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Why 5G edge computing doesn’t exist without network infrastructure aggregation

HGC 5 G edge computing

Planning ahead, expanding your ICT environments, automating them, literally digitising your digital footprint, is key to evolve your brand to a true 21st century platform that aimed at making sense of data.

Dennis Chan
AVP - OTT & ICT Solutions, International Business of HGC

Have you ever given up loading a website or watching a movie because it just wouldn’t load? You’re not alone… Network performance, scalability at speed for IT environments and infrastructure, capability to reach out to users and offer faster, reliable services, are just some of the major pain points a lot of enterprises as well as over the top (OTT) providers still suffer in 2021 and cause havoc when it comes to user experience.

All these challenges have one thing in common, or should I say, one common cause of the problem. That is the exponential growth of internet usage and production of data. It is all about data. Data generated by gaming platforms, virtual reality (VR) environments, financial trading systems, internet of things (IoT) applications, vehicle telemetry, remote surgeries, the list goes on to an endless number of use cases, some of which we can’t even think about today.

IDC predicts that the global datasphere will grow from 33 Zettabytes (ZB) in 2018 to 175 ZB by 2025.

To keep up with the storage demands stemming from all this data creation, IDC forecasts that over 22 ZB of storage capacity must ship across all media types from 2018 to 2025, with nearly 59% of that capacity supplied from the HDD industry.

As this grows, so grows the dependence of all of us on networks. With some of these applications being time critical – such as driverless cars, financial trading and remote surgery – several enterprises experience some rocky service provisioning. But what if there is a solution?

First, there is. Secondly, it is becoming widely available week by week. I am talking about the emergence of data centres at the edge, or as it is usually referred to, edge computing.

Edge computing holds the promise - and it is delivering that same promise right now – of bringing computer power closer to the data source: the user. Edge refers to enterprise-hardened servers and appliances that are not in core data centres. This includes server rooms, servers in the field, cell towers, and smaller data centres located regionally and remotely for faster response times.

Ultimately, those 175 ZB of data will only become a worthy business asset when enterprises and OTTs make sense of the data, and that is where edge computing is proving to be as crucial as mainframes were in the 1950s. Edge will potentially be an even bigger revolution and by 2025, 75% of enterprise data will be processed at the edge, compared to only 10% today, says IBM.

On the other hand, edge computing is happening because 5G is also being deployed all around the world. IBM says that the global 5G-enabled edge computing market is set to exceed US$50 billion by 2025. Today, this is still an emerging segment.

A lot of the applications and latency-sensitive use cases I mentioned previously, will gain new strength with the availability of 5G networks which support bandwidth-hungry applications. This is because 5G offers greater speeds which can be less than ten milliseconds that really allow to bring down latency and data transfer delays, which ultimate results in saving lives, speeding business transactions, creating new revenues and consequently, enabling a continuous wave of innovation to build new applications.

Ultimately, the industry is on a journey to reduce latency. And it is succeeding. What before used to take more than ten milliseconds, thanks to edge computing and 5G can now take less than that. In some cases, latency is down to even two and three milliseconds.

All this is proof of the importance of telecommunication companies in the current digital economy we live in. As we digitise and modernise our networks, the usage of ground-breaking infrastructure and new network architectures are placing telcos at the forefront of this new ecosystem of speedy networks, and therefore, the realisation of old and new latency-sensitive use cases.

Why network latency is important in 5G edge monetisation

Take gaming industry as an example, as esports explodes in popularity, cloud gaming is the beacon for the industry’s new age. Billions of users around the world are now playing online versus to the old days when they were constrained to a single piece of hardware such as a console. Time here is essential as well and latency is not an option, or you risk game over. All this is being enabled for the ever expanding ecosystems of infrastructure that is deployed closer to the gamer.

