How the rise of the edge is impacting data centres in APAC

April 26, 2024 / By  

Data centre operators, hyperscalers and enterprises have their own conceptions of the edge based on their specific geographic requirements or perceptions of technical needs. Broadly, the edge can be best understood from two perspectives: physical places and geographies and digital spaces and technologies.

Initially, the data centre industry grew out of demand from enterprises and MNCs seeking to build their digital footprint from local to global coverage. Data centre operators concentrated on building facilities in key regional hubs such as Singapore and Hong Kong. At that time, it was considered the edge of their data centre footprint, sufficient to meet requirements. This iteration of the data centre industry preceded the cloud.

However, as the public cloud was born and expanded globally, cloud and hyperscaler companies started driving much of the current global growth.

Defining the edge

Along with the regional expansion of the global data centre footprint, there has been an explosion in the use of personal technologies at individual levels. This explosion mirrors the surge in sensors and sensor-based applications driven by the Internet of Things (IoT).

The adoption of these devices and sensor-based solutions has partly been enabled by the rollout of strong telecommunications infrastructure networks across many countries to provide 3G, 4G and now 5G coverage. Sensor-based solutions have also benefitted from advances in new short-distance network technologies such as Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth and mesh-based technologies.

Personal devices, sensors and videos contained in a range of physical objects, telecommunications network base stations and IoT gateway devices can all be considered forms of the edge.

Smart solutions at the edge

The proliferation of personal smart devices has driven a need for IT infrastructure servicing the associated digital needs to be placed closer to the end user. Network bandwidth is limited and can be relatively expensive.

Latency-sensitive, mission-critical applications also need to be served closer to the end user to reduce network hops and maximise response time. This situation is exacerbated by the emergence of inferential AI that needs to be positioned close to the end user. An end user using sophisticated applications on mobile devices can be considered the deepest level of the edge.

However, there are a number of layers between regional hubs and this deepest level, including national and provincial hub metros.

Now, regional hub markets across the globe have reached a level of maturity in supply. Traditionally, the data centre supply developed in regional hub markets has been disproportionate to the national hub metros they served.

Data centre operators, cloud service providers and hyperscalers are now concentrating on these markets to address the mismatch. Emerging markets globally are now the focus of development attention and represent opportunities for developers and investors.

New opportunities

The pushing of computing and storage to the edge, as well as the new demands of AI, are creating new business models, innovative new data centre designs and challenging new operational environments. Vehicles are emerging as mini data centres on wheels. Meanwhile, new data centre operators are coming to market with small container solutions that can be dropped into remote edge sites in metros.

These new solutions, considered a form of the edge, are also creating opportunities and challenges for data centre design, architecture and operations. Therefore, opportunities exist across the entire data centre edge stack. Regional hub markets that once were the edge for many operators and enterprises will be considered less but will continue to grow.

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