14 October
2019

How is 5G changing the data centre ecosystem?

5G (wireless) technology is the next generation mobile protocol like its predecessors 3G and 4G. 5G for a common man would mean, more data speed for mobile broadband. This implies that many applications like Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented reality (AR), autonomous cars, extensively interconnected smart cities etc. which were either not possible till now or were deterred in progress due to low bandwidth, are all going to become day-to-day realities.

Cisco has projected that with the advent of 5G by 2022, an average smartphone user will generate 11 GB of mobile traffic every month as compared to 2 GB per month in 2017. Why do you think will this happen? It is because we are heading towards a digital era where data is the language we shall speak; and not just us, it is the language even our machines and equipment shall speak. We will be living in smart homes that talk to us, driving (not) autonomous cars and using equipment that is outsmarting itself every second. One can only imagine the amount of data this will generate. Moreover, the need for storing this data for Machine Learning analytics and for communication with other devices will also increase manifold. Thus, it shall increase the need and demand of data centres.

Data Centres in their current form and architecture, however, might not be able to sustain the humongous data they will be expected to handle in the future. Just like there is going to be a disruption in technology, there needs to be a change in the design of data centres.

There is going to be a disruption in technology with the advent of 5G. Cisco has projected that with the advent of 5G by 2022, an average smartphone user will generate 11 GB of mobile traffic every month as compared to 2 GB per month in 2017. With this magnitude of Data Explosion, Data Centres are going to become even more crucial.

Here are a few changes expected in the Data Centre industry owing to 5G:

The switch to Edge Computing

Edge computing basically means processing data locally, near the data source and not sending it to the cloud and back via the data centre. This becomes more relevant in the 5G era because there is a requirement of almost zero latency at such high speeds. Hence, the closer the computing happens, the better it is. The data centre industry will have to adopt this technology to form edge compute nodes or micro data centres that help them minimize latency. Having said that, operators suppose that the processing powers of such nodes shall still be limited and the traffic will still have to be routed to the centralized data centre for cloud computing.

5G implies more of everything

Resorting to edge compute nodes, clearly means more storage is required. For the traffic of data that is going to be generated, data centre operators will need more intensive servers that will definitely consume more power. And to provide for all the above, one shall need more coolants and a much more sustainable data centre design. Else, the power consumption can have a snowball effect.

Localization of Data Centres

While micro data centres might reduce latency and increase processing speeds, the truth also is that for the smaller players in the market, it might be difficult to build this kind of a spread-out infrastructure. Hence, we might see an increase in proprietary data centres and colocation services in order to achieve economies of scale for the data centre operators. The economic feasibility will have to be thoroughly checked before jumping the gun.

Increase in resources

5G will bring with itself, everything in excess. There will be many new technologies that will take off because of the now available bandwidth and the irony is that every such innovation, even though building convenience for a common man, is going to produce humungous amount of data. Data centres will need more trained manpower, more resources, vendors supplying equipment will need better solutions about more sustainable architectures etc.

Having said the above, the sooner data centre operators embrace the changes the better it is because 5G will be rolled out in a select few markets by the end of 2019 and will be popularly available 2020 onwards. Even to harness the actual capacity of a technology like 5G, it is extremely relevant that data and infrastructure managers are fully prepared for it.