To take advantage of new opportunities and prepare for multi-gigabit speeds, CSPs are increasingly striving to make their central office and headend more agile. As a result, four standout trends are emerging and redefining central office performance. These include the evolution of access networks, the convergence of wireless and wireline networks, network virtualization through SDN/NFV, and moving from the central office to the edge data center.
In this post, we’ll explore how the move from the central office to an edge data center is having an impact.
The move from the central office to edge data centers has stemmed from an exponential growth in bandwidth demand, while subscriber and revenue growth has been more modest. There has been a huge increase in data network traffic from mobile devices, the internet of things (IoT), and streaming media.
Whereas cloud data centers have traditionally been located far from the system’s end-users – potentially even on another continent – data centers are now being located closer to the end user. The historical distance between users and cloud data centers has produced an unacceptable response time, or latency, in processing information requests and providing content to a network. So, by establishing smaller data centers at the “edge” of the internet, large providers such as Netflix or YouTube can deliver content faster; because they can cache the most popular content and web-application data on servers closer to their customers.
Service providers already have thousands of central offices in their existing networks with suitable carrier-grade facilities, infrastructure and operational practices to incorporate data center equipment. This means that they are very well positioned to take advantage of edge data center development and by implementing small edge data centers in these locations, service providers can develop facilities that can function both as data centers and central offices.
Edge data centers allow cloud service and web content providers to keep up with increasing consumer demand because they sit at the demarcation between the core and access networks. This means that the data centers can give quicker response times in streaming content, surfing the internet, and processing data for IoT devices.
Edge data centers offer a number of advantages to providers: they enable the delivery of bandwidth-intensive content to users, latency-sensitive applications are closer to the data source, and data transport time is lower, with overall availability increased. Combined, these factors work to improve the user experience and, as edge data centers are minimally staffed or even run autonomously, they enable a reduction in OpEx.
Bringing the content closer to the end-user not only makes customers happy – for example, by providing high-definition video without buffering – but also saves providers millions of dollars in backbone transport costs, due to the proximity to the customers.
Looking to the future of networks, positioning data centers at the edge is forecast to serve a huge increase in network traffic from mobile devices, the IoT, autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, and streaming media. It will also support 5G development and drive new services and business models – whilst also enabling new latency-sensitive revenue services.
You can learn more about impacts and considerations for modern network infrastructure here.