IT edge connectivity

The role of data centres in an IT edge world

What is Edge? The role of data centres in an IT edge world

The role of the edge network and edge services are increasingly important topics to enterprises. The Internet of Things (IoT), the ubiquity of consumer internet service and mobile devices are factors that have contributed to higher user expectations making seamless access to enterprise data and consumer services a necessity.

Low latency, or delays typically incurred in the processing of network data, is crucial for business users and consumers that demand the utmost efficiency and speed. Despite heavy volume of information and transactions, enterprise service providers risk customer defections unless latency and congestion issues aren’t minimised at the IT edge.

To deliver, companies are pushing more compute to an edge network to ensure fast and secure data access. Enterprises look to the information technology edge (IT edge) as an intermediary between local and national resources, shortening the route to heavily-used resources while providing access to more distant and potentially more expensive services on an on-demand basis. The result can be an improved client experience and, often times, a valuable strategic advantage.

Enablers

The emergence of fast long-term evolution (LTE) and next-generation 5G networks are enabling mobile edge computing. That's because an edge network, which helps deliver content more effectively to users near the site locations, can be tied to mobile towers or have access to 5G which are ultimately tethered to a fibre connection.

Also, IoT usage is poised to explode, with over 50-billion IT edge devices expected to be Internet connected, according to Cisco. The amount of data generated by mobile edge computing is expected to grow four times by 2020 compared to 2016. Given that expectation, data centres on an edge network will be crucial for faster processing and better security.

Content providers, such as Google, are giving life to data centres that part of an edge network and edge services too. Google's Cloud CDN (Content Delivery Network) initiative, which has eight partners including CloudFlare and Verizon, provides pricing incentives for cloud services if its customers used CDN providers that are part of an edge network to deliver data to buyers in regions served.

Data centre design will need to change given the increase in distributed data on the IT edge. There is emerging consensus that the design of data centres designed to operate on an edge network will shrink to meet the needs of enterprises. Gartner Group, an industry research firm, believes the topology of networked data centres will evolve over the next five years from a centralised, mega data centre approach to a model supplemented by many smaller, distributed sources of content and information be it distributed, enterprise-owned data centres, hosting providers, colocation or the cloud.

The question remains for many: What is edge? Despite this consensus and the need for mobile edge computing and other types of computing at the IT edge, a variety of definitions exist when the topic of the edge network is raised. The edge network, for example, is still sometimes associated with early iterations of content delivery networks that acted as delivery caches designed to push static content closer to users of edge services.

Today's workloads are far more compute intensive though. As Gartner notes, the key difference between CDN and the 'edge approach' is the degree to which each approach offers and the management of bi-directional traffic to and from the IT edge.

The Infrastructure Masons, a group of noted data centre industry professionals, believe an data centre at the IT edge - a computing enclosure, space or facility that's placed closer to the source of the data or user base – is necessary to minimise latency if not resiliency issues.

The group concluded that for an IT edge to exist, there must be a hub or a core; therefore, dispersion of computing to the periphery would qualify as edge computing and the physical enclosure, space or facility can be defined as the edge facility.

Proximity and therefore the reduction of back-haul, latency and potential network congestion the facility provides to its customers makes a data centres and mobile edge computing a reality in other words.

Data centre topologies will need to change; edge topologies are emerging:

  • mobile edge bulletpoint

    Mobile edge computing devices

    in cars, planes, trains and trucks for example

  • home computing unit bulletpoint

    Home/building computing unit

    in the form of micro modular data centre the size of a utility cabinet

  • home computing units bullet point

    A combination of home computing units

    shared by organisations in different sectors with shared goals (i.e. healthcare and education)

  • linear computing units bullet point

    Linear/process computing units

    on an edge network can potentially bond different companies or different parts of an organisation to meet a common production goal

  • distributive units bullet point

    Distributive computing units

    at the IT edge are expected to primarily deal with the distribution of videos and other latency-sensitive content

The Role of the colocation data centre

Edge data centres won't replace existing data centre designs; the sites will compliment and serve customers with the most latency-hungry workloads. Colocation data centre providers have adapted to this reality.

To that end, there are two types of edge data centres offered by multi-tenant data centres (MTDC). Providers, such as Colt Data Centre Services, provide the first type from their many colocation facilities. Colt does so by offering space in smaller facilities that are used to serve secondary locations. This type of colocation provider aims to provide space, power and connectivity for their main customers, many of whom will be service providers. These companies have full data centre capabilities within a facility. Otherwise, a modularised site located close to the edge of an organisation's main network is offered.

Other data centre providers, such as EdgeConnex, specialise in providing edge data centre services in smaller markets. At around at around 5,000 to 10,000 sq. ft., these data centres are typically smaller than the mega facilities built and operated by larger providers.

Information technology decision makers recognise the complementary role that colocation providers play. Nearly two-thirds of decision makers responsible for selecting colocation services respondents told 451 Research that colocation providers will likely play an important role in the next two-to-three years for data processing close to the source.

Colt Data Centre Services is proof of the key role that colocation data centres play in the delivery of edge-to-core solutions. The location and capacity of Colt's 24 data centres nicely dovetail with the growing need by enterprises to deal with latency-sensitive applications at the edge. Colt';s regional data centres, which are typically less than six miles to end users and have connectivity to internet exchanges, serve as aggregation points and bridges between the Cloud and end-point users with high-volume needs and latency-sensitive applications. This means Colt's edge sites provide enterprises with a robust, cost-effective distribution solution in addition to the traditional rack-based as well as the cage and dedicated suite solutions.

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