing, smart maintenance. All of this, we want to keep it local. We want to be able to support that infrastructure, keep it safe, keep it secure – the technologies, the connectivity, the bandwidth, the latency that 5G provides will support those as well as all of the applications that we could talk about.”

Concluded Villa, “To me, the most critical application is autonomous vehicles. If I’m driving down the road in Toronto or back in New Jersey, I don’t want latency if I’m going to either crash or get run over. I want to get out of the way. So that’s what we want to look at as well.”

Banner Photos (L-R): Craig McLellan, Founder, ThinkOn; Herb Villa, Sr. Applications Engineer, Rittal Corporation; Bob Matthews, Application Engineering, CommScope Solutions Canada