Cookies Use on AFL Website We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy. Agree
Home / AFL Blog / November 2020 / The Collision of Cloud and the Edge
Blog posts

The Collision of Cloud and the Edge

By Josh Simer, Market Manager - Service Providers

As 5G deployments continue toward the goal of ubiquitous coverage, two apparently conflicting trends are developing: C-RAN and Edge Computing. C-RAN, or Centralized/Cloud Radio Access Network, is an architecture in which active equipment—most notably the BBU, or BaseBand Unit—gets moved away from the network edge and centralized or moved to “the cloud.” Edge computing is a trend by which more applications are hosted, and hence, more active equipment required—closer to the end user or closer to the network edge. To understand why these two apparently diametrically opposed trends are happening, we need to look at the drivers of each, and when we do, we’ll see there isn’t necessarily an inevitable “collision.” But Service Providers need to plan for each of these trends with a network that is expandable, flexible and accessible.

The rise of C-RAN architecture is based on the trend toward smaller cell sites and the fundamental physical and economic realities that creates. To provide more wireless bandwidth, and to use the new higher frequencies available for 5G, wireless operators need to plan for smaller cell site coverage areas. Hence, more cell sites in more places. As they move from fewer large, macro sites to orders of magnitude more small sites, it becomes harder and more expensive to find space for those sites. Accordingly, shrinking the amount of equipment at each site is critical. C-RAN helps accomplish this by centralizing some of that equipment, particularly the BBU. In addition, it is more expensive to emplace and maintain active equipment at multiple sites. It is much more economical to have centralized BBUs covering multiple small sites. Finally, centralizing these functions allows more economical use of capacity. Active equipment which covers only one cell site may be underutilized for large periods of time, whereas centralizing that equipment allows its capacity to be allocated among sites as needed. In a nutshell, these factors are very similar to those which drove the rise of “Cloud Computing,” when technologies like virtual servers made it more economical to concentrate compute power in a more central location. In the case of C-RAN, we are seeing these active equipment sites in locations like previously existing macro cell sites, powered street cabinets and in existing (but redesigned) central offices and head ends.
Edge Computing
The seemingly opposed trend is Edge Computing, in which the active equipment which hosts applications and data gets moved closer to the network edge. 5G is also the underlying driver for this, albeit a different aspect of 5G. In this case, it is the Ultra Reliable, Low-Latency Communications (URLLC) promise of 5G: specifically, that it will enable applications which can count on 1 millisecond or less of “network-induced” latency. This is so rapid that even the limited speed of light becomes an issue. Light “only” travels 300 km or about 187 miles a millisecond in a vacuum and is slower in optical fiber and the atmosphere. There is simply no way for a signal to travel from a user to a single centralized global (or even continental/regional) datacenter in that time. For latency-sensitive communications, like remote surgeries or autonomous vehicles, we need to minimize the physical distance the signal must travel. This has driven the rise of “Edge Computing,” in which these latency-sensitive applications are hosted in smaller datacenters closer to the user.
Will these trends collide?
At first glance, there seems to be a collision course here between C-RAN moving active equipment away from the Edge, and Edge Computing (or, the underlying URLLC imperative) moving it closer. But it is important to keep in mind that there are a few other variables in effect here.
First, the same fundamental reality that drives C-RAN and Cloud computing remains in effect. There are economic advantages to consolidating active equipment, especially servers and data storage devices. These devices need a temperature-controlled environment, and HVAC systems are more efficient at scale. It is also more efficient to centralize maintenance of these devices so technicians need to travel less. Physical security is easier to manage at fewer sites. These factors all push against moving lots of compute power out to street cabinets. Thus, an “Edge Datacenter” typically means a datacenter which covers all or a large part of a metropolitan area, or a redesigned Central Office/Head End. Both options retain certain advantages while keeping the physical distance down to a couple dozen miles, well within 1 millisecond.
Second, space and power considerations continue to have an impact. Space for street cabinets is limited and can be difficult to obtain. Even existing macro sites tend not to have a lot of space. By contrast, an Edge Datacenter which covers a section of a metropolitan area has more flexibility in location and can be built or repurposed as needed. Street cabinets with active equipment also require new power connections, which can be expensive. Concentrating equipment at a higher level makes it more economical to have not just one but multiple power connections for backup, along with more additional backup options such as generators.
Third, only certain applications will require the most extreme degree of URLLC. Latency of 1 millisecond or less is critical for certain things like autonomous vehicles—where you don’t want a delay in resolving a potential collision—and remote surgery, where you don’t want a delay causing an incision error. Applications like remote monitoring, gaming and video are not impacted by having an extra millisecond or two of network-induced latency. Furthermore, to address industrial and enterprise usage cases for 1 millisecond latency, it is often feasible to have equipment located at the customer, like a small headend within a highly automated factory. Thus, the economic drivers pushing compute further to the edge are only a subset of traffic.
What does this mean for network operators?
The key to understanding what this means lies in that third factor—the applications which require 1 millisecond of latency. Many of these applications are not yet in use today, and the timing and way they develop is uncertain. There will also be applications enabled by URLLC which we have not yet imagined or considered. Today, there are relatively few arguments for pushing “edge computing” beyond a local/metropolitan data center or sometimes a CO/HE. What if this changes in the future? For example, what if autonomous vehicles require a network of equipment in powered street cabinets to function at scale? The answer, it turns out, is in building a network with the same characteristics we’ve discussed previously: Expandability, Flexibility, and Accessibility.  
In my next blog entry, I’ll discuss in more detail how these characteristics help build a network that will accommodate both these trends—however far they go and wherever they end up colliding.
Posted: 11/3/2020 by Nicole Collins | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: 5G, Cloud, Computing, C-RAN, Edge
Blog post currently doesn't have any comments.
Leave comment

 Security code

Recent Posts

AFL FTTx/PON Products Receive Awards from BTR’s Diamond Technology Reviews

10/27/2021 4:17:51 PM | with 0 comments
Four AFL products were recognized by the 2021 Broadband Technology Report's (BTR) Diamond Technology Reviews.

