The edge can mean different things to different people, according to Ben Green, vice president of sales for network, channel and enterprise at CoreSite. The simple explanation, he said, is that edge means allowing a user to have a local experience at the user’s location, wherever that location may be. The user’s request for service, whether it is an application, gaming or video, will be served from a local source, eliminating internet lag time, buffering or latency problems associated with network designs of the last few decades, he said.
The edge is about user experience and application performance, Green said. “Having a hub-and-spoke network design where users on the East Coast have to ping to a data center on the West Coast and then come back with a signal — that will cause problems for service providers and their users,” he said. “We believe that CoreSite is really well set up to deliver an edge user experience, given that our locations are spread across the country. By making use of CoreSite and deploying your infrastructure at our locations across the country, you could serve your users within a few milliseconds. They are all going to have the same local-feeling experience when you deploy at our sites in each of those markets.”
In Green’s view, 5G wireless communications represents a last-mile access methodology — and it probably isn’t even a mile. It is shorter than a mile, he said, given the distance limitations on 5G. Effectively, 5G will test your company’s edge plan. As Green explained it, a user on a phone may have a lightning-fast 5G connection to the nearest cell tower, but at that point, it jumps onto a fiber network and goes to the closest network interconnection point. Then, if the signal has to travel across the country from the East Coast to the West Coast, it has to ping the legacy on-prem data center and then return to the lightning-fast 5G connection. The whole promise of 5G is lost, at that point, Green said.
Delivering on the promise of 5G requires the use of a collocation provider positioned to deliver content and applications much closer to the user, optimizing the experience, Green said. Meanwhile, because not all data centers are created equal, Green said you should look for a data center with a rich network interconnection base. The more fiber carriers in the building, the better, he said, because it will improve the edge experience through network reach and deliver to as many users who may be on different networks in the area.
“Another key element to edge that we talk with clients about all the time is a hybrid cloud and a multicloud approach, really enabling enterprises with the ability to connect into the cloud of their choice to make use of different applications or solutions is critical to the success of the 5G edge,” Green said. “Even if someone says, ‘I’m going 100 percent cloud,’ they still need to be thinking about how they will effectively access their cloud provider but still integrate with all the networks that they need and all the business partners, all of their ancillary applications and other clouds. That’s what hybrid cloud is about. People should consider how they are going to effectively navigate among their cloud providers, their applications and their edge users. They should really do that making use of a multitenant data center, especially one that has cloud connectivity offerings.”
CoreSite, has an open cloud exchange, Green said, which provides real-time turn-up and turn-down connections to cloud service providers. Using the exchange, a service provider can take space within a CoreSite data center and directly connect to the cloud or multiple clouds of its choice. “This will be the quickest, most secure, most reliable, lowest latency way to connect to the cloud service providers that you need, while maintaining your ability to connect to everyone else that you need to interface with that make up your ecosystem to make that 5G edge solution run,” Green said.
Speaking of the future, Green said that 5G will provide a breakthrough moment for many content companies, gaming companies and for the smart city. He said that applications that are only three or four years away haven’t even been considered, today. The pace of change is so fast that there will be an amazing application that couldn’t have existed without 5G edge infrastructure in place, he said.
CoreSite, has network-to-network communication within its buildings, and Green said the company operates highly interconnected buildings in downtown metros across the United States. In some cases, the company has hundreds of fiber-optic providers interfacing with one another and exchanging traffic. Green said these network meet points are critical to a 5G application or to a smart city to provide access to all of the providers a service provider needs in one place, but also connecting to the preferred cloud service provider. Having AWS, Azure, Google and others on that to the building as well creates a future-proof situation, Green said.
“Here are the key things when you are thinking about choosing a collocation provider and trying to future-proof your choice,” Green said. “Number one, location. You have to minimize latency to your user. Number two, density of network interconnection. The more, the better. You are going to have a better performance to more users with more network options. And then finally, integration to clouds. You have to have a platform that allows you to interface rapidly at high throughput at lowest latency.”
