Edge Computing: 5 Design Considerations for Storage

With the move to 5G, companies will need to re-think and architect which data they want to capture, process, and keep across endpoints, edge compute, and cloud.

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The arrival of 5G is expected to bring an unforeseen level of network capabilities and lightning-fast data transfer rates. This will set the stage for even more advanced and novel applications enabling everything to be more connected, in real time, all the time. 

It’s not enough to just capture data; you must be able to transfer data at high speeds to unlock the valuable insights that data provides. From the data center to the edge, 5G and high-speed flash storage are enabling emerging IoT use cases from autonomous vehicles to smart cities and the supply chains of the future. When designing storage to support IoT at the edge, you must consider how 5G and your storage choice will impact data center architectures.

By 2022, there will be 422 million 5G connections globally, and 77.5 EB (exabytes) of mobile data traffic per month, which is equivalent to 930 EB a year1. These increases will require changes to edge and core architectures in order to support this tidal wave of new applications and services, and most importantly, data.

Challenges: Complexity and Speed of Data

Today’s challenges with data are heterogeneous. Data is scattered and unstructured in mixed storage and computing environments – endpoints, edge, on-premises, cloud, or a hybrid, which uses a mix of these. Data is also accessible across different architectures, including file-based, database, object, and containers. There are also issues of duplications and conflicts of data.

5G will surely add more complexity to today’s existing challenges. With 5G, even more data will be generated from endpoints and IoT devices, with more metadata and contextual data produced and consumed. As a result, there will be more demand for real-time processing and more edge compute processing, analyzing, and data storage scattered throughout the network.

What is Your Data Strategy?

Each application and use case is unique and has different storage requirements and challenges, including performance, integrity of data, workloads, retention of data, and environmental restrictions. In the past, the capabilities of general-purpose storage greatly exceeded the requirements of networks, data, and applications. Now, with the insurgence of endpoints, edge computing, and cloud computing, storage has to meet advanced use cases and environment demands that general-purpose storage is not suited for. With the move to 5G, companies will need to re-think and architect which data they want to capture, process and keep across endpoints, edge compute and cloud.

5 Edge Computing Design Considerations: Storage

Today and in the new 5G era, storage has to anticipate and meet the conditions and expectations of various use cases, workloads, and environments. To create an environment for data to thrive, there are five key edge design considerations for storage:

  1. Environmental: In what kind of environment will the data be captured and kept? The most critical environmental conditions that can affect storage performance are altitude, temperature, humidity, and vibration. For example, a smart car outside in the desert heat or during a snowstorm will need to withstand extreme temperatures. Sensors in the mountains or on a high-speed train in Japan will need to be resistant to pressure and movement.
  2. Endurance and Workload: How many times can you write to the storage? Is your application write-intensive, such as video recording for surveillance, or read-intensive, such as map navigation and/or music from the car infotainment system? Is your equipment in a hard-to-reach place, such as a video surveillance camera at the top of a building, or behind the secured doors of a bank vault? In these scenarios, a high-endurance storage solution will help limit the frequency of maintenance and replacement.
  3. Data Retention: How long does the data need to be stored? What do you want to process, analyze, and save at the endpoints, at the edge, and in the cloud? For example, a corporate database may require electronic document storage for five years or longer due to governance specifications. Specific data may also be retained for future analytics. The storage solution needs to meet the data-retention policy and capacities required for various applications/use cases and regulations.
  4. Monitoring: How is the data monitored? Who has access to the collected data? How good is the data? With rapid increases in the number of connected devices and edge compute deployments, and the complexity of data being generated, people want to have access to the data at all times. The ability to monitor both the health of the storage device as well as the health of the data is becoming more important to users in order to ensure data integrity and cost management.
  5. Security: How will the data be protected? Typically, data is secured on the host side (CPU), but hosts can be susceptible to tampering. Customers want data also to be protected on the data storage device itself through encryption while data is at rest.

Defining Edge Computing Design from the Endpoints

5G is going to be fast, and it will bring in new, extreme use cases. We need to think differently about edge computing and architectures optimized with the right storage for the right application. Without clearly defining a data storage strategy looking at both user and application needs from the endpoints, through edge and cloud, 5G and future environments will not rise to their full potential.

Forward-Looking Statements:

This article may contain forward-looking statements, including statements relating to the market for Western Digital’s products and the future capabilities and technologies enabling that market. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements, including development challenges or delays, supply chain and logistics issues, changes in markets, demand, global economic conditions and other risks and uncertainties listed in Western Digital Corporation’s most recent quarterly and annual reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, to which your attention is directed. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements and we undertake no obligation to update these forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent events or circumstances.

1Cisco Virtual Networking Index (VNI) Mobile Forecast Highlights Tool

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