Networking

AT&T wants to reinvent the cloud with low latency edge computing over 5G

With new investments in edge computing, AT&T could set the stage for business investments in IoT, VR, robotics, and more.

With continued investments in 5G and edge computing, AT&T said it is "reinventing the cloud" to better support next-generation technologies, according to a Tuesday press release. The firm is also targeting "single-digit millisecond latency" to more efficiently provide access to these services.

Edge computing occurs when data is processed at the edge of a network, instead of relying on the cloud or an on-premises data center for processing power. This can speed up data analysis, shrink network traffic, and lower latency, but AT&T Labs president and CTO Andre Fuetsch said he believes that 5G will take it even further.

"The capabilities of tomorrow's 5G are the missing link that will make edge computing possible. And few companies have the sheer number of physical locations that AT&T has that are needed to solve the latency dilemma," Fuetsch said in the release.

SEE: Interview questions: Wireless network engineer (Tech Pro Research)

Instead of data being sent to AT&T's core data centers, it will be processed at the edge of the firm's network—on towers, central offices, and small cells, the release said. Those facilities will be set up with general purpose computers and GPUs to help tackle the processing, the release said.

Advances in edge computing and 5G could improve many organizations' abilities to leverage emerging technologies. Here are four examples:

  1. IoT - Edge computing makes it easier to process and analyze the data collected by sensors and beacons, enabling faster insights into customer behavior and other information.
  2. Virtual reality (VR)/Augmented reality (AR) - The low latency and processing capabilities of these technology investments could speed graphics rendering, reducing lag and improving the user experience.
  3. Robotics manufacturing - According to AT&T's release, 5G and edge computing could lead to improved wireless robots that could receive updates faster and perform better.
  4. Autonomous vehicles - Machine to machine (M2M) communication could be improved, as autonomous cars could better talk to surround sensors, leading to a safer and more efficient drive.

"There's no time to lose," the release said. "We think edge computing will drive a wave of innovation unlike anything seen since the dawn of the internet itself. Stay tuned."

In its release, AT&T also noted how deeply integrated it believes that 5G will be with software defined networking (SDN) efforts. The company's own goal is to virtualize 75% of its network functions by 2020, and it is set to pass the 55% mark this year.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. AT&T is ramping up its investments in 5G and edge computing to lower latency and improve business efforts in next-gen technologies.
  2. These efforts could boost IoT, VR, AR, robotics, and autonomous vehicles development, improving the data processing and analysis functions of these technologies.
  3. AT&T is also planning on virtualizing 75% of its network functions by 2020, and is on track to pass 55% this year.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/zazamaza

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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