Green said it just so happens those are the ingredients at CoreSite Data Center, “so we are in a good spot, looking to the future, whatever the future may bring.”
Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine. This article was derived from remarks Ben Green made in an interview with Sterling Perrin, principal analyst of optical and transport at Heavy Reading.
Whether for business, interpersonal communication, education, health care, precision agriculture or otherwise, technology and connectivity continue to define and redefine our world. Robust, reliable and efficient access to the internet — and to the content and resources to which it plays host — is key for maintaining a competitive edge and ensuring opportunities to thrive for local economic growth and overall quality of life. Today, however, notable inconsistencies in the distribution of digital capabilities affect businesses and individuals everywhere. As technology continues to evolve rapidly, the digital divide grows larger, wreaking havoc on industries and individuals’ ability to learn, grow and prosper across the United States.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues its onslaught, shifting the way individuals and businesses interact and pushing the world toward a more digital reality, the need for more robust and reliable communications infrastructure has been heightened. The demands on networks have grown, and the requirements for distance learning, remote workforce enablement, telehealth and beyond have all grown exponentially — meaning that those without high-speed internet access are put at a severe disadvantage. As the gap in communications infrastructure broadens between metropolitan and rural or underserved markets, it is clear that the time to bridge this rift is now. The only question that remains is how to build a strategy that can overcome this challenge and keep these locations on track for stable, continued growth — in a way that makes sense for local business.
Understanding the Digital Divide
Since its debut, the internet has continued to evolve, becoming an increasingly central facet of life. The Statista Research Department’s 2020 IoT Connected Devices report forecasts that by 2030, the global number of connected devices will amount to 50 billion. Those devices will be used — and are being used today — to access online banking, distance learning and remote work, to host virtual appointments with doctors, to pay bills, contact emergency services, manage agricultural crops and more. It is difficult to ignore the fundamental importance of connectivity and the key role that access to digital capabilities plays in overall success. Continued digital transformation is accelerating this dependence on technology, making equal, efficient and robust access even more important.
The pandemic heightened the reliance on digital infrastructure because of the implementation of social distancing. This motivated educational institutions to implement remote learning solutions — some for the first time in their histories — while major corporations have extended work-from-home (WFH) policies into the year 2021. These online solutions require trust that individuals can obtain access to the files and perform work tasks over public and private connections. Meanwhile, health care workers, still faced with frontline pandemic responses, are adjusting their practices to support telehealth solutions, diagnosing and treating patients from virtually anywhere. Traditional businesses from restaurants to retail have all pivoted, driving more sales online with no-touch service capabilities, ensuring the safety and welfare of everyone as we keep our economy running.
Unfortunately, while demand for online capabilities has become universal, the natural spread of underlying technology and infrastructure that supports this access has grown more skewed toward central hubs. Although the infrastructural support for metropolitan areas has come naturally because of increasing demand by a more consolidated population, it comes at a cost. That cost is that rural, underserved and lower-income communities increasingly are left behind, despite the fact that their demand is just as important to their lives as it is for those in more central business destinations.
One indication of this systemic issue is that, as of early 2019, Pew Research Center reported that 26 percent of adults living in households earning less than $30,000 a year are “smartphone-dependent” internet users. This means that they own a smartphone but do not have broadband internet at home and, as a result, they employ their smartphone for traditional online tasks. In an era of social distancing and quarantine, when 53 percent of Americans are reporting internet use as essential, being unable to access these online tasks reliably or efficiently represents a critical issue.
With the need for ubiquitous digital infrastructure, the level of latency and performance that is now required by adjacent, rural and underserved markets for streaming, mobile demands and content consumption — a level that on par with major markets — is still going largely unconsidered. To address this disparity, many markets still have their local content and applications backhauled to major market hubs. This negatively affects performance, increases costs and drives end users’ frustrations higher.
Why is the Gap Growing?
