The term data centers has had broad meaning in the past depending on who you ask for a definition. With the advent of virtualization and software-centric configurations, along with the cloud, the data center is much more amorphous despite the need to still centralize with massive data center facilities. In more cases the distributed/edge data centers are storing and delivering content for end users for faster and reliable service. As the amount of data piles ever higher, more data centers – no matter how you may define them – are needed to support the growing digital infrastructure of the world.
The 5G wireless networks being deployed over the last several years have begun to support the devices that can connect, meaning the major carriers can allow those faster speeds to help with that ever-increasing bandwidth need. How much? Aggregating a few reports together gives us this approximation for just the transportation industry:
Add on that there will be many more connected cameras (safety and security), sensors, and personal devices using 5G and the question about whether the network can handle it may arise. 5G has a channel speed that is twenty times faster and with many more channels per node, the capacity capability is compounded, alleviating any concerns about bandwidth hogs cramping the ‘pipes’.
What it will require is a massive number of nodes. While the bandwidth be immense, the wireless coverage will be much smaller due to the higher frequencies; those frequencies have trouble penetrating buildings and other structures as well as the current 4G networks. For each node, there will need to be more high-speed processing the amount of data that is being transmitted in near-real time. This may look similar to the small telecom booths at cell towers, with density getting more compact based on the need. These setups have no redundancy and may not be cooled, with the expectation that the hardware will need to operate continuously at 140F (60C) or higher. Battery backup may be more limited provided based on those conditions, meaning that an expectation of hours of operation might be reduced to minutes instead.
This can be critical when looking at how storms are becoming larger and more impactful, with longer outages based on how robust and resilient infrastructure has been designed and built, digital or physical. Geographical diversity and data center redundancy will help with keeping information safe, and as 5G networks become more prevalent faster recuperation will be possible.
Those closet-type data centers may grow inside as the needs arise to have better support for all of the many needs, especially with autonomous vehicles needing help with calculations and communications between each other as fast as possible. Even with density increases we are likely to see these edge data centers double in size over the next decade.