From data centers to clouds and from clouds to fog – fog computing enables entirely new types of services

We live in times of exciting progress. Organizations are either wondering how best to change their old business models or how to find completely new playing fields. It seems that there is a constant influx of new phenomena which reshape industries and modernize the ways in which business is conducted.

Agility and fast moves are key words in change. Whereas before a business cycle lasted a year, now these cycles are measured in months. This is why the building blocks needed in change, such as implementation of IT services, must be adaptable to a similar flexible operations model. When there is an urgent need for a new and scalable platform or components for new systems, it is a significant benefit that the process no longer starts with equipment purchases; instead the need can be fulfilled by slicing the existing service capacity.

Flexibility and capacity for change do not always mean the same as transferring from traditional data centers to cloud services. A faster, upwardly and downwardly flexible cost model or adjusting capacity according to needs can also be implemented with local data center services. The scale may not be quite as large, but at the same time it is a question of optimization of costs.

Great flexibility and the possibility to adjust the services from zero to one hundred are costlier compared to a service scaled within a specific latitude. Just as it is more sensible for a restaurateur to create a reasonable selection of menus that go well together and to predict the related sales than to let customers choose their food freely from a long list of ingredients. Even small-scale production can be affordable when operations are efficient.

New services require more of latency

This is not only a matter of economies of large or small scale. Services also develop, and in some of them, the role of latency in telecommunications is critical. The new services under development require entirely new scalability of telecommunications.

If we consider, for example, smart traffic services, air traffic management (e.g., drones), various applications of robotics and automation or the exponential growth of devices connected to the internet, it is inevitable that the amount of data and the needs related to telecommunications also grow exponentially. For example, smart traffic does not work if the latency is too high. The distance from the vehicle to the server cannot be too long, and the response has to be of even quality.  The reality is that centralized data centers cannot be located too far away from the user.

Data security is a key theme. As information networks become integrated as part of our everyday lives, especially in critical services, the role of data security is emphasized. Of particular interest are the level of data security, its layered structure, and the automatization of its monitoring. Data security also ensures even quality of services, which is an important criterion of usability. It may well be that in the 2020s, networks will form an increasingly seamless service platform for all devices that need connecting.

Currently, one interesting technology in this field is fog computing. In fog computing, an efficient and high-performing data network surrounds us like smog. When a sufficiently efficient network is available and it includes quality management, which makes it possible to keep the latencies low, it is possible to plan and implement entirely new autonomous services. A good example of this is unmanned transportation of people and products.

The new services also reshape the playing field from the perspective of IT service provision. Huge centralized data centers are no longer enough, but need to be supplemented with new local data centers and related increasingly scalable and high-performing data networks. This infrastructure makes it possible to create new, even more innovative services. I can hardly wait.

The writer Pekka Järvinen heads the cloud and data center services at Telia’s subsidiary, Cygate. Telia is currently building the biggest open data center in Finland. Telia Helsinki Data Center is in production in spring 2018 and it offers services to all companies and organizations.