The digital divide continues to grow because of a number of factors. To start, large cities and metropolitan areas have high population densities — they’re where the most customers are, where businesses reside and do much of their work and where most infrastructure providers assume the return on investment is the highest. This means that infrastructure providers often see diminished incentive for deploying in these areas and fear they won’t be able to justify the costs for building the necessary foundations. When the initial internet infrastructure was developed, it focused on these core regions to get the most people connected. With the U.S. population becoming increasingly dispersed, these major markets remain the most populated, but the adjacent and rural markets now have populations that rival those of the first internet-connected locations.
Nevertheless, challenges do not arise solely from factors external to the rural market; they also come from the markets themselves. In more remote and underserved areas, it is not uncommon for existing businesses to resist new market entrants. Innovation often looks like disruption, and disruption can cause fear that businesses in the area will not be able to pivot or will be outpaced by new developments. Although understanding the value of enhanced digital capability is not the issue, understanding how that innovation occurs and creating a method that works alongside existing market entities to ease any reservations is key.
In order to continue advancing the digital transformation, traditional transport solutions that rely on major markets must evolve to support a more robust and decentralized IT architecture, meeting the evolving content and application use of a highly distributed user base.
Creating a New Model
With today’s technology clearly requiring a more distributed model to the edge, attention on bridging the digital divide is growing. Solutions are being developed, but this challenge needs more work (and financial resources) to make up for lost time. Furthermore, the approach to addressing these needs in rural and underserved markets cannot be the same approach that has been taken in metropolitan locations — this is a different use case altogether that requires an individualized approach, building the right infrastructure with the right strategy to cultivate long-term growth and success.
To solve content and application latency, efficiency, cost, performance and access challenges, local content and applications need to be kept local. This means that a neutral approach to aggregating networks and driving interconnection at a single strategic location is needed. In metro-adjacent, rural or currently underserved locations especially, access to large data streams must be provisioned in a way that empowers markets through a more widespread distribution model designed to build trust while maintaining critical density for cost and performance efficiency. This model of interconnecting networks to enhance quality and performance is not new — it is just not yet happening at scale in a way that is made for the rural and remote areas where it is needed most.
These new market interconnection points require high levels of flexibility to overcome any deployment challenges — they must be able to be built in a host of different types of locations that suit what is available or what is needed in each market, remaining neutral in every way. They must be designed specifically for local compatibility, remaining free to make use of any real estate type or equipment while enabling any carrier, cloud or content provider to be empowered by reaching the most endpoints through a robust interconnection strategy. At the core of this model is cooperation. Cooperation with and between local entities when building out this infrastructure means the existing businesses and providers are supported, not disrupted, which is key for ensuring full adoption and enduring success in these areas.
Not only will these points keep content and application traffic local (and offer the associated speed, cost reliability and performance benefits), they will create a symbiotic ecosystem for local businesses that goes beyond aggregating existing providers to attract a growing amount of content and applications as the edge point progresses. If cultivated correctly, these interconnection points will only continue to attract more providers and create a host of benefits not only for themselves, but also for the wider digital ecosystem, creating self-sufficient, ongoing growth that will level the digital playing field while creating a more robust foundation for the needs of today and tomorrow.
Scott Willis is president and CEO of DartPoints. As a communications industry global technology leader, he has a record of accomplishment of building successful businesses for both large and small organizations to significant scale. He has extensive leadership experience transforming organizations, setting strategic direction, overseeing complex operations and confecting corporate alliances while delivering growth and profitability to the business.
NEWS FLASH — AUSTIN, TEXAS – 2019…the Edge Global Conference 2019 has just concluded with a healthy dose of both reality and optimism. Organized by BroadGroup, this gathering follows the trend for dispersing compute processing power across enterprise and cloud resources closer to the user. Massive amounts of computing power are moving away from the core to the edge of the network, which could be a cell site.
As usual, the conference had a diverse smattering of topics and sessions. But the news about the edge is mixed. Let me explain.
