Edge Data Centers Help Data Travel Beyond Big Cities
As online streaming and internet-connected devices spread, networks are under increasing pressure to deliver high-quality content that is accessible anytime and anywhere. These intense demands create potential issues with bandwidth, latency, and storage. They challenge the existing data infrastructure. But, data centers placed at the edge of these networks – known as edge data centers – can help relieve some of the pressure.
These types of data centers offer a world of possibilities to mid-size markets. Cities such as Boston, Phoenix, and Minneapolis – smaller than major areas like New York or San Francisco, but increasingly bandwidth-hungry – are perfect targets. In these areas, large data centers are often at a premium. Even colocation facilities – where businesses can rent space to store their data by the rack – might be scarce. Instead, these data centers are smaller-scale facilities that businesses can own to extend their network.
What is an Edge Data Center?
As its name suggests, an edge data center is a data center located at the edge of a network. Like the cloud, edge data centers deliver services such as cloud applications and streaming content (think TV shows, movies, and videos) to local users.
These data centers represent the desire for enterprises to keep data closer to the people who use it. By 2022, one estimate for metro-capacity projects that these centers will be used by nearly 1/3 of all internet traffic1. Doing so will help reduce the latencies brought on by exchanging data with centralized data centers, known as the “core”.
In addition, edge computing is helping advance applications such as:
Benefits of Being at the Edge
So how do we define the traits that make up an edge data center? Definitions vary, but we’ll focus on a few important characteristics.
The main advantage of edge data centers is performance – specifically latency and bandwidth. Since these data centers cache content locally, the content has less distance to travel. This helps reduce latency and deliver content faster to streamers. As demands change for streaming and cloud applications, edge data centers can use data analysis to predict workloads and load balance ahead of time.
Across the world, people access the cloud throughout all times of the day. The underlying infrastructure must be strong enough to meet that demand. For edge data centers used by content-heavy media providers, healthcare and financial service providers, reliability is even more critical.
These types of data storage facilities address reliability through built-in redundancy. In this way, data can be automatically rerouted to avoid single-points of failure. Edge data centers link together to form mini networks, where data is exchanged and cached to improve response times. Doing so creates a “virtual data center” with a higher overall capacity, smaller chance of failure and distributed workloads.
Challenges at the Edge
That’s not to say these data centers are without their flaws. On the contrary, there are a few potential issues that come up. One challenge is designing the proper data architecture to share storage, compute, and network resources for edge data centers used by multiple parties. This issue ties in with the nature of automating and managing edge data that is highly distributed in terms of geography. Finally, there is the consideration of using remote surveillance to ensure these data centers are operating correctly, with as little human intervention as possible.
Future Implications of Edge Data Centers
With edge data centers, content and internet services can be delivered with lower latency, thanks to local caching. And data at the edge continues to become decentralized – using smaller, distributed centers to deliver content and services locally. New applications and real-time wireless services could be enabled – from smart cities to fully autonomous vehicles.
Learn More about Data Centers
Whether at the edge or at the core, data centers are evolving to create purpose-built, software-composable infrastructure. Technologies such as flash memory, solid-state drives, and NVM Express (NVMeTM) are helping to transform the way data is captured, preserved, accessed, and transformed.
- Read about the role of software composability in data centers
- Explore the five trends driving our new NVMe SSD innovation
- Learn why data should be at the center of next-gen data centers
- Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Trends, 2017–2022 White Paper. https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/service-provider/visual-networking-index-vni/white-paper-c11-741490.html