Connecting Things in the New Edge

Connecting Things in the New Edge

Gartner predicts that “edge computing will become a dominant factor across virtually all industries and use cases as the edge becomes empowered with more sophisticated and specialized compute resources and more data storage.” The main driver for this focus on the edge comes from the need for Internet of Things (IoT) systems to deliver disconnected or distributed capabilities into the embedded IoT world. This will create an unstructured architecture consisting of a wide range of things and services connected in a flexible network with a set of distributed cloud services.

5G offers new communication services that open up a broad range of potential new business-oriented services to Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). These communication services include Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) to support bandwidth in the Gbps range; Massive Machine to Machine Communications (mMTC) which, as the name implies will provide connections for a massive number of low bandwidth IoT things such as device sensors; and Ultra-reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC), that deliver very low latency with high reliability.

Business applications enabled by 5G communication services will focus more on enterprises connecting things than end-users connecting devices. Nothing illustrates that more than IoT. These “things” can fall into two extremes.  First are sensors that generate relatively small amounts of data.  However, there are a lot of these devices. Gartner forecasts that the enterprise and automotive IoT market will grow to 5.8 billion endpoints in 2020, a 21% increase from the end of 2019 with 4.8 billion endpoints. This is what mMTC was designed to support.

At the other extreme is the second use case. URLLC will be needed to address a broad range of applications for Industry 4.0 from robotics and automation to process control to augmented reality for industrial Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs). Here response time becomes critical, so latency is the overriding issue.

In both cases, some form of edge computing, like MEC, will be needed.  URLLC applications need the processing close to keep latency low. The sheer volume of traffic from IoT devices could be very expensive if it has to be transported across the network.  For this application, edge computing can act as a way to aggregate and consolidate information to reduce bandwidth costs.

As we have noted, 5G was designed to address these different use cases within the same network. In both cases, edge computing is essential to provide a complete and cost-effective solution for the enterprise. Network architects need to consider these disparate use cases when building out their 5G transport networks.  Routing will be have to very close to the edge so that service levels can be met at al times.

Volta is working with Light Reading’s Jennifer Clark on a webinar called Leveraging the Cloud at the Edge that will cover this in detail. We also have a white paper available for download now called MEC Synergies and Opportunities.