The Future of Manufacturing

How data centers will breathe life into 5G

Is the future finally here? The arrival of 5G (fifth generation mobile networks) has been keenly anticipated and long discussed. And if you attended the latest Mobile World Congress, held in Barcelona in February, you would have seen plenty to suggest that 5G will take off in 2019. Smartphone manufacturers are busy preparing their 5G models, the wireless networks on which they will run are being planned, and there is no shortage of visionary use cases highlighting how virtual reality and other technologies will harness 5G’s amazing power and connectivity. In short, our lives are about to change.

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The benefits of 5G

5G represents a huge leap forward in network capability and versatility. First-generation networks were analogue and restricted to voice, 2G brought digital communication, and 3G added video and mobile data. And now we have 4G and 4G+, supporting mobile internet and high-speed access. What 5G will bring is a massive increase in speed. With standard 4G the maximum download speed is 100 Mbps, while 5G starts at 1 Gbps and will scale to 10 Gbps. To put that in context, it takes more than seven minutes to download a full HD film with 4G, whereas it will take just 40 seconds with 5G and possibly as little as four seconds.

Along with speed, 5G delivers low or no latency. That means there will be no time lag between a device pinging the network and receiving a response. The true value of 5G is how this increased speed and responsiveness can connect and combine technologies that require huge amounts of data. This is a fast-evolving field that draws on the internet of things and has countless applications such as connecting autonomous vehicles, making hologram calls and facilitating remote surgical operations.

Remote surgery is a good example of the so-called ‘tactile internet’, a procedure that was demonstrated at the World Mobile Congress. Thanks to 5G, a team of doctors was able to operate on a patient while being directed over a video link by a surgeon several miles away. 5G opens up limitless possibilities for remote activities that demand instant connectivity, while virtual and augmented reality will greatly benefit from 5G’s advanced processing capability. Powered by 5G, digital technologies can change the way we shop, play, and work.

Data centers: balancing the edge

With so many connected technologies taking advantage of 5G, the challenge will be to process the high volumes of data at high speed. This is where edge computing comes in. Often referred to as the next major technology trend after the cloud, edge computing describes an environment where data processing takes place as close as possible to the data source. This will ensure speed and low latency, helping to meet 5G’s performance goals. However, there will still be a need for central data centers, to handle applications’ less latency-critical needs.

What we will see is the development of Next Generation Central Offices (NGCOs). These are edge cloud data centers that can support both fixed and mobile traffic. Serving on average 35,000 subscribers per central office, compared with approximately 5,000 today, they will be located between the radio access network (RAN) and the central core.

Wherever data is stored or processed – be it on the edge, in regional centers known as metros, or centrally – there will be a growing demand for capacity. This is set to increase significantly from late 2019, and service providers will need to refine or transform their architecture to support 5G. Much of the data that will move through 5G networks will exist in the cloud, underlining the vital role that data centers must play.

Focusing on the future of data centers

Creating the right infrastructure for data centers requires a blend of skills. For example, Schneider Electric is a data center expert with knowledge of cloud computing solutions from hyperscale down to edge micro data centers. The company’s cloud-based EcoStruxure™ IT solution provides an IoT-enabled, open, and interoperable environment that is particularly suited to the hybrid approach required for 5G.

EcoStruxure has three layers: connected products, edge control, and apps, analytics, and services. These layers connect with each other through the flow of data over IT networks and offer the highest levels of control and analysis. EcoStruxure IT is fundamentally about optimizing performance and maximizing the value of data in order to make data centers more reliable, efficient, cost effective and easier to manage. It provides global visibility and intelligence across a multitude of deployment sites, from on-premises and cloud, to colocation and edge applications. It is also easy to deploy and configurable to individual needs.

Spanish success story

Telefónica’s Alcalá, one of the world’s biggest data processing centers, illustrates how Schneider Electric is delivering secure cloud services through EcoStruxure. To meet increased demand, Telefónica constructed a new data center near Madrid. The goal was to increase capacity, create a flexible and scalable system, and improve cost-effectiveness by consolidating several smaller data centers under one roof.

EcoStruxure provided the required efficiency and reliability. Three distinct layers enabled remote monitoring, reliable building lighting, and uninterrupted power. Telefónica can now monitor the status of every component in real time, and the data center has achieved a 60 percent reduction in energy costs. In addition, new servers can be connected in running mode, so there is no need to stop and reconfigure or redesign systems.

Facilitating the fifth generation

There is no doubt that we are on the threshold of 5G, and that it will have a huge impact on everything with a wireless connection. It will power the internet of things and create real-time interactions where people control robot technologies and machines talk to machines.

From gaming and self-driving cars, to surgical procedures and factory assembly lines, few aspects of both our personal lives and the business world will remain the same – and it is data centers that will make 5G a reality.
The Drivers and Benefits of Edge Computing

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This white paper explains the drivers of edge computing and explores the various types of edge computing available.

The Drivers and Benefits of Edge Computing

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This page was paid for by Schneider Electric. The editorial staff of CNBC had no role in the creation of this page.