The Role of Edge Computing in the Modern Data Center

By Rich Nass

Executive Vice President

Embedded Computing Design

April 12, 2022


The Role of Edge Computing in the Modern Data Center

As we see the trend of edge computing rise across industries, one of the most important uses for it is in data centers. Incorporating edge computing enables more autonomously run data centers, and a low latency network is critical in environments that strive to maximize compute throughput and reduce server idle time. Timothy Vang, Vice President of Marketing and Applications at Semtech, answers some questions about the intricacies of edge computing and the important role it plays in the modern data center to meet the current bandwidth and speed demands.

Q: What’s driving increased demand for edge computing? What kickstarted this shift?

A: Edge computing is a new segment that is being driven by the need for enabling emerging use cases as 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) subscribers increase. While processing of large amounts of data is suitable within conventional data centers, the emerging use cases of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) need to also enable lower latency for consumers. This is where the edge computing space is innovating and bringing higher compute data centers closer to the edge of the networks like 5G and enterprises. This shift has been accelerated and is complemented by 5G wireless roll outs.

Q: How does incorporating edge computing improve data center and 5G functionality?

A: Edge computing brings the convenience of high processing data centers closer to the edge of networks. 5G and edge compute networks will work together in complete harmony to bring new 5G use cases to reality. These include autonomous vehicles, “metaverse,” and more.

The digital transformation we’re seeing today has played a key role in the increased demand for 5G rollout. Transitioning from 4G to 5G creates even more data that requires faster processing and drives the need for increased bandwidth at low latency. The implementation of edge computing alongside 5G produces similar benefits to those of edge data centers in that processing time will be cut down to reduce latency and create a smoother experience for the end user.

Q: What applications does this technology support?

A: Edge computing supports a number of emerging applications, including, AI, ML, AR/VR, autonomous driving, enhanced mobile broadband and gaming and fixed wireless access. Device streaming – whether that’s watching videos on a mobile device, internet browsing or gaming – requires fast processing and lower latency for an optimal end-user experience.

Q: How does optical technology support edge computing?

A: As data and compute demand continues to increase, optical interconnect technology will become a key innovation needed in the industry for enabling scalable and reliable roll-outs of edge compute data centers while enabling ultra-low latency and low power. One such technology is optical links based on Analog Clock and Data Recovery (CDR) technology over traditional digital signal processing (DSP) based optical interconnects. The analog CDR based optical links offer lower power and cost, and also significant latency improvements which are key to high performance computing (HPC) and AI data centers that demand the lowest latency.

Q: What about 5G? How will optical technology play a role here?

A: The rollout of 5G technology creates new opportunities across industries, but current infrastructure cannot support all of them. For example, a recent mobile traffic and data report from Ericsson claims that 5G subscriptions will increase to 3.5B by 2026, up from 580M in 2021, while per user traffic is expected to increase from 10GB/month to 35GB/month. This increased demand requires higher bandwidth transmission capacity for 5G front haul deployments at extremely low latency, low power and with high performance. Optical technology is critical in delivering on that.

Q: How do you see edge computing shaping data centers and 5G architectures in the future?

A: This digital acceleration we’re experiencing will continue to enable more growth opportunities for edge computing. As the technology continues to evolve, it will shift the way that the internet is used and produce even more potential use cases at the edge.

Edge computing and optical technology will change the way businesses leverage and take advantage of data, solving some of the biggest challenges facing industries today like real time information monitoring and processing, management of expanding IoT applications, and delivery of enhanced service provider experiences.

Richard Nass’ key responsibilities include setting the direction for all aspects of OSM’s ECD portfolio, including digital, print, and live events. Previously, Nass was the Brand Director for Design News. Prior, he led the content team for UBM’s Medical Devices Group, and all custom properties and events. Nass has been in the engineering OEM industry for more than 30 years. In prior stints, he led the Content Team at EE Times,, and TechOnLine. Nass holds a BSEE degree from NJIT.

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