Key Factors and Best Practices to Deliver Digital Services to the Network Edge

Key Factors and Best Practices to Deliver Digital Services to the Network Edge

Mobility and the Internet of Things (IoT) are driving the need to build networks capable of connecting a broad range of devices with very different application requirements and connectivity characteristics. To ensure reliable connections and the best customer experience, telecom providers need to focus on the periphery of their networks, also known as the edge.

Traditional network infrastructures are centralized; thus storage and computing processes are simply too far from endpoint devices and applications which can be prone to service interruptions and latency.

Edge computing addresses this problem by processing data locally, alleviating the dependence of the cloud and connectivity. This is increasingly important, especially as data-heavy applications such as video, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence are more prevalent, and billions of devices are being deployed – requiring high-quality and reliable connectivity.

Key Factors Driving Telecom Providers to the Edge

Edge computing represents an important paradigm shift. Centralized cloud is not always the best fit for modern applications, hence the need for edge architecture. The Internet of Things, the need for low latency, and the increase in business-critical applications are playing key roles in shaping edge solutions.

  • Internet of Things
    From increased adoption of wearable technology to virtual learning, smart cars, home automation, and virtual assistants, the volume of data generated and accessed by mobile devices continues to grow.
  • Need for Low Latency
    Latency, mobile accessibility, and 5G are interconnected. 5G wireless networks allow for faster transfer of data to and from devices in the field to edge data centers. The rise of 5G coincides with the explosion of connected devices and systems associated with mobility and IoT. Edge networks can process the influx of data from endpoint devices and applications in real-time.
  • Business-Critical Applications
    A big driver of edge computing is coming from business customers in industries such as water utilities, power stations, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, and factories. These industries are leveraging devices to monitor and manage key operational processes in their infrastructure. Computing closer to the edge lets them analyze important data in near real-time.

Best Practices for Moving to the Edge
There is a huge amount of data generated over the internet and telecom providers are well-positioned to make it useful and actionable, if they focus on four key areas:

1. Infrastructure

For latency-sensitive and high-volume traffic, it is not optimal to take data back to the center, process it and send it back to the edge. It is much more useful to do the processing in local loops. This requires local infrastructure to be centrally managed, including all information about IT and telecommunication assets and connections, the central data center and edge data centers.

2. Data Centers

Building out an edge network requires a new mindset on how data centers (and the required infrastructure) are managed. Edge networks are more than just connections and cabling. It is a mesh network of micro data centers that process and store critical data locally and share received data with a central data center or cloud storage repository.

3. Connectivity

Telecom providers have the infrastructure in place to connect with IoT devices, other data centers in the edge network, regional facilities, as well as with the core, geographically-dispersed data centers. Network connectivity is therefore vitally important, requiring the need for rock-solid infrastructure to support edge data centers. Successful deployments include the use of multiple connectivity points and redundant connections between edge data centers and from edge data centers to core data centers, capable of supporting the traffic load.

4. Virtualization

Edge computing enables network function virtualization (NFV) software solutions to be delivered more efficiently. Introducing NFV-based solutions into a telecommunications network requires telecom providers to centrally control and optimize the server and software infrastructure, the Virtual Network Functions (VNFs), the NFV Infrastructure (NFVI) and their interaction with Physical Network Functions (PNFs) and the network.

Market Opportunity for Service Providers
Telecom providers have a unique opportunity to bringing cloud capabilities to the edge of the network, removing latency, and reducing network and compute load back to centralized data centers.

To accommodate the growing demand for edge solutions, telecom providers must consider a centralized system such as the FNT Command platform to manage and optimize all aspects of their network and data center infrastructure. The solution should support capacity planning and change management with a comprehensive and integrated view of data center resources, including building infrastructure (power, cooling, floorspace); IT infrastructure (networks, servers, storage); and services (software, applications).

This data should be housed in a single repository that dynamically updates as change occurs, so users across the organization are accessing the same accurate, up-to-date data at all times.

This requirement can be met by introducing a hybrid resource management solution that centrally manages, plans, and documents all relevant physical, logical, and virtual resources, capacities and assets across the telecommunications network, IT, and data center infrastructure – regardless of where they are located.

As telecom providers become edge-oriented, documentation, process automation, and analytics will allow them to keep pace with the demand driven by an abundance of devices and applications being brought to market.

Ulrich Schälling, Head of Business Line Networks at FNT Software, discussed best practices for delivering digital services to the network edge in Cabling Installation & Maintenance. Read his full article here.

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