Roundtable: Will 5G Accelerate the Data Center Sector?

March 19, 2019
Our panel of data center thought leaders looks at the upside of 5G wireless, and what faster and larger data streams will mean for cloud computing and multi-tenant data centers.

Today we continue our Data Center Executive Roundtable, a quarterly feature showcasing the insights of thought leaders on the state of the data center industry, and where it is headed. In today’s discussion, our panel of experienced data center executives – Chris Sharp of Digital Realty, Tim Mirick of Sabey Data Centers and John Hewitt of Vertiv – discuss what the development of 5G wireless services might mean for data center demand.

The conversation is moderated by Rich Miller, the founder and editor of Data Center Frontier.

Data Center Frontier: We’ve all been hearing a lot lately about 5G wireless technology. What might 5G mean for the data center industry, and when will its impact be felt?

Chris Sharp, CTO, Digital Realty

Chris Sharp: Beyond the sheer increase in the volume of data created, the sophistication and significance of the advanced applications are increasing at a breakneck pace. Beyond just faster streaming and data transfers, autonomous cars, smart cities, and remote robotics will become possible with rollout of 5G wireless networks.

5G networks aren’t just about speed, they also greatly improve latency and reliability and they eliminate jitter. For some 5G applications like robotic surgeries, the improved network signal is literally a life and death criticality. With far less room for error incorporating precise movements in real-time, the medical industry is on the front-line of those who will benefit from 5G.

This shift will impact how technologies are designed, balancing the advantages and disadvantages of micro-processing at the edge and focusing on flexible, agile network architecture. With developed technology around voice and gesture commands, we may seamlessly become less attached to our devices, as the dependence on a device is to assist us in navigating out into the world instead of away from the world. This means that 5G will assist in moving even more applications into the cloud (and therefore into data centers).

“The biggest question that 5G hasn’t yet answered is where these 5G-enabled applications will ultimately live.” Chris Sharp, Digital Realty

The biggest question that 5G hasn’t yet answered is where these 5G-enabled applications will ultimately live. For instance, much of the processing of virtual reality applications could happen in a core data center, at a micro-edge facility, or at the user, depending on how the applications are developed. This application development will be based on how CSP’s roll out their edge applications and on how 5G networks are ultimately architected, and both will have a huge impact across the data center industry. A global platform that enables this entire supply chain is critical to the success of any new spectrum coming to market.

Data center providers need to be ready for growing hyperscale demands and greater colocation scalability with interconnection that’s seamless and reliable across the globe.

TIM MIRICK, Sabey Data Centers

Tim Mirick: More data! 5G is going to provide a connectivity fabric that will enable new – and supercharge existing – location-sensitive applications. It will create a need for hyper-localized micro data centers to support use-cases like autonomous vehicles, AR/VR applications, and the multitude of IoT uses that will come.

But the rollout of 5G will just continue our journey to the “edge” while large portions of the data will ultimately end up in the industry’s growing data center footprint, both urban and rural. 5G has the potential to create exponentially more data, and the need to store and interrogate this data will create a flywheel that will continue to drive growth in our industry.


John Hewitt: We are seeing rapid progress in 5G, and this technology will have an impact on the industry sooner than many expect. We see 5G as a primary driver of the continued growth in edge computing.

Last year we embarked on a mission to analyze the data characteristics of emerging and future edge use cases to identify archetypes that could simplify infrastructure deployment. One of the outcomes of that effort was an increased appreciation of how important the high bandwidth and low latency 5G delivers will be to advancing the maturity of many emerging edge use cases. As 5G builds momentum, we’ll see increased need for quickly deployable and repeatable edge infrastructure designs that allow businesses to leverage the full benefits of 5G as the technology becomes available.

NEXT: What’s on the horizon in data center automation?

Keep pace with the fact-moving world of data centers and cloud computing by following us on Twitter and Facebook, connecting with me on LinkedIn, and signing up for our weekly newspaper using the form below:

About the Author

Rich Miller

I write about the places where the Internet lives, telling the story of data centers and the people who build them. I founded Data Center Knowledge, the data center industry's leading news site. Now I'm exploring the future of cloud computing at Data Center Frontier.

Courtesy of AFL

Hyperscale Rising

Alan Keizer and Keith Sullivan of AFL explore the growth and evolution of hyperscale computing from being a nice-to-have to a must-have.

White Papers


Beyond Greenwashing: Sustainability Meets Compliance

Oct. 19, 2022
This special report, courtesy of Iron Mountain, explores a set of metrics and mechanisms that data center operators can use track progress towards their environmental, social,...