Many think of the edge locations as an obvious move to improve the performance of services that benefit from low latency like cellular networks with edge data centers. The cellular site and its role in the overall system is complex and hard for most to understand how it works. Below is a video on system innovation that goes over some of the concepts that experienced system architects think about.
Most who are working on edge data centers are not networking people and edge data centers are thought of an expansion of existing data centers. An example is the application to Cellular Sites/Towers and many thinking that micro data centers will show up at all the cellular sites and many more will show up.
Data Foundry has a nice post on Edge Data Centers.
This is a common description of what the edge data center is. But what few ask is what is the network topology for edge data centers. below is an example of cellular network.
When you look at this diagram there are many that assume that the complex network is bypassed by putting content on the edge.
As part of the movement to 5G there are many changes coming which includes a Network Function Virtualization. If you think the cellular network is going to change to support 5G, then check out this Network World post from 2014.
It can be hard to get a perspective on how companies are developing their edge data centers. Reading through the websites and listening to sales pitches talk about the current offering explains the current, but rarely provides a perspective.
One way to get a perspective is to look at what has been presented in the past. Thanks to Youtube it can be easy to find the history.
Here is one example from Dell's data center group.
Here is a video from 2017 with Ty Schmitt and Mark Bailey discussing their edge solution.
Now shift to 2018 and here is Mark with another video.
If you are looking at an edge solution check out the youtube videos from the edge data center team and watch what they have been saying over the years. These videos can provide a perspective that the website and sales person neglect to explain.
Almost everyone in the data center industry is looking to move to the Edge. What is the role of the edge data center in the overall system? The answer comes when you ask what does the network look like in the future.
This video is from Cisco for its Intent Based Networking initiative.
Much of what Cisco markets is what the Telcos want for the future of its cellular network especially getting ready for 5G which is a market for the edge data center.
When you have a network strategy to transform your operations then it becomes clearer how edge data centers fit.
In 2010 I wrote about containers being put at Cell Tower sites. Over the past couple of years there has been lots of excitement about edge/micro data centers.
one interesting pain point for why cell site IT infrastructure needs to be improved is the sites have a PUE of 2.0. https://www.zdnet.com/article/what-is-5g-everything-you-need-to-know/
Cooling and the costs associated with facilitating and managing cooling equipment, according to studies from analysts and telcos worldwide, account for more than half of telcos' total expenses for operating their wireless networks. Global warming (which, from the perspective of meteorological instrumentation, is indisputable) is a direct contributor to compound annual increases in wireless network costs. Ironically, as this 2017 study by China's National Science Foundation asserts, the act of cooling 4G LTE equipment alone may contribute as much as 2 percent to the entire global warming problem.
THE WORLD'S BIGGEST EXAMPLE
China Mobile's breakdown of its annual capital and operational expenditures for maintaining one 3G base station.
(Image: China Mobile)
To fund 5G deployments is a strategy to dramatically reduce the cost of cell site infrastructure.
With the power consumption problem of cell sites and the drive to change the cell site hardware infrastructure to be cloud based supporting a range of 40km, how many edge data centers are needed for a given area?
Having fewer cloud cell sites supporting multiple towers looks like the direction. When I wrote about containers at cell sites in 2010 I also imagined a container supporting multiple cell towers.
Some people get excited about low latency being on the edge. Urs Hoelzle at one of the last Structure events made the observation that people are over estimating the business value of latency. Will users pay for sub 5 ms latency or is 10 ms fine. Light travels 300,000 meters (186 miles) in 1 millisecond.