The arrival of 5G, or fifth generation cellular technology, will drive dramatic changes in the way businesses deliver customer experience. Download speeds of 1Gbps, reduced latency, greater energy efficiency, and more stability in network connections are promises that 5G holds. However, what has us most excited is the larger promise of a more connected future and an explosion of data, which will prompt companies to reimagine the scale of their operations.
Fifth-generation cellular technology could become the backbone for evolving technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and a catalyst for broader development and adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). As an ever-growing assortment of connected smart devices ushers in more smart cities and digital infrastructure, the simultaneous explosion of data is inevitable.
But more than anything else, 5G will drive software-defined infrastructure. And to my mind that’s going to be a big enabler for newer and faster services, and unmatched customer experience, irrespective of the device of choice for consuming content. What that will also do is open up a plethora of possibilities for newer businesses.
Consider this: By 2020 the world is expected to have 20 billion connected devices. Consequently, data will become highly distributed, from edge to core to cloud. The challenge this is likely to throw up will be to manage, analyse, store and protect data, wherever it exists. Security transformation will be inevitable as will be the transformation of end-to-end architecture, including the compute, network, and storage infrastructure.
The scope for data analytics will grow significantly as consumers increasingly use digital services. Back of the envelope calculations suggest that we barely analyse 10 per cent of the available data currently. Add to this the compounding effect of data quadrupling. Clearly, we need a new architecture framework to support this growth.
Take, for example, a city like Singapore. The city’s e-governance initiatives currently consume one petabyte per day. This is expected to make a quantum leap to 200 petabytes over the next three years. Likewise, cities across the world may generate 200 times more data over the next three to five years, resulting in a data disruption for technology services companies.
Streak data centres
So how do we face this challenge?
Today, large organisations at best manage a couple of data centres. The day is not far when businesses will need to run multiple data centres. My sense is that data centres will become ubiquitous, providing support to the services in a meaningful way. What this means is that organisations will have to host smaller data centres, call them mini data hubs if you will, and run data centres on the edge as well.
The concept of running edge data centres is likely to gain currency in the foreseeable future, in order to tackle the issue of latency, which might impinge on real time decision-making. Although the latency issue is expected to reduce significantly with 5G, it may not go away altogether, given the humungous data load that the network is expected to see. In order to drive decisions at the edge and provide real-time analytics, data centres will have to reside closer to the edge.
What I am essentially suggesting is conceptually more of a streak data centre, which will allow for seamless engagement between the customer and the content. Over the next couple of years, we will see a paradigm shift in the way data consolidation points are established, and in the way demand for services are met.
As for India, the roll out of 5G services, expected during the latter half of this calendar year, is estimated to have an impact of $1 trillion on the economy. In anticipation, a lot of businesses have already taken early steps in readying their infrastructure for future challenges.
The government has set up a high-level forum for drawing up a roadmap to launch 5G services in India by 2020, with speeds of up to 10,0000 Mbps in urban areas and 1,000 Mbps in rural parts of the country. In this context, the need for multiple data centres cannot be overemphasised.
Will a scalable, flexible, composable, and automated network infrastructure become the norm? The answer is a resounding yes for widespread 5G deployment.
The author is President and MD, Dell Technologies - India
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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