From thousands of data centers to orders of magnitude more

In today’s networked world, data centers, run by large operations such as Amazon, Google, Equinix, DRT, and the like, are interconnected and stream data and applications over the network to end users.

A large provider of content might lease capacity in a data center or operate its own. A global operation might have one or two per continent. These large data centers sit at the center of the cloud, which means they’re multiple hops removed from the end user.

There’s a burgeoning category of applications and content, including streaming video to mobile devices, latency-sensitive IoT apps, and security filters that needs to be pushed deeper into the network—closer to the edge and closer to the user.

This shift to the edge is necessitated by a number of factors. Latency is the oft-cited reason, but cost is also a part of the equation.

Driven by a need to get data and applications closer to the user, the edge cloud will be composed of orders of magnitude more data centers, scaled down and a short distance from end users.

The rationale is pretty simple: If an application runs closer to the user, perhaps one or two short hops away, not only is the latency reduced, but the data traverses a shorter span of the network, which reduces the resources required. Compare that to today’s centralized data center world. If information travels from a data center in a major metro, it might go through many routers and run over thousands of miles of fiber on its journey to the end user. The transport cost and potentials for delay are considerable.

Massive growth over the next decade

Over the next five years, as applications shift to the edge, a new breed of data centers will crop up around the globe. Looking ahead a decade, there could be orders of magnitude more data centers sending content and apps to users over shorter lengths of fiber and network hops.

This is the edge cloud.

In Edge Cloud, location matters. Techniques such as Geo-analytics will be used to place Edge Cloud Data Centers (so-called “edge nodes”) in close proximity to clusters of end-users or devices that will benefit from higher performance and lower cost. Such locations might include tele-dense areas of mobile users that are streaming video, along highways for public safety applications, near factories or warehouses using manufacturing or logistics automation, or close to healthcare facilities.

The edge cloud will be a unique ecosystem of open and interconnected data centers. In fact, that ecosystem, including data center operators and carrier partnerships, will be the underpinning of edge cloud achieving critical mass.

One thing is clear: The edge will be closer to the user—maybe just across town or down the street. Edge cloud will utilize caching that will respond to, or-better yet-anticipate, local streaming demands. In addition, localized edge compute will be able to host persistent or on-demand applications with strict latency constraints.

The economic advantages of edge cloud arise from the shared use of generic (or white box) resources across a range of applications—from mobile apps, to vCDN apps for video and software downloads and website performance, to IoT apps, and DNS, DDOS, and vRAN apps for mobile edge. These new edge cloud nodes will in many ways resemble large data centers, today’s goliaths, but may operate at a central office, a cell tower aggregation site, or a headend. With that kind of affordable, flexible architecture in place, the edge cloud will be able to spin up content and applications as needed.

How Ciena will help

Ciena and its Blue Planet software will bring a wealth of AI-enabled analytics, enabling real-time resource sharing from the core to the edge and distribution across an ecosystem of operators. The Ciena approach will enable automated SaaS-based revenue sharing within the ecosystem. Along with that, Ciena will orchestrate services and virtualization functions that enable the rapid spin-up of applications in real time.

Blue Planet Multi-Domain Service Orchestration (MDSO) and NFVO (Network Functions Virtualization Orchestrator), both open and vendor-agnostic software platforms, will enable the rapid creation, deployment, and automation of end-to-end delivery of services and applications across the edge cloud.

For edge cloud players, Blue Planet software will:

  • Shorten time-to-revenue and lower costs by simplifying and automating service delivery across multiple vendor and technology domains
  • Enable the rapid innovation of new services and provide full self-service control of the edge
  • Quickly adapt to new latency-sensitive demands by efficiently customizing and optimizing the network while improving quality of experience.


Blue Planet will also provide intelligent and automated NFV orchestration capabilities to the ecosystem to orchestrate resources across the many edge cloud data centers, simplifying integration across physical and virtual platforms.

Knitting all of this together will be the powerful Blue Planet Analytics (BPA), which will provide edge cloud ecosystem participants the ability to make smart, data-driven business decisions. BPA’s robust and flexible framework collects, processes, and stores data from multiple sources across the network. Blue Planet uses analytics and AI techniques to identify usage trends and service-affecting congestion, visualizes these issues to support root cause analysis, predicts future patterns, recommends ways to reoptimize resources, and ultimately will automatically adapt resources within strict policy rules. Blue Planet Analytics will also be able to recommend tradeoffs between cost and performance among the various applications competing for resources. BPA can also anticipate potential network and service disruptions before they happen.

With more than a quarter century of industry leadership in networking, Ciena supports more than 1,300 of the world’s largest, most reliable networks. Over the years, Ciena has been at the forefront of innovation, with many industry firsts across all areas of communications infrastructure. The advent of the edge cloud will be another in a long line of focused accomplishments for Ciena.


* Ovum Global Data Center Analyzer – August 2018