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Carrier Networking Mobile Edge Computing
7 minute read

Content Acceleration at the Edge Will Be Key to 5G

Latency and network congestions often cause poor performance for cloud-based applications used by enterprises all around the world, establishing a need for solutions at the edge.

Even before a global pandemic shifted entire workforces to work remotely in 2020, large swaths of employees at companies in every sector of the economy were using more devices than ever to access work tools and applications.  

Rapid advancements in cloud computing has enabled remote working solutions, which are now likely a permanent part of the future of work. But what happens when cloud solutions aren’t enough?  

Service providers have long used large cloud data centers that aggregate central and regional core sites to deploy network services. In a 5G world, they’ll have to leverage edge network sites to deliver the low latency required to support next-gen applications such as self-driving cars, augmented reality and more. 

Empowered employees empower your business 

Digital employee experience is critical — no matter where that employee is working — when it comes to talent acquisition, fostering collaboration amongst teams and driving innovation to sustain competitiveness. 

An increasingly distributed workforce, according to a new report from Data Center Frontier, is accelerating the case for edge computing as the demand for collaboration tools — namely video conferencing and consumption — grows, too. 

The migration of mission-critical applications to the cloud has improved end user experience — smoother collaboration, automated backups and access to the latest updates on an ongoing basis. However, latency and network congestions often cause poor performance for cloud-based applications used by enterprises all around the world. 

Let’s consider Microsoft’s Office 365 product line. 

When cloud solutions lack performance, productivity suffers. Under this scenario, Office 365 typically gets the blame when in fact it is the WAN bandwidth that is the culprit due to the issue of having to leave the fast-local network and using the scarce WAN bandwidth to gain access to mission-critical content on the cloud.  

This leads to an influx in performance-related complaints from employees to IT groups taking advantage of such cloud-based applications. 

Buying additional bandwidth is costly and is a source of unnecessary expense because the problem is only temporarily alleviated, but sooner or later the additional bandwidth will be consumed and then you are back to the original problem. 

Here’s where edge computing comes in, processing power positioned as close to the user or device as possible. Further, organizations can enhance quality, reliability and experience by utilizing edge caching, which stores data and content closer to users looking to consume such content. 

More on content acceleration 

Another term for edge caching is content acceleration. 

SaaS applications like Office 365 are served from multiple secure server farms, with multiple hosts spanning several data centers. There are more than 400 secure hosts and domains that create all the services provided by Office 355 and not every host/domain carries enough content to warrant content acceleration.  

Office 365 adds additional and unique strains on the network, as more bandwidth is needed to handle the extra load put on the network by Office 365 applications like Stream, Outlook, Word, Excel, SharePoint, OneDrive, PowerPoint and others. With the majority of Office 365 traffic constantly having to leave the local network to gain access to content on the cloud, access to the Internet becomes a chokepoint and causes additional performance issues. 

This is critical congestion on the WAN. SCA solutions use one static IP address to accelerate all these domains and hosts. All Office 365 hosts and domains can be redirected to SCA. The ones for which the secure acceleration service has been configured will get accelerated, and the ones that do not will get tunneled to the destination. 

Is there a solution? 

WWT recently launched a new lab environment featuring SuperLumin’s Content Accelerator (SCA), which ensures access to content, delivering shorter load times and accelerated performance via edge caching.  

By utilizing SCA, organizations can:  

  • Cache content-of-interest on premise within the LAN.
  • Leverage the extreme performance of SCA to allow a single device to service the data to all the clients without overloading the WAN.
  • Significantly improve performance by decreasing the overall volume of content moving over your network.

SCA can be used to accelerate access to cloud-based services, such as those offered in the Office 365 product suite. SCA technologies can be deployed at the network edge and at the enterprise, meaning organizations can accelerate Office 365 services to suit their needs. 

Content acceleration will also play an important role in delivering content in other areas: 

  • Retail stores and customer experiences
  • Stadium and fan experience
  • Virtual reality, augmented reality and gaming
  • Entertainment

Acceleration technologies, such as SuperLumin, are expected to play a key role in 5G and edge computing, according to a recent Dell Technologies report

The report goes on: The high speed, low latency and increased number of device connections supported by 5G networks are leading to a new set of use cases around AR/VR, gaming, content delivery and content sharing. This requires moving third party applications to the network edge along with network slicing capabilities to distinguish between different types of traffic and associated Service Level Agreements (SLAs). This transforms the telco network edge to become a distributed cloud running third party developer and service provider applications.  

One is not enough 

Content acceleration is but one use case for edge computing. And SuperLumin is just a single application. Organizations will need dozens — if not more — applications or services running on the edge that drive business outcomes to justify the investment.  

And for organizations with hundreds or thousands of disparate locations, scale will be paramount, meaning edge solutions will need to be easy to deploy and consume.  

Let’s bring back in the SuperLumin solution, which can provide acceleration for small offices to full-scale core network traffic. 

The application can run on top of WWT's Converged Edge Platform, a customizable reference architecture with hardware and software optimizations, pre-validated in our Advanced Technology Center (ATC), that help move it faster toward commercialization and drive ROI of the infrastructure. 

The converged edge will play a key role in a service provider’s overall 5G strategy by delivering services — such as our content acceleration example — and connectivity in support of specific industry verticals. Better yet, it’s doing so with a common infrastructure that makes the management of the platform and the services delivered by it less complex. 

Think of a converged edge solution as a multi-purpose platform in a single box, like a containerized approach that makes it simpler to deploy: 

  • A platform to deliver MEC applications for enterprise industry verticals.  
  • Enterprise connectivity via private LTE.  
  • An NFVI platform to deliver virtualized services to the enterprise. 

In short, the platform offers a repeatable, scalable approach to 5G for enterprises to more quickly consume technologies. 

Bundle it all together 

Enterprises are increasingly looking to the network edge to enable speed and agility. By 2025, more than half of new infrastructure will be deployed in edge locations, IDC Senior Research Director Bruno Teyton told Light Reading

To succeed, edge architectures must be consistent and easy to consume, for both service providers and their end customers, which places an added emphasis on the role of systems integration. 

Integration, however, has its challenges: 

  • It leaves a lot of decision-making up to the carrier regarding hardware, networking and infrastructure. 
  • Challenges network operators to be more of a software company than a network that runs systems.  
  • Breaks apart service providers’ ability to have a single point of contact when it comes to troubleshooting and fixes. 

Conclusion 

WWT's Converged Edge Platform (CEP) is a single-box edge solution capable of delivering edge-enabled services, such as content acceleration, which will play an important role in a variety of verticals as they begin to utilize the high speed and low latency afforded via 5G. 

At the same time, CEP can be used to deliver end customers connectivity via Private LTE, additional edge-enabled applications and other virtualized network services that can help optimize ROI on 5G infrastructure while generating new revenue streams for profitability.  

Using this approach, service providers can cut next-gen network deployment time from several years to a few months and accelerate their revenue growth.