Edge data centres, as the name suggest, are located at the edge of the network. They are relatively smaller facilities placed close to the population they serve. And, their job is to deliver cached content and cloud computing resources to end-users. This enables edge computing, which involves processing data and services as close to the end-user as possible.
This also allows a company, say a telecom services provider, to improve its customer experience. Typically, edge data centres are connected to larger central data centres or even multiple data centres. But, one may ask: That’s all wonderful, but why is this important to me? And, what’s new about this? The answer lies in the role edge computing and edge data centres will play when it comes to 5G. Let’s go back to the concept of edge computing. Edge computing is a distributed IT architecture wherein data is processed as close to the originating source as possible. Because the processing takes place close to the end-users, services are delivered faster and with minimal latency. ‘Fast services’ and ‘minimal latency’ – Where else are these terms used prominently? 5G, of course. When it comes to 5G, a decentralised cell network composed of edge data centres will provide low latency in use cases involving high device density. And, it is this low latency, apart from higher data speeds, that will be the gamechanger. Latency is a measure of the time between the sending of a piece of information and the corresponding response. Still too complicated? Let’s understand this concept by way of an example. Latency is the time gap between the moment you command a remotely driven vehicle to stop and the instant in which it actually starts to apply the brakes. Reducing that latency gap from hundredths of a second to a few milliseconds can ensure faster reaction time for driverless cars, thereby making them smarter and safer. And, it is edge computing that will enable 5G to deliver on its latency and bandwidth promises. Since data packets will not have to travel far all the way to some centralised point, applications such as cloud gaming, IoT and augmented reality, all of which have low latency and high bandwidth requirements, should be able to deliver an experience that satisfies the 5G customer. Simply put, if you want to experience the full potential of 5G, ensure that there are enough edge data centres around.
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