In this edition of Voices of the Industry, Raul Martynek, CEO at DataBank, continues to refine the definition of edge computing. This is the third of a three-part series looking at the edge from the multiple perspectives of enterprises that use and drive edge development: hyperscalers, network providers, SaaS firms, and content providers. In this article, we examine how SaaS and content providers can leverage the low-latency edge to fully capitalize on the capabilities of 5G networks.
Get Close to the Edge to Capitalize on 5G
As the World Economic Forum and PwC emphasized in a jointly-published white paper, 5G enables unprecedented levels of connectivity. This includes superfast broadband, ultra-reliable low-latency applications, massive machine-type communications, high reliability, high availability, and efficient energy usage. Together, these defining features will transform many sectors, such as manufacturing, transportation, public services, gaming, healthcare, and financial services.
With these capabilities, 5G also promises to greatly expand the data processing functionality and interactive capabilities that software-as-a-service (SaaS) and content providers can deliver to their customers. A key factor in enabling this transformation is the ability to provision services as close to the edge as possible when necessary.
Workload demands will spike as dense customer clusters try to access applications and content. Just think of how many Apple TV subscribers wanted to watch Ted Lasso every Friday as new episodes became available.
Edge Compute and Storage Resources Reduce Latency
With 5G bringing low latency and greater bandwidth to wireless customers, the technology is also paving the way for greater consumption of SaaS and content services in markets with sub-par internet service. Also, given the realities brought about by COVID and the “new normal around remote work, many people might actually move away from high-population areas.
SaaS and content providers should, thus, prepare. Even where 5G is available, user experiences could degrade if services are not provisioned close enough to the edge. By adding customer-facing compute and storage resources to colocation and modular data centers operating at the edge, SaaS and content providers can improve customer experiences through improved application performance.
Rounding Out the Edge Perspectives
Our first article in this Voices of the Industry series covered the perspective of hyperscale cloud providers. We discussed how the definition of edge computing is expanding to include multi-tenant, enterprise-grade data centers in tier 1 and tier 2 metros. This change comes as the IT industry once again turns toward decentralization to deliver applications as close as possible to end-users.
In our second article, the edge from the perspective of network providers, we discussed how 5G and edge compute trends are leading network service providers to move away from traditional, centralized infrastructures and embrace more decentralized and highly geo-specific models.
As we now examine the edge from the perspective of SaaS and content providers—including those that deliver gaming, entertainment, and augmented reality services—we can see that they are looking for some of the same attributes as the hyperscale cloud providers. SaaS firms and content providers also want a wide footprint in Tier 1 and Tier 2 metros to get closer to major U.S. population centers. Like the carrier network providers, SaaS firms and content providers also value secondary colocation data centers in carrier hotels as well as private cloud options that offer on-ramp connections to public clouds.
Provisioning Services As Close As Possible to Customers
To fully capitalize on the benefits of 5G technologies that reduce latency and offer advanced caching capabilities, SaaS and content providers are mostly focused on the edge that puts their workloads even closer to their audiences. This requires highly geo-specific infrastructures such as modular data centers that can be placed anywhere—on the roof of high-rise buildings, at the base of cell towers, and within cable headend facilities.
Given the propensity of customer clusters to suddenly expand and contract, SaaS and content providers also need the flexibility to move workloads across secure and compliant hybrid environments that feature containerized infrastructures. No one knows exactly where future customer demand will come from, and the public cloud isn’t always going to be the answer.
A hybrid environment addresses this challenge by providing access to a mix of colocation, modular, and on-premises data centers as well as private and public cloud infrastructures. Such an infrastructure environment also facilitates managing and moving workloads to the ideal environment as they evolve across the application lifecycle—from development to testing, staging, and production.
Key Hybrid Infrastructure Attributes
For SaaS firms and content providers looking to deploy their applications within a hybrid infrastructure to get close to the edge and take advantage of 5G networks, it’s best to collaborate with an infrastructure partner offering a range of IT environments that complement public cloud deployments:
- Colocation data centers covering the entire geographic area of the customer base
- Multi-tenant and private cloud environments to adjust for security requirements
- On-ramp public cloud interconnects to accelerate file and data exchanges
- Modular data centers to reduce application latency for clustered and rural users
Portability across environments is another vital attribute. In some cases, public cloud vendors entice customers to code applications to sync with the provider’s proprietary platform. This means the application can’t be migrated to another environment without extensive recoding.
The maturity of an application is also a factor. When first building applications, IT allocates the infrastructure costs to support the minimum viable product. If the application is built in the cloud, the cost will be low at first because there isn’t any demand for the application. When the application matures and the demand rises, the company can then model the costs over a long time period to get a better idea of which components belong in a data center and which components belong in the cloud.
Bringing Applications and Content to Customer Doorsteps
5G along with edge infrastructures that provision applications close to customers will have a major impact on the services SaaS and content firms can deliver. This is critical because customers will demand faster and faster responses and expect more and more interactivity from their applications. The combination of 5G and edge solves this challenge by unlocking new capabilities for applications like augmented reality as well as faster data crunching and greater workflow-processing capacity.
Gone are the days when networks could send customers all the way to data centers on the other coast and then back again to their home office. 5G and low-latency edge networks virtually put applications and content right on customer doorsteps. And that opens the door to much greater customer experiences.
This article was written by Raul Martynek, CEO, DataBank. Mr. Martynek joined DataBank in June of 2017 as the CEO and is a 20+ year veteran in the telecom and Internet infrastructure sector, having held senior positions at several communications and networking companies, as well as asset management firms. Raul earned a BA in Political Science from Binghamton University and received a master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University