Life on the Edge

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Alexander D. Quach, VP & GM, Wireline Core & Network Division, Network Platforms Group, Intel Corporation

Basically, the network edge is an infinite number of locations sited anywhere between the data centre out to a device, wherever that device might be. That can encompass distances of thousands of miles, any part of which can be the network edge. That is why it will play an absolutely crucial role in the rollout of 5G networks.

Moving out of the data centre and into the network proper, the "First" or "Near Edge" is the "new edge" and CSPs would define this as a central office or a national or regional point-of-presence. Depending on the service provider or telco and the size of the network and of the country it operates in, the first edge will consist of a number of sites varying between the tens and on up to the high hundreds.

The "Far Edge" is an aggregation point of multiple cell sites and wireless base stations. Again, depending on the size of the network, the country and the CSP, it will comprise of a few thousand sites up to many thousands of of them.

The "Third Edge" or "Enterprise Edge" is where equipment is sited on the premises of individual companies.

In the past data moved from device to data centre over great distances but 5G brings so much more speed and throughput to the equation that a CSP can do a great deal more in terms of new service models and, ultimately, new business models as well. In this context, it is inefficient for data to move great distances into the cloud when technology allows the cloud to move nearer to the data and the device.

So, as the data center is getting closer to the device, CSPs are building out new edges. Certainly some legacy equipment will remain in use but the move to 5G requires virtualised, software-defined, programmable networks. That's why service providers are deploying at all edge locations and it is critical that they build with new scaleable technologies that provide the in-built headroom to grow and add services over time.

Filmed at DSP Leaders Forum 2019, Windsor, UK

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