The Engine Behind 5G: Edge Computing

4 min read
Feb 25, 2019
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Infrastructure edge computing, brought to fruition through the Kinetic Edge nationwide network of tower-connected edge data centers, will form the foundation of the nation’s 5G networks, assisting mobile operators as they upgrade their infrastructure and begin delivering new experiences. At Mobile World Congress (MWC) and Edgecon Barcelona this year, much of the focus will be on the superfast 5G Radio Access Networks (RANs) which are beginning to emerge from the major network equipment manufacturers, promising the capability to deliver gigabits of data per second to an ever-growing population of devices ranging from smartphones and cars to IoT sensors. But beyond all the excitement about millimeter-wave radio technologies and other wireless innovations are the realities of the internet as we know it today, and what is required of it to allow 5G to deliver on its promises of low-latency, real-time applications such as autonomous driving and remote surgery on a wide scale, not just in lab tests or cherry-picked locations.

So Far Away

Here’s the problem in a nutshell; no matter how fast we make the RAN, the data centers used by our mobile devices and applications are simply too far away. They’re housed in titanic data centers, hundreds or thousands of kilometers away from where we need them. And while today’s long-haul fiber network connectivity can move bits around the world in seconds, that’s no longer going to work. And here’s why:
  • High Latency: Simply put, we can’t move data faster than the speed of light. That’s fast enough, right? No, not for many use cases. Bear in mind it’s the absolute upper limit as dictated by physics; we can certainly move data far slower than the speed of light, and we usually do, especially where congestion, routing delays and buffering are involved. Even in near perfect conditions, the round trip delay between a mobile device and a remote centralized data center adds significant latency—far more than the RAN latency itself. No matter how much we speed up the RAN, we can’t deliver next-generation applications that require fine-tuned, real-time control with only the current centralized data center model.
  • Data Deluge: The amount of data generated by ever user and every connected device, as well as how much data they are requesting from cloud servers is growing substantially each year. 5G networks will soon carry astronomical amounts of data, and the challenges of doing so will only continue to grow. While it’s certainly possible to transmit all of this across long-haul fiber networks, but that is difficult, costly, and inefficient. By moving servers and data storage to the edge of the network, such as at the Kinetic Edge, backhaul costs and inefficiencies can be mitigated for the networks and the applications.
  • Locality: Beyond the challenges of high latency and the sheer amount of data our 5G networks will be carrying in the future, locality itself plays an important role in helping to provide the best experience to end users as well as the most efficient, robust and cost-effective infrastructure to the network operator and application provider. Positioning multiple tower-connected edge data centers across a single metro area means workloads and data can be optimized to use colocation and interconnection resources based on real-time local information such as user position, movement, RAN congestion and other factors. Moreover, as new data sovereignty laws and policies require data to stay within a region or municipality, the Kinetic Edge becomes an ideal platform to keep those resources local to a market or region.

Right to the Edge

The Kinetic Edge brings the power of the distributed edge cloud right to the edge of the wireless network, as a nationwide network of tower-connected edge data centers. By doing so, it solves for all of the problems mentioned above; first, latency is reduced to a minimum, orders of magnitude below that which is achievable using centralized data centers today. Second, the cost and difficulty of transmitting huge volumes of data is minimized dramatically and the tower-connected locations of Kinetic Edge sites makes locality easily exploitable. Without this edge computing foundation, it’s difficult to see how 5G networks can achieve their goals in regard to performance and economical deployment and operations. Kinetic Edge sites can also host crucial network functions, using their dense resources to power Network Function Virtualization (NFV), Cloud RAN (C-RAN) and true Software Defined Networking (SDN) all of which will be the cornerstone of adaptable, software-based 5G networks. 4G networks undergoing these same transformations can also see these same benefits; the Kinetic Edge is the ideal partner for any network operator, whether 4G or 5G.

Here And Now

A nationwide rollout of the Kinetic Edge is underway and is hosting real customers today, beginning with two sites in Chicago. Throughout 2019, Vapor IO and the Kinetic Edge Alliance will roll out 30 or more sites across six major US metro areas, starting with six cities in 2019. By providing dense colocation and interconnection at the tower-connected edge, these Kinetic Edge sites will make it possible for operators and their partners to deploy 5G Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and new revenue-generation applications that deliver on the promise of 5G. Whether you are a new or existing network operator, and whether you are looking at upgrading to 5G, or simply upgrading your 4G—or both—one thing is clear: the Kinetic Edge is the ideal infrastructure to help prepare your network to face the challenges to come in the years ahead. With a flexible foundation provided by the Kinetic Edge, your network can adapt and scale as its needs require, allowing you to support new applications, more users and new services. To read more about Vapor IO’s view on edge and 5G:


Matt Trifiro


Matt Trifiro is the Chief Marketing Officer of Vapor IO where he leads the company’s global marketing, branding and communications efforts. Matt is an expert in edge computing,Co-chair of the State of…
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