Cloud has taken over the today’s $159 billion gaming industry and will be serving all users, no matter what devices they use to access their gaming service of choice. Nevertheless, success is dependent on how well networks perform and how much they bring down latency and avoid any lag too. In the gaming world, anything below the 100ms is considered acceptable as network latency, with 20ms to 40ms seen as optimal. However, as games become more realistic and things such as virtual and augmented reality pick up, consumers will eventually demand lower times. In the near future, players will demand latency periods as low the ones needed in the financial sector in 2021 for instance.

Cloud gaming will enable the mass adoption of virtual reality (VR). And although gaming is what will take VR to the masses, its applications will go beyond the gaming world. Take VR concerts for instance, if you are watching your favourite band play, live, from your living room on your headset, you will not set for anything less than real time. This is where the importance of low latency brought by 5G will be exposed to the masses of consumers. And businesses need to be ready to answer that call.

Beyond that, just think of the applications in the e-health space. Remote surgery for example. You will no longer have to travel long distances to be operated. You could simply check in into a local hospital or clinic, and a surgeon 2,000 miles away could perform the surgery on you. This has already been demonstrated in China where the world's first remote operation using 5G technology took place in 2019. According to reports, the surgery was made possible by the extremely low latency of 5G.

There are many different use cases today that show just how relevant it is to have an ecosystem that brings users’ experiences as close to real time as possible. Nonetheless, just like with most things, all of the promises and benefits of edge and 5G come with their challenges.

Overcoming pain points to maximise the reach and speed up time-to-market

Companies, especially OTT providers, are still braced with a series of pain points when it comes to taking full advantage of such technological revolution.

Three of the main notions include the ability to capture business opportunities, increase the market share and implement the necessary infrastructure and systems fast and extensively.

Speed is the name of the game. If for the financial industry, gamers or remote surgeons speed is the key to saving lives, making money or winning a virtual battle, for the OTTs, the skill to leverage it all is the difference between growing their own footprints, build revenues and retain customers on top of finding new ones, or getting nothing.

Take financial trading as an example, traders have since the mid-2000s been rapidly shifting their systems closer to Wall Street in successful attempts to reduce latency. For this industry, time is literally money as one millisecond can be worth as much as US$100 million.

Take for example an OTT brand who would like to launch and extend its services to more than five regions, for example Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. This company needs to, within weeks of time, deliver its services by establishing hundreds of servers and reach over 10 million of end users.

Some of the questions they will be asking themselves would be how can they reach local mobile network operators (MNO) and internet service providers (ISP) quick; how can they reach an edge pop fast; and do they have enough knowledge/know to understand the local environment? All this has historically taken months to develop and deploy.

The answer, however, lies in simplification. A lot of businesses struggle in their quest to do business outside the borders where they were born because they attempt to build their whole ecosystem themselves. Companies like HGC put in place the necessary infrastructure and systems to handle such expansion requests that OTTs have in their globalisation and localisation expansion roadmaps.

In short, HGC acts as an aggregator and single contact point for OTTs to reach end users very quickly as the infrastructure is well established with interconnection to local carriers, ISPs and MNOs. This results in OTTs being able to reach a large number of users – or as we like to call them, eyeballs – in a multitude of geographies at the switch of a button.

We understand the local compliance regulations and we speak the local language wherever our customers want to go as we are a global brand with employers from 23 offices oversea covering 30+ different local languages. Our expertise is not only available in developed countries in Asia, but also in emerging south East Asia and ASEAN markets. We save OTT’s cost and time to reach local ISP one by one.

Besides, our managed services provide quality assurance and a peace of mind to any OTT provider. The OTT world is very competitive. OTT companies like to increase market share as much as possible and increase brand stickiness with the local end users. HGC is a fast mover in the technology space who meets the fast changing market demand from these bandwidth-hungry service providers.

However, despite all the incredible applications of edge computing and 5G, a key part of this evolution in how we connect our world and ourselves; how we build, deploy and maintain those ecosystems. And a big part of it are software defined networks (SDN), the usage of automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and other self-learning/self-sufficient technologies.

