How 5G is changing the data centre landscape

How 5G is changing the data centre landscape

What does 5G mean for data centres?

While 5G networks continue to grow globally, data centres need to keep a keen eye on this expansion and be prepared to face the new challenges that come with the technology, making themselves ready to take advantage of the new technology opportunities.

In Japan alone, the Japanese Prime Minister, Fumido Kishida, is quoted as saying that "The government expects 5G coverage to reach 99% of the country's population by 2030." If Japan meets these expectations, that would be an increase of 59% coverage from 2020.

Benefits of 5G:

- Low latency

4G networks tend to offer latency around the 50ms range, whereas within a 5G infrastructure you'd be more likely to see pings closer to the 1ms mark. This opens up technology to a vast number of possibilities we weren't able to previously consider using 4G, such as real-time data transmission and response.

Look at EE's latest adverts, which demonstrates using 5G from a local barbershop to give a close yet far shave 729 meters above sea level on Mt. Snowdon.

- High bandwidth

Compared to 4G networks which can support an average download speed of 10-50Mbps, 5G can offer speeds between 1Gbps to 10Gbps depending on signal strength, showing a huge increase in the potential for higher bandwidth.

- Connection density

5G can support a vast number of different devices compared to its 4G predecessor. If you've commuted to London and found yourself waiting for a train at London Bridge station, you'll notice your mobile will have full 4G connectivity, but when you try to load a page, you might find it won’t load at all.

4G can handle around 2,000 devices per square meter, while 5G can be seen to exceed 100,000 devices in the same area, meaning when you have 5G, you'll be able to use it.

This is especially useful with businesses looking to use more IoT (Internet of Things) devices. Use cases for IoT devices can require many connections in a small area, which can see large performance drops in Bandwidth and Latency due to 4G's existing limitations. 5G can help resolve this with it's ability to accommodate over 50 times more devices.

Challenges of 5G:

- Flexible workflows

With flexible workflows, you're able to support a more efficient usage of different resources. This is key in enabling additional dataflows and processes coming into existing data centres as 5G expands its reach across the globe.

Reviews of processes and workflows may need to be addressed, and software dedicated to managing resources according to need will likely need to be implemented to make sure existing infrastructure can support the increased workloads generated.

- Power and cooling

With more data flow and more computational power, will come higher temperatures of the hardware these processes take place on. With the ongoing expansion of 5G, this will likely to cause a ripple effect on the cooling and power systems found within data centres.

Existing data centres will need to evaluate whether they'll be able to account for an increase in power generated by computing power and cooling, and additional construction may be required during the preliminary phases of expansion projects.

- Compute resources

Advancements in technologies mean an increased amount of data and processing through traditional data centres. This means this must be factored into expansion strategies, looking into the future to expand the resources available to handle the increase in requirements.

- Security

One of the biggest challenges data centres face with implementing any new technologies is security. That being said, security and risk management can slow down the implementation process.

Data centres need to find a balance between optimising the capabilities of 5G, and managing the new security risks associated with it.

CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) recommends data centres regard data protection and security in four ways:

  •  Prevent and Detect Lateral Movement: Detect malicious cyber actor activity in 5G clouds and prevent actors from leveraging the compromise of a single cloud resource to compromise the entire network.
  • Securely Isolate Network Resources: Ensure that there is secure isolation among customer resources with emphasis on securing the container stack that supports the running of virtual network functions
  • Protect Data in Transit, In-Use, and at Rest: Ensure that network and customer data is secured during all phases of the data lifecycle (at-rest, in transit, while being processed, upon destruction).
  • Ensure Integrity of Infrastructure: Ensure that 5G cloud resources (e.g., container images, templates, configuration) are not modified without authorization.

The above simplifies the Zero Trust concept. Zero Trust is the concept that perimeter defences are no longer sufficient to secure a network, and that there should always be an assumption that a threat actor has established a foothold in the network.

To summarise

Data centre owners and operators must understand that with the ongoing expansion of 5G, the demands on their businesses and on-site technology will continue to increase. As 5G networks come closer to providing their full potential, long and short-term strategies will need to be modified accordingly.

We look forward to the increased capabilities 5G is going to bring to market, and to helping our clients plan for the future with the ever-changing data centre landscape. If you found this article useful, or would like to know more, please feel free to get in touch with the Towers Associates team.

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