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Integrating 5G Edge Services into Enterprise Networks

5G data center.jpg

5G data center
(Image by ADMC from Pixabay)

Newsflash: 5G edge computing is finally here! Well, sort of. In early August, AWS launched its Wavelength 5G edge service in Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area. It has since added services in Atlanta, New York City, and Washington, DC. 

The cloud provider has partnered with several 5G carriers, which will serve as edge entry points and are slowing rolling out these services around the globe. Competing providers such as Microsoft’s Azure Edge Zones and Google Cloud Edge are targeting this market, too.

As these services ramp up, now is the perfect time to learn how 5G edge computing services are architected and can integrate with your corporate network. Then once 5G edge computing services finish rolling out on a global scale, you’ll be ready for the moment your organization finds a valid use-case for the technology. Let’s now look at how 5G edge computing works as well as how it can be successfully integrated into your current enterprise network architecture.

How does 5G edge computing work?

For those that are unfamiliar with this technology, the purpose of edge computing is to move application processing and data storage as close to the end-user or autonomous IoT device as possible. The benefit of doing this is that data won’t have to travel as far from a geographic standpoint compared to traditional cloud architectures. This then translates into to significantly lower transmit and receive latency times between endpoints and distributed services. For mobile use-case applications that require ultra-low latency, edge computing is a legitimate game-changer.

The architectural challenge that cloud service providers (CSPs) are seeking to solve is to figure out how to move cloud compute and storage resources out of regional cloud data centers and closer to the device edge. This is where 5G and 5G carrier networks come into play. 5G is ideal for edge computing because it’s soon to be widely available and offers far lower last-mile latency compared to older cellular technologies, including 4G/LTE.

Since AWS is the first major CSP to officially launch its 5G edge computing platform, we'll use them as our example. To complete the Wavelength service infrastructure, AWS has partnered with Verizon in the US for the initial launch of its service. How it works is that customers will be able to virtually extend their current AWS virtual private cloud (VPC) to one or more Wavelength zones. IT Administrators can then enable compute and storage services inside these zones. What this means is that these services will actually be deployed directly within Verizon’s 5G carrier network data center as opposed to inside an AWS regional data center. Verizon then backhauls all Wavelength zone traffic back to the customer's closest regional VPC.

Integrating 5G edge computing resources into enterprise networks

Choosing a 5G edge computing provider may prove to be difficult at this moment due to some limitations in availability and 5G carrier/CSP options. The biggest factor will likely be choosing a service provider based on which 5G services are available where the business requires them. For example, in the US, AWS has partnered with Verizon while Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud have both partnered with AT&T. Additionally, keep in mind that the 5G carriers themselves will be offering their own edge computing services without the partnership of large CSP’s. In these cases, the 5G carrier may also offer traditional cloud services – or offer direct-connect options where businesses can link their private data centers to 5G edge services.

For businesses that have large cloud footprints in a cloud service provider such as AWS, Azure, or GCP, it probably makes sense to use the cloud provider’s 5G partnerships and turnkey services that allow for a far easier integration into existing public cloud networks. In these cases, the process will simply require that an IT administrator enable 5G edge services within the CSP hosting account and then choosing which 5G carriers and geographic locations they wish to tap into. When looking at edge computing from a multi-cloud perspective, streamlined integration options are a bit hazier at this point in the game compared to other architecture types. However, companies such as IBM/Red Hat have announced services that can bridge 5G edge computing services in several different multi-cloud and multi-carrier scenarios. Thus, no matter if your network infrastructure operates in a single cloud, a hybrid cloud, or a multi-cloud architecture, rest assured that options soon will be available.