As 5G moves from concept to commercial reality for Singapore in 2020, a new world of possibilities will open up. Thanks to this next generation of mobile connectivity, artificial intelligence (AI) will soon be able to permeate more broadly than ever before and bring visions of truly smart critical infrastructure, connected cars and more to life.
There is no doubt that new network technologies like 5G–as well as edge data centres and hyper clouds that enable 5G high-value services–will bring this future vision of technology into the present, thanks to greater bandwidth and lower latency. In fact, you don’t need to look too far ahead to see how the rollout of 5G will revolutionise entire sectors and mark a new chapter in Singapore’s Smart Nation journey. There are already plans set in place to accelerate the development of autonomous technology, allocating the use of more than 1,000km of public roads in western Singapore as testing grounds for autonomous vehicles. But to deliver this new version of the future, infrastructure in the form of better connectivity needs to first be in place.
5G requires a new data centre strategy
With its promise of ultra-low latency, facilitated by edge computing, 5G will enhance practically every industry, be it e-sports or medical technology, primarily by enabling much higher data flow. For enterprises and users to reap the benefits of 5G, digital services must be able to process data in the cloud in real-time and deliver it back to devices immediately. However, because these low latency use cases are not possible without edge computing, the two will not only need to co-exist but also co-evolve – and this requires a change in network design.
Future cloud technologies enabled by 5G will be fuelled by real-time data processing and analytics, which depend on two things: being as close to the edge as possible to reduce latency, and taking advantage of AI chipsets to examine all that data and make sense of it. Data centres will certainly face heightened processing demands and will need additional storage to cope. They’ll also need new sites. And in land-scarce Singapore? That poses a problem.
Singapore’s limited supply of land and relatively expensive energy means that building more data centres to keep up with demand is simply not a feasible long-term solution, especially amidst tough constraints such as obtaining land approvals and carbon tax penalties. A new approach should be considered to create more compute and storage capability, without needing more physical space. For network operators here, this means tapping into the power of resource sharing through Data Centre Interconnect (DCI).
Delivering future network scalability
DCI allows network operators to connect disparate data centres together, meaning an enterprise in Singapore could easily tap into another data centre elsewhere in the world to pool resources on the fly. Essentially, DCI turns any connected data centre into a living organism of scalable performance and storage in a global network, responding to the natural ebbs and flows of demand rather than operating in silos. This flexibility allows data centres to support the inevitable explosion of data that will come out of the 5G revolution, without the cost of creating a new physical resource centre attached.
Whilst DCI is essential to delivering on the promise of 5G, not all DCI hardware is created equal. Choosing proven, purpose-built, and modular hardware is key, particularly when supporting mission-critical use cases where network speed is a vital. Take telemedicine for example, one of the key features of Singapore’s healthcare landscape. Imagine the dire consequences if healthcare professionals are unable to access the necessary data in a reliable, timely manner. For a critical patient who needs to be constantly monitored remotely, it could very well be the difference between life and death.
The advent of 5G will only see use cases like these become more common. Data centre networks thus need to ensure that they are processing data in real time and transmitting it just as quickly. Fortunately, advances in fibre-optic technology today have reaching data speeds of up to 800G possible, dramatically improving data centre network performance. When the combination of network and service assurance to guarantee the delivery of connectivity for mission-critical tasks, is paired with DCI to ensure scalability, realising the hyper-connected future that 5G promises can then become a reality.
Getting 5G innovation right
In Southeast Asia, Singapore is demonstrating its lead in 5G adoption and is well-positioned to capture the potential value from 5G, as businesses continue to undergo digital transformation. However, it is crucial that enterprises make the right investments into the network infrastructure that will serve as the foundation of this vision. By using DCI technology to deliver the enhanced connectivity and support the high-speed data transfer needed for 5G, Singapore can become a blueprint for other countries in the region to connect the on-demand society of the future.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Anup Changaroth is Senior Director for Strategic Business Development and APAC Chief Technology Office at Ciena, where he is responsible for driving growth across Asia Pacific, as well as leading the regional Engineering Operations and Product Line Management teams for Ciena’s hardware and software solutions.
Previously, Anup was Ciena’s Director of Asia Pacific Marketing, responsible for product portfolio marketing, as well analyst and media engagements. He has been involved in the telecommunications field for over 25 years, since designing and building his own V.23 modem in the late ‘80s as a student.
Prior to Ciena’s acquisition of Nortel’s Metro Ethernet Networks division, Anup led various teams at Nortel, including regional product line management for Nortel’s Carrier Data Products in Asia Pacific, the solutions marketing team for Nortel’s Local Internet division, and Nortel’s optical Ethernet marketing strategy across Asia Pacific. Prior to Nortel, Anup held several positions at Motorola's Information Systems Group.
Anup holds an Honours Degree in Computer Systems Engineering from the City University, London; a Marketing Management Diploma from Columbia University, U.S.; as well as a Diploma in Electronics Engineering from the Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore.