5G, the edge, and the disruption of the cloud: Why now is the time for change

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

Sponsored If one were to put together a linguistic analysis of all the conversations held at MWC 2020, later this month in Barcelona, there is a fair chance that the most spoken word would be 5G.

Not surprisingly, the term will be everywhere this year – much of course as it was last year and the year before. Yet whether it is smartphone vendors looking to showcase their latest, speediest wares, or thought leaders looking to where the enterprise needs to focus, things have turned up a notch over the past 12 months.

Take, for instance, what Bejoy Pankajakshan, executive vice president of Mavenir, had to say for sister publication Telecoms last month. The need for discussion is vital for future strategy, Pankajakshan affirms, as the options are legion. “A 5G network is envisaged as the most open, powerful, flexible, and advanced network the telecoms world has ever seen,” he wrote. “At its heart, [it] is a software network and its development and deployment requires a new approach and a new way of thinking.

“If a 5G network isn’t built the right way, users may not come to the telco, and the OTTs could win again.”

Getting everything moving, across various stakeholders, will be no easy task. Charting a blueprint for 5G in concert with other technologies requires detailed planning. Take a session from Accenture set to take place on February 25 around unlocking the power of the cloud. The rise of edge computing, setting the stage for network transformation, will bring huge long-term benefits, but immediate challenges.

“Network cloudification and the disaggregation of hardware and software become necessary – with CSPs now embarking on the critical journey to move their networks to be fully in the cloud, built around cloud at the edge and mobile edge compute, with the ability to cater for all the new applications and use cases unlocked by 5G,” the session materials read.

For some, 5G will inevitably disrupt cloud computing as we know it today. Writing for this publication in August, Marty Puranik, founder, president and CEO of Atlantic.Net, noted how 5G would effectively kill latency – and in one fell swoop, potentially eradicate the need for cloud solutions.

“One of the main reasons the cloud is so beneficial is for numerous devices – either in an organisation for a private cloud or any user with an Internet connection for a public cloud – to connect to and transmit data with a central machine or hard drive located on the cloud,” Puranik wrote. “For an employee to share a large video file with a colleague who’s working from home that day, the cloud made it simple. But why go through all that if your device can connect with your colleague’s device with only a millisecond of latency and a minimum connection speed of 20 Gbps down and 10 Gbps up?”

Edge computing, essentially the older, more streetwise sister of cloud computing, is expected to receive a lot of attention in Barcelona. Microsoft for instance, from whom the taglines of intelligent cloud and intelligent edge are never far away, are expected to be unveiling edge computing services at MWC.

A report from Omdia, which looks to preview 5G developments at MWC20, noted that 5G and AI technologies could utilise edge computing, to the detriment of the cloud. “By 2025, two of three smartphones will include built-in AI capabilities, and global revenue for AI smartphones will increase to $378 billion,” the report notes. “To alleviate consumers’ privacy concerns, smartphone and smart speaker manufacturers will introduce 5G products which perform visual AI processing tasks on edge servers and appliances, bypassing the privacy risks involved in sending data to the cloud.”

The current technological landscape feels like the calm before the storm. Organisations need to fully research the terrain and find out the best use cases for edge, 5G and AI to ensure smooth sailing ahead.

Editor’s note: This article is brought to you by MWC20.

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