On September 2, Brian Lavallée, Senior Director of Solutions Marketing at Ciena, gave a presentation at a webinar entitled, “Exploring the Cloud, Overland and Undersea.”  SubCableWorld was there and the following are some of Brian’s comments. 

prx author 194 Lavallee

“Edge data centers (also called edge cloud or edge computing) and submarine cables are very much related.  We’re talking about an end-to-end ecosystem.  There’s a lot of discussion right now about edge data centers and how they will impact submarine networks. 

When we talk about “cloud,” we’re basically talking about storage and computer resources that hosts data and applications for both humans and machines, specifically the Internet of Things (IoT).  They’re connected by high-speed networks – terrestrial and submarine – connecting large specialized data centers. 

With edge data centers, we’re taking the same type of compute and storage resources, but we’re pushing it closer to the edge; closer to the end users who create and consume the content. 

There are three main advantages in edge cloud:

  • Lower bandwidth towards the core network. You can actually lower the amount of capacity you need to these large centralized data centers.
  • Lower latency. If you put the storage and computer closer to the end user, you lower the network latency and also the amount of network elements (switches, routers, etc.) that your traffic has to pass through.
  • Data privacy. If you have sensitive data, for example, health care data, you can keep it close and not have it out there somewhere. In many countries, sensitive data has to stay in-country.

If you look at the traditional data center interconnection, to get your streaming video or business content, you get it from a data center.  Typically, this is in your city or region.  If your content or data is not hosted there, you probably go to a further data center, which could be a core or a national data center.  Then you’ll have a terrestrial Data Center Interconnect (DCI) that will allow you to access that content.  Data centers talk to each other and they actually talk to each other a lot; for content synchronization, load sharing, etc. 

The next battleground for the new frontier is the network edge. 

We’re getting 5G networks and 5G smartphones.  5G versus 4G LTE means:

  • 10 times faster speeds
  • 20 times peak data rate increases
  • 10 times connection density (IoT). We’re looking at about 50 billion machines (order of magnitude increases in IP connectivity)
  • 1000 times overall data volumes
  • 10 times lower latency (as low as 1ms)

Where do you put the edge data centers?  You don’t want to put 1000 times more traffic on the long-haul network if you don’t have to and 10 times lower latency means you don’t really have a choice.  You have to push those data centers out to the edge and closer to the mobile users. 

In the future, the interconnect point between the content providers and the Internet service providers is going to move closer to the end users.  The large Internet Content Providers (ICPs) are building a ton of submarine cables, they’re building terrestrial DCI networks, and they continue to push their centralized cloud assets to other locations closer to the edge. 

What this leads to are dispersed centralized and decentralized data center resources.  Some of your applications will be very close to you and have very low latency, some browsing applications will be in a metro or regional data center and some content will be hosted overseas.  The new software architectures that are being developed right now – container-based, micro-services, kubernetes, etc. – allow you not only to split multiple applications across data centers but to split the applications itself, having different micro-services running in different locations and combining to create the overall app.  What we’re creating here is a massive data center without walls. 

What this means in terms of traffic is that the amount of data carried by submarine networks with the advent of edge computing is likely to increase, not decrease.  Edge computing will enable a whole bunch of new applications and data centers still have to talk to each other a lot.  Some of that computer network and storage will take place towards the edge, while some will be pushed into those cloud networks.  When you’re at the edge, you only have access to that smaller portion of the data set.  If you want to do some holistic analytics, you’ll have to pull that data from the data centers.  So overall, the amount of traffic that will be carried on submarine networks will increase, I believe. 

People say edge computing is the death of cloud computing.  I think that is definitely not the case.  Edge computing complements cloud computing.  You’re going to see both edge and cloud data centers in the future. 

Everything is driven by how fast we can access the content.  The faster we can access it, the more we’ll use it.  5G will bring a massive increase in capacity that ultimately will effect terrestrial and submarine cable networks. 

Submarine cables are the network that creates the cloud.  The edge data centers is just another extension of centralized cloud.  It allows you options to put you applications or even pieces of your applications in different parts of the network, where it makes the most sense performance-wise, but also economically.”