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Why 5G is bringing edge computing and automation front and center

Feb 14, 20184 mins

The adoption of 5G and edge computing will drive new expectations for an always-on, high performing network and services, which will lead many enterprises to embrace automation.

5G mobile wireless network
Credit: Thinkstock

The 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang represent the world’s first deployment of a broad-scale 5G network, thanks to a partnership between domestic telecom provider KT, Intel and Samsung.

The new capabilities have been on the horizon for some time. We saw 5G steal the show a year ago at Mobile World Congress, and Verizon and AT&T have each announced plans to offer 5G networks before the end of 2018. So, what does the emergence of 5G networks mean for enterprises?

5G will make edge computing a necessity

As with its predecessor 4G, 5G was developed in a direct response to the growing number of mobile devices seeking an internet connection; however, this time around we are no longer talking about connected phones or tablets. The rise of 5G coincides with the explosion of connected devices and systems associated with the Internet of Things (IoT). Smart heating systems, wearables and vehicles all bring with them large amounts of data. In addition to more processing power, 5G promises speeds 10 times faster than those of 4G, meaning a sensor detecting a significant pressure change in an oil field can report back to refinery instantly and eliminate the risk of costly downtime.

Processing these high volumes of data, at a faster speed, will require new antennas, new devices, and new applications for wireless data. No matter what the setup looks like, the influx of additional data – which will need to be processed in real-time – will drive the need for edge computing.

Recognized by many as the next significant enterprise tech trend after cloud computing, edge computing refers to infrastructure that enables data processing as close to the source as possible. It allows for faster processing of data, reducing latency and improving customer experiences. For some industries, the need for rapid processing extends beyond customer satisfaction. In the case of medical wearables, for instance, a lag in data processing could create a life or death emergency. This type of computing will require closer data centers as well. In fact, IDC predicts that internet providers will add micro-data centers into or nearby 5G towers as a means of creating this access.

Automation beyond geography takes off

Optimized network speed from the adoption of 5G will result in even higher user expectations when it comes to low latency and always-on connectivity. When 5G powers millions of devices at home, around the community and in workspaces, decisions will need to be made in fractions of a second to as to where to send a device’s traffic to maintain uptime and provide a superior user experience. At the same time, the capacity of these machines to interact and share data will create additional traffic burdens.

The emergence of 5G will transform the way enterprises manage their networks and meeting these new challenges will require automation as a critical component of any network management strategy. Real-time monitoring of network and data centers will become imperative. The sheer number of computations and connections will demand automated traffic management that factors in conditions beyond geography, such as real-time data center performance and traffic volume/speed. These considerations will be key to optimizing application performance.

Another example of automation driven by 5G includes the growing use of IoT applications in industrial settings. The new bandwidth and speed benefits offered by 5G will enable smart factories to utilize robots and unmanned warehouse transportation to automate the critical, yet time-consuming aspects of their manufacturing process. Municipalities, too, will reap the benefits of connected devices more efficiently reporting road issues, traffic pattern snarls and weather fluctuations.

In summary, 5G has wide-scale implications for enterprises from both the employee and customer standpoint. Businesses that have long operated on the global scale will experience a transformation in service delivery and customized user experience unbounded by location. The adoption of 5G and edge computing will drive new expectations for an always-on, high performing network and services, which will lead many enterprises to embrace automation.


Kris Beevers leads NS1’s team of industry experts as they create products to enable companies to use DNS to build and deliver dynamic, distributed, and automated applications that delight users. He is a recognized authority on DNS and global application delivery, and often speaks and writes about building and deploying high performance, at scale, globally distributed internet infrastructure.

Kris holds a PhD in Computer Science from RPI, and prior to founding and leading NS1, he built CDN, cloud, bare metal, and other infrastructure products at Voxel, which sold to Internap (NASDAQ:INAP) in 2011.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Kris Beevers and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.