Connect (X)

Tag Archives: edge data centers

To See the Future of Wireless, Keep an Eye on the Edge

By Ernest Worthman, AWT Exec. Editor, IEEE Sr. Member

Ern’s Perspective


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.