Local fibre and 5G will develop alongside small data centres, conference hears

Cara Mascini on Zoom.jpg

Small data centres will develop alongside a fibre infrastructure in small neighbourhoods, the audience for yesterday’s session in Edge Global Week heard.

But what will drive them is demand for applications — such as gaming — that need low-latency, the panellists agreed.

“There’s a new class of applications that will require edge,” said CBRE’s Duncan Clubb, especially apps that need low latency. “We will see a big drive, but it will take some time.”

He expects to see lots of small data centres “a few tens of kilometres from where everyone lives”, he told the virtual conference session, on Edge deployment and the rise of the micro data centre.

But this means major infrastructure investment “and it will be three to five years before mass consumption”, and the arrival of the edge-native applications that will need low latency, said Clubb.  

We can’t move all the data into the centralised cloud, said Jacques Fluet of TIA, who was moderating the panel. “That’s way too much. Do we need to change the infrastructure?”

There are various use cases, said Cara Mascini of Edge Infra. “It depends who you talk to — some cases are on-premise for manufacturing or on industrial parks. ‘Build and they will come’ is over. You always need a customer case.”

Mark Cooper of Interxion agreed: “There’s a difference between private edge and public edge. There are very specific verticals where a lot of the edge compute is happening.” Data can be processed locally. “Do those applications exist? Gaming is an application that is moving.”

Maybe it’s a case of “repurpose and they will come”, he said — with telephone exchange buildings perhaps becoming homes to small data centres where traffic could be connected locally.

Clubb smiled: “Most telcos have been centralising their peering, and now they need to decentralise.” He said: “Edge only works if you can keep the data local. Getting all the last-mile connectivity is a critical part. The network is as important as anything.”

He agreed with other panellists: “The applications will really drive adoption. Gaming is a very obvious use case. It could be early adopters like gamers that will drive it. And 5G.”

“In the longer term we’re looking to new types of applications,” he said. Before 4G came along “there was no Uber and Netflix was a download service. The edge will need investors that take a leap, but it’s a long journey.” A similar situation will happen with 5G and edge, he suggested.

Mascini said there needs to be a disaggregation of networks, “and that needs to be local”, she added. That might be challenging to incumbent operators. “It’s a major feat to accomplish”, at the same time that they’re installing 5G.

Clint Wyckoff of Nebulon said: “Pushing out high-speed connectivity is a challenge. The biggest driver is to reduce latency. You have to work backwards from the customer.” He said what was needed was “a latency-friendly deployment”.

But Cooper warned: “Edge suffers as cloud did five years ago.” There are too many different definitions. “But it is happening. What is starting to come is deployments in second-tier cities or countries away from traditional locations.”

The full session is available online here

During Edge Global Week we also heard about edge drivers from VMWare and how open source can support telcos.