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How Edge Computing and 5G Work Together

What is edge computing about exactly and how does it work together with 5G and related technology stacks? We’re all currently living in the cloud computing era. Online services that we all use — Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, and many others — heavily rely on this technology. However, with the rollout of 5G and the increase in our purposes and usage of IoT devices, the strain on cloud networks couldn’t be greater. We’ve seen cloud services fail due to unexpected load in COVID-19 times, and surges could happen again.

Unfortunately, this increased strain on networks inevitably results in inconveniences that we’re all too familiar with. Due to high amounts of traffic, the time it takes for data to be processed increases, and we’re often left to deal with high network latency. To combat this, some cloud-based networking relies on edge computing to get the job done. It’s not a solution for all services but it’s a mandatory aspect to consider when trying to build a reliable network.

What is edge computing?

Edge computing is a type of cloud computing that allows for data to be processed at the “edge” or outer part of the network, as opposed to at the central network. How this process is made possible is due to data from IoT devices being processed by computers or servers located closer to the data source. This method of cloud computing allows for IoT devices and web applications to function faster, as it ultimately reduces the strain on bandwidth and network congestion to improve service quality and resilience.

Edge computing infrastructure
“Edge computing can be seen as an intermediate layer between devices and cloud, where services are handled by distributed edge nodes”

The future of edge computing and 5G

While edge computing has been around for a few years, the implementation of 5G has made it more relevant than ever. 5G will inevitably increase the amount of data being transferred across networks, and it is crucial that connection utilizing this technology is fast, secure, and reliable. In other words, the future of successful 5G relies on the capabilities of edge computing. You can also leverage some aspects of this setup without 5G as well, but you might be surprised what additional use cases are enabled by combining the tech stacks.

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Ericsson’s Head of Marketing and Communications for Networks, Cecilia Atterwall, says that 5G will unleash new ways of solving problems. She also adds that “it’s a combination of devices, content, 5G access networks, edge computing and high-performance distributed 5G core capabilities that make these innovations possible.”

The importance of preparing for future use cases

It’s not an understatement to say that everyone relies on edge computing in one way or another, if not already, then at least in the near future and going forward. However, it’s definitely grown to be an absolute necessity for many key industries and even autonomous vehicles. For example, edge computing is utilized for industrial manufacturing purposes, within smart cities, AI, and even self-driving cars.

The reason behind its use and importance boils down to its ability to assist IoT devices in low-bandwidth environments, ensuring that data is processed as quickly as possible. Reducing network latency is especially crucial when it comes to the computing processes behind the successful operation of self-driving cars. For example, Tesla cars are equipped with computers that process the data obtained by the vehicle’s sensors — allowing for this technology to function on a split-second basis.

Vodafone Antenna 5G Karlsruhe Germany Tomás Freres
Karlsruhe, Germany, Vodafone cell site with 5G upgrade (3.500 MHz, band n78)

Taking advantage of a complete solution ecosystem

Edge computing has also opened up a plethora of opportunities for Communication Service Providers (CSPs) to build on their business services. For example, Ericsson offers hybrid deployments (PDF), and they provide many edge computing services. Ericsson agrees that it is a requirement for successful CSPs to be providers of the following:

  • Full edge: delivers a thorough edge computing solution, directly to collaborative enterprises, while complying with SLAs
  • Partner edge: focuses on providing connectivity, utilizes pre-existing relationship with Hyper Cloud Providers (HCPs), and Operations Technology (OT) vendors while complying with SLAs
  • Aggregator edge: supplies infrastructure software and deployment platform, while complying SLAs
  • Limited edge: focuses on delivering connectivity and offering co-location to collaborative enterprises, while complying with SLAs

CSPs are continually seeking to aid in the development of the edge ecosystem, and in doing so, they focus on delivering edge solutions that will help advance the future of smart manufacturing, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, not to mention online gaming experiences.

Related story with Sheng-Ann Yu: Distributed Cloud Is the Evolution of Cloud Technology

Conclusion

All in all, 5G technology promises to deliver great connection, low latency, and large bandwidths. In order to accomplish this, edge computing not only works to reduce network traffic, but it also encourages local data processing and storage. Together, both technologies are capable of delivering new solutions and innovation, with a secure and reliable connection.

Photo credit: The feature image has been done by Dynamic Wang. The edge computing diagram has been prepared by NoMore201. The Vodafone 5G antenna photo was taken by Tomás Freres.
Sources: Andrew Froehlich (Network Computing) / Blair Felter (vXchnge) / Ericsson’s 5G for Business Report / Ericsson’s Edge Computing & Deployment Strategies / Ericsson’s Recipe for 5G Success / IoT Australia’s White Paper of Edge Computing Consortium / Ericsson whitepaper “A new era of PaaS

Shalinn Yeap
Shalinn Yeap
Hello there! I'm Shalinn, a technology journalist, and occasional film reviewer. Thank you so much for reading my article, and please feel free to message me on Twitter!

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