The 5G wave is quickly coming to our mainstream tech shores, ushering a new era of connectivity. A sense of anticipation and excitement is palpable, across both the consumer and business side. 5G is expected to be a paradigm shift in the way we connect with each other, much like how cloud computing had an impact since it saw mass adoption.
Speaking of cloud computing – the concept has surprisingly been around since the 1960s, ever since computer bureaus began allowing companies to rent mainframe systems instead of buying one for themselves. Of course, in our modern era, we do this in a much more efficient, large-scale manner. From emails, photos, to most streaming content, nearly everything relies heavily on the cloud.
High speed internet connectivity and cloud adoption grew in tandem, often assisting each other in their evolution, adoption, and maturity. But as connectivity speeds are bolstered by the rise of 5G, the game is all set to elevate to a whole new level once again. With speeds ranging from ~50 Mbit/s to over a Gigabit/s, 5G is set to bring forth an unprecedented revolution across all sectors. Consumers are likely to witness the amalgamation of cloud computing with 5G, dawning a new era where these technologies are likely to play off one another, once again.
Initial Tangible Effect of 5G on Cloud
The telecom standard the masses are familiar with is 4G. With the advent of 5G, and its breakthrough in speeds accessible to users, the impact we’ll witness will be much more than the simple ability to stream multimedia faster. Entire sectors and industries, social dynamics, and much more is set to change.
In this post however, we’ll focus on cloud technology.
As 5G expands beyond the advanced telecom markets of South Korea, China and the US, in its initial stages the end-users will experience a significant surge in speeds. But beyond this, industrial focus will turn towards the cloud computing sector – the entity that handles the incredible amounts of data and workloads all modern systems rely on. A question naturally arises – will 5G compel massive amounts of further investment in the sector, as more consumers, devices, and services go online? Or will 5G take us in a different direction?
Worst Case Scenario: 5G kills the Cloud
An article from Forbes, titled ‘Supersonic 5G Wireless Could Kill The Cloud’, mentions how fatal 5G would be for the cloud. “Longer term, blazing-fast wireless networks have the potential to eliminate the cloud as a computing platform. A post-cloud world would involve billions of autonomous smart devices.” These devices, by the added virtue of being autonomous, could render many human operators jobless – an impact that may extend to the cloud sector.
While there is some merit to this claim, but it’s largely based on the assumption that all our smart devices would be adequately powered and capable of resource-intensive tasks. While devices have certainly exploded in capabilities over the past decade or so, are we truly at the point where large scale services with a massive number of users could move to a 5G based architecture, where each device self computes? Perhaps edge computing may nudge us in that direction, but it’s a premature claim.
Best-case scenario: 5G takes the cloud to new heights
The recent Fortune Global Tech Forum in Guangzhou, China spells that the two technologies will coexist in a perfectly symbiotic relationship.
“One major limitation is that the [5G] devices only process local data, it makes it difficult to do the big data analysis from a full, big-picture perspective,” said Enita Pu, partner at Sequoia Capital China. “We still think that cloud computing and storage will play a primary role in managing the ‘internet of things’ and also of large scale data and data sets.”
It seems likely that this demand for massive data is going to be significant enough to render 5G alone as an insufficient solution. As a result, we will need to rely on cloud computing. 5G might just serve as the Great Unifier of IoT, AI, data analytics. Local cloud business providers may gain even greater prominence with its advent, providing much needed cloud support. And then there are the social ramifications, such as:
5G and the remote workforce
As the walls of geographical limitations become meaningless with increased internet speeds and low latency, more companies may just go the remote way. A large workforce available globally can be remotely trained with the help of VR, for example. The low latency that 5G offers will eventually lead to better productivity amongst employees. Companies like Verizon are already outsourcing their jobs to places like India.
What 5G will improve?
Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and spatial computing are the prime candidates likely to get a boost from the mass adoption of 5G. Expect landslide advancements in the quality of healthcare, with brands like AT&T already working at the forefront of this exciting field, exploring opportunities to apply 5G to the medical field.
Self-driving cars, life-saving diagnoses, better opportunities for the remote workforce – 5G is primed to take the position of being the seminal change guiding us into a new phase of connectivity. We stand at the precipice of embarking on the journey to a revolution. The worlds of cloud computing and the 5G, poised to collide, are likely to produce synergies unlike no other.