Why 5G is a major game changer for cloud computing

The data transmission rates that 5G proposes to bring – (upto 20 GBPS, that’s 20 times what 4G ever promised) – were unimaginable even a few years ago.

Nitin Mishra Feb 27th 2019

At the Mobile World Congress held in February this year, there was discourse on the much anticipated and yet-to-be-launched 5G technology. The data transmission rates that 5G proposes to bring – (upto 20 GBPS, that’s 20 times what 4G ever promised) – were unimaginable even a few years ago. In real-world terms, this would mean that we would receive internet speeds of 100 – 200 MBPS, which is still at least 10 times faster than what we receive today with our 4G networks. It also means that you could download your favourite 2 hour movie in 20 seconds or less, as against 5 to 7 minutes at present.

Obviously, as workloads get larger, the difference between 4G and 5G starts to become more and more significant, in terms of throughput, QoS and latency. Which is why cloud computing is likely to see a tremendous upsurge with the introduction of 5G. Here are some of the key areas which are impacted significantly by 5G, and therefore would influence cloud adoption:

• Streaming Data and Analytics: Current Big Data processing technology leveraged cloud infrastructure extensively to provide the necessary compute and storage required. However, for streaming analytics on top of Big Data, systems still face significant latency challenges with current wireless networks. With 5G networks, real-time streaming challenges are minimized greatly.

• Industrial IoT (IIoT): In industrial use cases (e.g. process manufacturing, pharma, automotive components, supply chain management, etc.), processing and analysing huge volumes of sensor data in real-time provides valuable insights that have a huge impact on efficiencies and costs. 5G has significant impact, because of the remote, variable and real-time nature of these workloads. 

• SD-WAN / NFV (Network Functions Virtualization): Traditional MPLS-based WANs, while being legacy technology, has its benefits in terms of uptime, latency and availability. SD-WAN and NFV, while being highly cost effective, scalable and configurable, also depend on public networks and commodity network resources. With 5G, we can expect network performance and latency to be comparable, or even superior to MPLS networks.

• Edge Computing: 5G will have a huge positive impact on the performance of mobile / remote devices. Remote, sensor based systems – home automation systems, biometric devices, location tracking applications, voice based assistants, etc.–will use 5G to transfer huge amounts of data 10 times faster than 4G networks.

• AI and NLP: As more and more enterprise use cases involve statistical modeling, AI and NLP, enterprises would need the ability to manage and process huge amounts of data (static as well as real-time). Most cloud computing infrastructure and services providers have the necessary compute / storage but need to ramp-up data ingestion capabilities for real-time processing. 5G technology provides the level of data transmission and QoS for AI and NLP applications to work effectively. 

• VR and AR: Virtual reality and augmented reality applications (largely seen in gaming) will find new cases in many industries – such as retail (augment retail environments), healthcare (remote care settings, home health scenarios),travel (destination experiences, and hotel experiences). 5G makes a dramatic difference to the quality of experience in VR / AR applications.

As technology, use cases and market dynamic evolve, we will see greater adoption of the above six areas. Since all of these areas involve huge, complex and dynamic workloads (often a combination of unstructured data, differing quality and a wide spectrum of technologies), cloud computing becomes a key component. With the eventual mainstreaming of 5G, we can expect greater adoption of these transformative technologies across hybrid and multi-cloud architectures. At the same time, we are at least a few years away from 5G becoming mainstream. At present, the 3GPP Release 15 standard for 5G networks has classified 5G devices as NSA (Non-Standalone) – meaning that they we need to use 4G frequencies for many activities. Moving to a completely 5G infrastructure requires significant changes to network infrastructure and standards, and is expected to be realized by 2020. Enterprises, telecom companies and cloud service providers therefore get a few years to define and implement their 5G strategy.

Nitin Mishra is the SVP and Chief Product Officer at NTT Com- Netmagic .

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