Achieving a Connected World

10/13/2021 4:06:02 PM | with 0 comments
In this blog Seán Adam, Vice President, Market Strategy and Innovation at AFL, discusses what it will take to Achieve a Connected World, including a skilled workforce and a network that has flexibility, accessibility and expandability. 

Single-mode vs. Multimode

10/11/2021 3:05:33 PM | with 0 comments
This blog will explore the differences between single-mode and multimode fiber. 

Product Spotlight: Fujikura 90S+ Fusion Splicer

9/30/2021 9:33:42 AM | with 0 comments
Check out this blog to learn more about our Fujikura 90S+ Fusion Splicer with a key, new attribute: Active Fusion Control.

The Basic Structure of Optical Fiber

9/28/2021 8:04:51 AM | with 0 comments
This blog will explore the three main elements of optical fiber: the core, the cladding and the coating. 

Blog Tags

& 100G 12R 12S 2014 2015 2016 21s 22S 31S 41S 5G 62S 70R 70S 802.11ax 90R Access Networks accessibility accessories AccessWrap ADSS Aerial Aeros AFL AFL. Air Blown Fiber AlumaCore Aluminum and APEX APM-101 APM-102 APTA ASCEND ASIS Associates attenuation awards bandwidth Best Practices BICSI Bishop black Blog bluetooth Broadband BTR bus Cable cable deployment Cables Cable-Tec Cabling Careers Case Case Studies Catalogs Cell Tower Demarcation center Certification CGM Plus Rack Panel CI&M Innovators Award Cladding clean cleaner Cleaning Cleaning Supplies Cleaver cloud CO2 Lasers Coating collaboration collapsible Community Community Outreach compression Compression Accessories Computing Conductor Connect Connections Connectivity connector Connectors Co-ops copper Core Core-alignment Coronavirus Corporate Covid-19 C-RAN CT-30 CT50 CTIA customer experience CWDM dampers DAS data Data Center Data Centers Dead Ends demarcation Demonstration density Diamond Distribution Enclosure Donda DT Duel Dura-Line DWDM eABF Edge electric Enclosure end-to-end solutions Energy Engineer Enterprise Equipment ESB estimation expandability Expo Exterior Distribution Cabinet Facebook Fall Fall 2013 FAST SC FASTConnect FC Features Fiber Fiber Cleaver Fiber Connector Inspection Fiber Distribution fiber inspection Fiber Laser fiber management Fiber Optic Fiber Optic Cable Fiber Optic Intrusion Detection System Fiber Optic Training Fiber OpticTraining Fiber Prep Fiber Security Fiber Shaping Fiber Splicing fibre fibre optic cable field installable Field Splicer flexibility flexscan Flex-Span Flickr FlowScout FOCIS FOCIS Duel FOCIS Flex FOCIS Lightning FOCIS WiFi2 French FSM-100 FTTh FTTx Fujikura FuseConnect Fusion Fusion Splicer Fusion Splicers Fusion Splicing Gas generations Glass Processing global Google Governor Nikki Haley Grand Canyon Greenville Grounding Hardware high high-density High-Wire Walk HiTemp Hyperscale IDEAA IEEE infrastructure innovation inspect Inspection Instagram Install Installation Installing Instructions Integrated Solution International Sales Meeting Internet Interns IoT JMA Kit Laser Last Mile LAZERMaster LC Light Brigade LightLink LightWave LinkedIn live line LL-550 LL-550 & LL-580 enclosures LL580 LL-580 LMHD Loss LZM-100 M210 M310 Maintenance mechanical Metro Ethernet Metro-E MFIS MicroCore Mining mode Month of Service mount MPO MSOs Multi-Fiber Identification System multimode Network Networks new New Year NFPA Nik Wallenda Noyes NY OCS OEM of Oil One-Click OPGW Optic Optical Optical Connectivity Optical Sensing Optical Splicing optics OSP OSP MicroCore: LM200 & LMHD Series OTDR Outside Plant panel panels Paper PCS-100 Stripper Perimeter Security System PES Photonics Photonics West PhotonicsWest platform PM Splicing polarity Poli-Mod power Power Systems PREVAIL Procedures product Product Registration Products Provider providers rack Rail Railway Recoater Recruiting resource center Resources Reviews ribbon Rogue Rural Utilities Rusty Williams SB01 SC SCADA SCTE SCTE Cable-Tec SDN Selection Sensing service Services Sidewinder Rapid Cable Deployment System Silver Level Award single single circuit outage Single Lambda Single-mode SkyWrap Small-Cell Smart City Smart-Grid Smartphone Snapshot Social Software Defined Networking Solutions Spanish Specialty Specialty Splicer Spider Web Ribbon SpiderWeb SPIE Splice Enclosure Splicer Splicers Splicing ST Stockbridge Dampers Stranded Stainless Steel Cable Stream Streetcar Structured Cabling Study substation SuperMobility Support SWAGE Swaging swan SWAT SWFT System systems T&D T&I: technology Terminal termination Termination Instructions Test Test &Inspection Test and Inspection Testing Things Titan Tools trade show Trade Shows traffic Training Transit transition transmission Transportation trends TS100 Tube Tutorials Twitter Ultra HD Upstate Alliance utilities Utility ventilator VFI V-Groove vibration Video Videos Vodafone WDM WDM900 We Connect Webinar Website White White Paper White Papers White-Paper Wi-Fi Winter Wireless Women workflow Wrapping Wrapping Tube Cable WTC/SWR