The edge is still nascent. We are in the middle of developing a variety of standards to give the segment some direction. The committee that I sit on, the TIA Edge Data Center Standards Development Committee, is still working on a lot of stuff. That means it will be a while before a decent set of standards is available. How long, one might ask? I would say about a year before there are enough standards to say we have a clear vision of where the edge is heading.
That does not mean the edge will not progress and there will not be deployments. But because the edge is nascent, the definition is loose. In reality, edge data centers (EDCs) are whatever one presently wants them to be. Peeled back, they are nothing but a structure (from a rack to a self-contained, fully redundant building, sporting a 200 KW power system that supports multiple data systems and networks). The bottom line is that this segment is looking for clarity and permanence.
But that did not stop Edge Micro from setting up an edge data center a few blocks from the venue. It was a great, first implementation of how an edge data center might appear.
All of this was evident at this conference. However, the fluidity of the edge takes nothing away from this conference. The attendees and speakers were right there at the edge (no pun intended).
The edge industry is full of bright, talented, motivated people and that was evident from the program. If one is interested in what all was discussed, go here: https://www.edgecongress.com/america.
Of all the panels and speakers what is closest to my heart (and the wireless industry) is smart cities and the visionary sessions. I wanted to do autonomous vehicles but could not find the time. But know that the edge will be part of every existing and emerging technology going forward.
Most noteworthy, IMHO, was the visionary speech by Rob Hirschfeld, founder and CEO of RackN. This year’s talk took a bit of a different track. Rather than tout the promise of the edge, he went the other direction. His talk discussed the myths and pitfalls of the edge. I do not have space to detail what he presented, except to say that sometimes the truth hurts. However, stay tuned, he has committed to writing a piece that discusses his talking points. It is an eye-opener.
Like 5G and autonomous vehicles, the edge suffers from a bit of hype. One particular myth is that the edge and the cloud are similar. They are not. That is one of the points address by Hirschfeld. The edge is not a mini cloud as many think. The edge and the cloud are complementary but quite different in both functions and features. More on this in a future missive. Another point brought up by Hirschfeld, and this is somewhat of a shocker that departs from much of the hype, is that the edge will not be predominantly 5G. His take is that edge technology will be Wi-Fi and private networks, at that.
As much as I respect his knowledge and expertise. I have to question that. I would also be interested in hearing from readers on what their take is on edge platforms.
Extrapolating on the Wi-Fi angle, that dispels the belief that the edge will create 5G, and vice versa, 5G alone is insufficient to develop edge networks. That was something that caught me by surprise, but when one thinks about it, it does make some sense. This because as much as we want 5G to be the panacea for all that ails wireless networks, it will not be, and the emerging Wi-Fi 6 is going to rock some worlds.
Another presentation I attended, Smart Cities, was one of those future discussions. But we know a lot more about segments like smart cities and autonomous vehicles now than we did a year ago so it is a bit easier to see where these segments are heading.
This presentation highlighted the fact that digitization and the Internet of Everything and Everyone (IoX) will be the technologies that smart cities will be built upon. That makes a lot of sense, especially when one factors in 5G, AI, evolving wireless platforms and more. The smart city will make extensive use of edge networks and the IoX, perhaps be the most prolific deployment platform for each.
Other sessions addressed the mobile edge; gaming (that sounded like an interesting session); streaming apps; robotics, and even finance and business cases.
In closing, I want to note that this is one of those conferences that, on the surface, seems a bit distant from wireless. That could not be further from the truth. While neither 5G nor the edge will create each other, both will be codependent upon each other and as each evolves it will benefit the other. The edge will also be critical to other segments in wireless, such as enhanced mobile broadband.
As well, edge data centers will be important in private networks. From a global perspective, there are very few wireless segments that will not be integrated with edge data centers.
Progress is ramping up in the development of this industry segment. Next year, this conference is moving to California to better serve the attendees with a larger venue and a wider distribution of industry representation. I think it is a worthwhile to attend as I feel 2020 will be a pivotal year for edge technology development. It would not be in a wireless player’s best interests to not have a working understanding of what the edge is all about.