Reaching eyeballs

Ultimately, you have to look at your business and really understand how this new wave of data processing and application delivery can best work for you. How can that data give you better insights? How and where edge computing will give you a boost in revenues? How can you benefit from 5G? And ultimately, how can you manage it all in an ever-growing complex ICT ecosystems?

HGC is one of the leading experts in deploying an edge data centre in multiple locations across Asia-Pacific, Europe and beyond. A robust fiber network needs to also be taken into account to connect it all, both subsea and terrestrial, enabling the use case for 5G.

If, for example, you are an OTT operator you would prefer a company that has a mapped edge computing ecosystem, with the chance of reaching hundreds of millions of users or as we call it, eyeballs.

In the past, businesses have wanted to reach as many people with local ISP content, content reach on a one by one basis. This not only is time consuming, but it is also extremely costly in addition to curbing anyone’s rapid expansion be it within a single market or several markets.

This is where a one stop service becomes key to reach as many eyeballs as possible. This one stop service would include for example a provider with fiber networks, ISP agreements, an edge computing and data centre footprint, to name but a few.

This is what we at HGC call Eyeballs-as-a-Service. From one content point you are able to reach 90% of other points. For example, if you are an enterprise or OTT in the South East Asia region, through an Eyeballs-as-a-Service platform, you can reach users not only in that region, but several other cities and countries around the world.

In the past, people put their computers in the data centre. Now they want it in the frontend, close to user, and they also want to be able to manage it. HGC can help manage those platforms through one-stop shop deployment and maintenance managed services.

Automating the world

The SDN market size was estimated to be over US$8 billion in 2018 and is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 40% up until 2025, according to Global Market Insights(GMI).

GMI highlights that the explosion in the number of mobile devices and server visualisation along with the advent of cloud computing technologies are forcing enterprises to re-examine their conventional network architectures. Most of the traditional network architectures are hierarchical and built on tiers of Ethernet switches. The design of these networking frameworks is ill-suited to cope with dynamic computing and storage needs to today’s enterprise networks.

SDN can help due to its dynamic and flexible network architecture that can respond to constantly changing business, end-user and market requirements.

According to the Open Network Foundation (ONF), SDN is an emerging architecture that is dynamic, manageable, cost-effective, and adaptable, making it ideal for the high-bandwidth, dynamic nature of today’s applications. This architecture decouples the network control and forwarding functions enabling the network control to become directly programmable and the underlying infrastructure to be abstracted for applications and network services.

From a business standpoint, delivering fast, secure and reliable digital experiences is one of the keys to increasing consumer engagement and brand stickiness.

In this new 5G edge world, SDN is set to become a pillar in the design of 5G networks, especially by enabling operators and OTTs to build an intelligent architecture for network programmability, as well as the creation of multiple network hierarchies.

This is where HGC’s SDX International Marketplace can help. The SDN platform provides fast provisioning of on-demand data centre-to-data centre and data centre-to-cloud connectivity, centralised network management, and zero-touch services provisioning with a pay-as-you-go model and flexible contract periods to support OTT telco services.

Through the HGC International Marketplace, customers can continuously reach different global public cloud services such as AWS, Alibaba Cloud, Tencent Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, as well as international Internet Exchanges like AMS-IX, LINX, DE-CIX, to meet the needs of ISPs and global OTTs.

In the long run, those who will survive in this new edge, 5G, SDN world, will be the ones who do not wait for demand to surpass their capabilities to serve the market they operate in. Planning ahead, expanding your ICT environments, automating them, literally digitising your digital footprint, is key to evolve your brand to a true 21st century platform aimed at making sense of data and, most importantly, in real time and from anywhere. Do that, and the return on your investment will catapult your brand to a whole new level.

The article was published on SubTel Forum Magazine Issue 115.

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