How Has COVID-19 Brought The Cloud Closer?
One important thing that we can notice after the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has increased the reliance of the world on the internet more than ever. Children are studying alongside their parents working remotely. For many people, it would be their first time working from the comfort of their homes and the change can be overwhelming. Our personal and business lives have undergone many changes that we were expecting the least. Entertainment has shifted from outdoor platforms like theaters and stadiums to indoors. The stability, reliability, and performance of home broadband networks have become very important to our personal and professional lives.
Some of the changes brought into effect in response to the pandemic are likely to remain even after the pandemic ends. An S&P Global survey conducted recently found that 67% of the organizations surveyed expected the work from home policy to remain even after the pandemic, either permanently or for a long term. In the US, the number of people working remotely has at least doubled after the start of the pandemic. Another study conducted by Ciena in Europe found that above two-thirds of people in Britain expected to work remotely often even after the lockdown restrictions are removed.
The shift to working from home is very significant to cloud and telecom service providers. Until now, providers of high-speed broadband were particularly focused on urban areas where a large number of businesses requiring high-grade connectivity are concentrated. Cloud providers and internet service providers typically offered their services around urban areas. The cloud was the core and on its edge were a small number of businesses. However, today, the cloud service providers have core data centers as well as an increasing number of regional and edge data centers. In fact, around 10,000 edge data centers are expected this year, as per the reports of the International data corporation.
The edge of the enterprise network has to be present everywhere. Millions of workers are currently moving out of major enterprise hubs and shifting to city apartments, suburban homes, and rural places. This change demands for an increased storage, computing power, and capacity closer to the new edge where content is being consumed. The industries in the technology and telecom sector have been working for many years to expand their edge offerings and it has become the need of the hour.
It is not all about people connecting using video conferencing services and reading mails from home. There are video editors that process massive files remotely, doctors offering remote health visits, entertainers creating quality content for the internet audience, and educators interacting with students through video conferencing systems.
For all of the aforementioned tasks and other work-from-home applications to function efficiently at optimal levels, the new edge should have a network connection that is capable of working seamlessly with cloud compute and cloud storage solutions. The quality of user experience that we experience at the workplace has to be reproduced everywhere for the workflow to be smooth. For that, the cloud should offer compute and storage capabilities close to end-users.
If an application runs closer to the user, the latency is reduced, meaning that the data will have to traverse a shorter span of the network, and this will reduce the number of resources required. In the coming five years, we think you are going to see thousands of scaled-down data centers emerging from the new edge of the network forming the Edge Cloud.
The Edge Cloud will consist of Edge Cloud Data Centers that are in close proximity to clusters of machines and humans. These machines and humans can benefit from higher performance and lower networking costs due to the proximity of the data centers. The new edge cloud nodes offer compute and storage resources that operate much closer to end-users. For latency-sensitive applications, this will be between 100 and 200 km away and for the applications that need ultra-low latency, this will be less than 10 to 20 km.
Localized edge compute will be able to host both persistent and on-demand applications. The Edge Cloud will continue the use of caching that will anticipate local streaming demands and respond to them. Some of the providers like Netflix have created their own globally distributed content delivery networks. These networks localize content closer to users. The measure has a significant impact on reducing the strain and geographical distance involved in carrying traffic across networks and improving the overall viewing experience.
In order to maximize the benefits offered by the new edge cloud, service providers have to rely on AI-enabled analytics that facilitates real-time sharing of storage, connect, and compute resources. Analytics and AI techniques can be used for the identification of usage trends and congestion affecting the service, analysis of the underlying causes of the issue, prediction of the future patterns, and methods to reoptimize resources-all done in the background for optimizing Edge Cloud performance.
Rapid creation, deployment, and automation of applications and end-to-end services across the edge cloud can be ensured with intelligent analytics driven orchestration software that has virtualized network functions (virtualization of hardware like routers of the network).
It may seem like there is a lot to be done but cloud and network environments already are deployed with these technologies. Expanding them to the new distributed cloud edge is the current need.
The pandemic has urged us to reconsider the workplace and its impact on the network. Efficient utilization of computing, storage and connect resources is possible by bringing the cloud edge closer to the users where both content creation and consumption take place. Bringing the cloud closer to the edge will grant a seamless work experience regardless of the place we choose to work from.