5G Americas has published ‘5G at the Edge,’ a white paper that explores new groundbreaking possibilities emerging from the combination of Edge Computing with 5G technologies. Edge Computing refers to locating applications, general-purpose compute, storage, and associated switching and control functions that are required to run them – relatively close to end users and/or IoT endpoints.
Chris Pearson, president, 5G Americas said, “Edge Computing locates processing power closer to where data collection actually takes place – nearer to the radio access network than the core, but it’s not one size fits all. As operators deploy edge computing, they will need to consider their architecture to address specific services, applications and use cases.”
This 5G Americas’ white paper explores Edge Computing’s role in the evolution of 5G architecture, the application of Cloud-native principles such as software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV), and identifies various methodologies currently being adopted for 5G applications. It covers detailed emerging use cases and outlines the stringent requirements needed to facilitate advanced mobility, compute, storage capabilities for emerging 5G wireless networks.
Additionally, this paper supplies an in-depth view of the various industry and open source initiatives defining emerging EDGE architectures. Overall, it defines the next generation Edge reference architecture and explores future directions in networking.
According to Pearson, “As 5G networks become more distributed, they will get more complex and need data processing that takes advantage of cloud-native principles like containerization and micro-services. Edge computing and network transformation will lead operators to enable new low-latency scenarios in Augmented Reality, V2X transportation, manufacturing, health, education and beyond.”
“A new reference architecture based on data centric technologies like analytics, networking and storage for edge computing-enabled 5G systems is being shaped that will have broad implications for how wireless networks operate in the future,” explained Rao Yallapragada, Director of Advanced Technologies for Intel and a co-leader of the paper’s working group.
“5G At The Edge” covers some pertinent topics:
According to Rao, “5G and Edge Computing are mutually reinforcing. Edge architecture’s need for low latency drives demand for 5G, and 5G’s growing availability increases the pull of workloads from the core to the Edge.”
EdgePresence CEO Doug Recker is on the prowl at this year’s Connectivity Expo in Orlando. His company is looking for partners as it pursues a creative strategy for edge computing that leads to the placement of edge points of presence (PoP) at tower sites.
A PoP is an artificial demarcation point or interface point between communicating entities. EdgePresence owns and operates PoPs that provide space, power, bandwidth and interconnection on a leased basis either in multi-tenant or in single-tenant build-to-suit facilities.
The company places its PoPs, called EdgePods, at telecommunications tower sites to take advantage of such sites’ available electrical power and fiber-optic cable route connections. These locations place the PoPs closer to EdgePresence customers. According to Recker, the customers for the PoPs are the same as what he calls standard customers that would otherwise use a brick-and-mortar data center.
“A customer is someone who goes inside data centers for power, cooling and network redundancy or for connectivity and fast connections, transport and low latency,” Recker said. “These include cloud providers and retail customers, anywhere from local banks to credit unions — anyone who needs quick access, low latency and a presence in that region.”
Recker said that EdgePresence announced its project at last year’s Connectivity Expo. Since then, a tower company has agreed to make space available for PoP placement at relevant antenna sites. He said that EdgePresence has enclosures for the EdgePod PoPs, which he calls micro data centers, in production. “We have four built,” he said. “Two more are being deployed in the next two weeks.”
EdgePresence has completed its proof of concept, Recker said, and it is ready to launch in 20 markets by December. “We have customers that are installed and billing,” he said. “We have the product deployed and working in Jacksonville, Florida. We have customers and potential customers on a national scale.”
The company is deploying with tower operators now so its micro data centers will already be installed at tower sites when mobile operators need them for edge computing associated with 5G wireless communications.
“We are trying to get the product out there, but we have to have revenue on the product now, because it could take two to three years before true edge requirements develop,” Recker said. “We are at Connectivity Expo this year for the same reason we were here last year: We are looking for partners to deploy a greater number of edge micro data centers. Tower partners are talking with people about the edge, because that is where the mobile operators are. Everyone is rushing to get there, but no one has a plan. We want to get boxes out there for customers who are deployed right now.”