The edge could be a winning card for telcos

Data Center HPC


For some time now, I’ve been trying to talk more about “digital infrastructure” than “data centers”. That’s because the connections that link data centers, their users and other resources such as power, are just as important as the servers and infrastructure inside the buildings. When it comes to the 'Edge' - new, exciting opportunities could exist for telecommunications providers...

The cloud was obviously the first sign of that. When it emerged, it seemed that network connections had made the location of servers irrelevant. But in fact, early cloud services were just taking network connectivity for granted, and the actual shortfall in connectivity tended to undermine the acceptance of those services.

Now, we’re continually hearing about “Edge” resources, which put data centers close to their users and close to the other devices they have to interact with, such as the myriad of sensors that enable the Internet of Things. Data center hardware vendors are offering “edge facilities”, which are usually a variant on micro data centers. Anything from a rack to a shipping container. These, we are told, can be placed wherever edge applications require them to go.

However, where exactly will that be? To talk with a large number of sensors, or a large number of users, these facilities will have to talk wirelessly. And the users and sensors will need existing low-cost, mass-produced connectivity. That means that, in a lot of cases, edge means users and sensors connected by mobile data, and the best place for the edge facility will in fact be a box at a cell tower, using the tower to connect to the local sources and users. This idea was very clearly set out at DCD’s Edge Summit in Dallas last year.

In the six months since that event, I’ve had about half a dozen companies describe edge facilities specifically aimed at the base of cell towers. They range from suitcase-sized liquid-cooled boxes, up to the shipping containers I mentioned previously.

The best pitches will need to include some indication of a partnership with a cell tower firm, either an actual mobile operator or, better still, one of the lesser-known management companies that manage the estate of towers on their behalf. Vapor IO, for instance, has a partnership with Crown Castle.

It seems that Edge is happening, and in the process, it looks like it will give those mobile infrastructure players a much stronger role in the Internet.

All this is an over-simplification, of course, because others at that DCD event also pointed out that edge will be defined as much by the use-case and the application as by the hardware. ”I don’t think edge is a location or a size - it’s an application,” suggested Joe Reele, vice president, data center solution architect at Schneider Electric.

This means that an application running in a remote facility might still qualify as an edge application, if the latency to the users and devices involved is such that that genuine edge data is being processed there. That might sound fanciful, but major cloud providers are busily upgrading global fibre links to cut this latency. There’s a limit, of course: if you need response times in a few milliseconds (for things like VR) you have to be really close to the user.

But many applications simply log edge data and produce near-real-time reports, which can be as remote as you like. So your US or European edge application could conceivably be running in a data center in Iceland (to mention my host here). But the quality of the connection to those application will be of such importance that even for remote hyperscale facilities, the network provision will have increasing importance.


Written by Peter Judge (Guest)

See Peter Judge (Guest)'s blog

Peter Judge is the Global Editor at Datacenter Dynamics. His main interests are networking, security, mobility and cloud. You can follow Peter at: @judgecorp

Related blogs

Iceland provides the power behind Germany's most pioneering AI start-ups

This week has seen the announcement of Analytic Engineering, a pioneering German AI engineering firm, choosing Verne Global’s data center in Iceland as the location for their intensive computing. This represents another impressive AI and Machine Learning client win for us, following DeepL joining us just before Christmas.

Read more


Verne Global - DGX-Ready, Set, Go!

Today our friends at NVIDIA announced that Verne Global’s Icelandic data center has been selected as one of its initial three European DGX-Ready Data Center program partners. We’re delighted to be working with NVIDIA on this program and to have our data center identified as an optimal location for their powerful range of DGX AI supercomputers.

Read more


The UK's NHS will trust data to foreign powers

Data center providers will have welcomed the recent announcement that the NHS has approved the storage of patient data outside the UK . This could remove a barrier to the development of international colocation and cloud services for health and research data, and free organisations from the requirement to store patient data in their own country.

Read more

We use cookies to ensure we give you the best experience on our website, to analyse our website traffic, and to understand where our visitors are coming from. By browsing our website, you consent to our use of cookies and other tracking technologies. Read our Privacy Policy for more information.