Online gaming, connected vehicles, and remote working environments require an unprecedented level of low-latency networks.
By Vikram Anand
Imagine that you’re sitting in the middle of an important client presentation and your high-speed internet connection fails. You’re watching a cricket match that’s in the final minutes and suddenly the live stream freezes and all you hear is a cheering sound from your neighbor. Your parents require surgery but can’t travel to a hospital in a large city for treatment, so they must have remote surgery. These are some real-life situations that you might have faced, as our dependency on the internet and connectivity services reaches the next level due to the current mandates requiring us to remotely work and play.
For Indian telcos who already offer the world’s cheapest data rates, it’s very difficult to maintain revenue growth of connectivity services. This will become even more challenging with the inevitable shift to 5G. In order to support the surging demand for high-bandwidth and low-latency applications in our remote environment, telcos can consider taking a new approach to transform their network architectures – it’s referred to as edge cloud.
Our low-latency world
The need for speed is reaching all-new levels and network reliability will become non-negotiable. For example, take smart factories or online gaming championships. Even a small lag in the network can cost you your production cycles or the big prize money you were about to win in the online game.
Low-latency use-cases span a variety of industries including education, retail, agriculture, banking, healthcare, and entertainment. For example, digital experiences that require low latency include students using cloud-based tools for virtual education, shoppers tapping into virtual reality to “experience” a piece of furniture in their home before purchasing it, accurately managing sensors in gas facilities, or improving soil productivity for farmers.
Transforming networks to keep up
These new-age cloud-native applications are set to be highly sensitive to latency requirements, as well as compute needs. This is where traditional centralized data center models can struggle to deliver. The quality of experience requirements is of a different magnitude altogether.
The distributed approach of edge cloud is an opportunity for telcos, as they control the last-mile network closest to end-users, both humans and machines. This framework is a network of several edges- compute data centers closer to end-users. These provide faster processing of information to ensure overall superior quality of service. The shift will result in a 5x increase in the number of data centers and promises to completely transform network architectures so telcos can continue to deliver the digital experiences their end-users need today.
Edge computing is driving the need for the distributed cloud and cloudification of the telecommunications network from the core of the network to the edge.
Edge cloud ushers in 5G
Telcos can leverage edge cloud to not only deploy future network functions such as cloud-native network applications but also to create new service offerings. The aim is to ensure that data gets aggregated and analyzed as close as possible to where it’s both created and consumed.
Edge cloud provides near-real-time cloud computing capability being closer to consumers or enterprises, strongly coupled with an IT environment at the network edge, offering a platform to support many of the low latency use-cases enabled by 5G. Cost-effective 5G service delivery is not possible without edge cloud, as 5G is not simply a faster version of 4G. Most 5G deployments will be increasingly virtualized, decentralized, and driven by intelligent automation.
Telcos can monetize their networks by offering the ability to dynamically allocate different cloud and network resources to meet specific Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for each service within and across their edge data center and network infrastructure. This provides for supporting 5G network slicing, which allows operators to provide multiple simultaneous and differentiated services using the common physical infrastructure.
As expected, adopting edge cloud is not without some challenges. If not deployed correctly, edge cloud can turn out to be very expensive and complex alongside security-related challenges.
Telcos are also likely to see competition from hyper-scale cloud providers and data center operators. Though the Indian telcos are well-placed to leverage the edge cloud opportunity, due to their dominance in their access network real-estate, they should have a collaborative model to work with others in the ecosystem.
As Indian telcos continue to support today’s remote environment, edge cloud will play a pivotal role in reducing latency and providing a platform for the next era of digital innovation. Looking ahead to 2021, edge cloud can transform networks for India’s telcos and become the new core of their revenue growth models.
Anand is Senior Sales Director, Ciena India