Operators need to rethink business models and architectures to take advantage of the coming rush to the network edge, IDC's senior research director, Bruno Teyton, has warned.
He says enterprise migration to the network edge is about to accelerate dramatically.
"Today the vast majority of data center spending is in core data centers. By 2025, we will see a shift to the edge," Teyton told a Huawei customer conference on Thursday.
"By 2025, more than 50% of new infrastructure will be deployed in critical edge locations, up from less than 10% today," he added. "By 2023, 70% of enterprises will run varying levels of data processing at the edge."
Teyton said the rise of the edge is being driven by factors such as latency, security and the cost of sending data to central locations, and that it is a "fairly significant change" for network architecture.
Telcos need to align their network architecture with customers' long-term goals, Teyton said.
"We're getting to a point where the network will have to move the workload from network node to network node to provide the best experience to the end-user, depending on his location."
A node could be a basestation, a central office or customer CPE. Operators will need to manage "tens of data centers, hundreds of central offices, thousands of telco edges and millions of consumer devices," he said.
"The future of your infrastructure is distributed and cloud-native, with the interpenetration of network and data center."
Another driver is the continued growth in connected devices. IDC predicts 55.7 billion connected devices by 2025, up from 42 billion today, of which 74% will be IoT devices.
"Networks will need to be more distributed, flexible and intelligent because 55.7 billion devices will produce zettabytes of data," Teyton said.
Teyton predicted alliances between telcos and hyperscale operators to build "a continuum between edge and clouds."
He says MEC and 5G present another chance for operators to go beyond connectivity and partner with customers on mission-critical use cases.
"It's an opportunity to enter into new opportunities and propose new business models based on enterprise KPIs."
It could be improved worker productivity, faster decision making or shorter response times.
"This is an opportunity to share revenue with customers, not just selling pure connectivity."
Teyton said end-to-end orchestration would enable telcos to monetize ecosystems and tackle opportunities in the platform economy.
"You need to deliver some end-to-end solutions to end users, including [not just] networking but business applications as well."
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— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading