5G is important to cloud computing (but not that important)

It’s a good time to understand how 5G impacts cloud computing. Specific use cases will benefit the most, but for many, it won't make much difference.

5G is important to cloud computing (but not that important)

We’ve talked about 5G for so long that we’re overdue to finally see its benefits. Like many of you, I’ve owned a “5G-ready” phone for the last year. I even make sure to consistently check my phone for a true 5G connection. I often do 5G talks and even teach courses about what we can expect from 5G in the world of cloud computing. My pragmatic explanations of the use of 5G and cloud rarely match the hype that you’ll see and hear in many other places. 

Does this make me a 5G naysayer? No, it just makes me more realistic. My goal is to never oversell or underdeliver, which seems to happen a lot in the technology space. But I digress. Today we’re here to talk about 5G and cloud.

[ Also on InfoWorld: When not to use edge computing ]

5G is designed to connect everyone and everything—machines, objects, devices, people, and systems. It can do so no matter the location and has been promoted as pervasive technology that will serve areas where high-speed internet has yet to exist. It will also enable us to finally use self-driving cars and allow small businesses in small towns to punch above their weight by having reliable access to cloud computing services.

However, at the end of the day, it’s just a wide area wireless network upgrade that includes a few key benefits:

  • Higher peak data speeds
  • Lower latency
  • More reliability
  • Increased network capacity
  • Increased availability

All this means we can connect more things to a 5G network, the nodes can communicate much faster, and there is built-in reliability. 

The promise? We won’t have to do “tricks” to build redundancy into remote cellular networks. This is a challenge that the people who manage remote edge computing–based systems currently understand all too well. 

Other benefits of 5G include the use of virtualized and software-driven architectures to simplify mobility. Mobile devices can stay connected as they move between connections without having to reauthenticate. This feature enables technologies like self-driving vehicles and Internet of Things or edge-based systems to operate without interruption. It would be a bummer if your self-driving car stopped or slowed down each time you moved from one cell tower to the next. 

5G also supports a dense and distributed-access architecture. This helps move data storage and processing to the edge of the network to support edge computing and IoT. 

Are there any specific 5G benefits for cloud computing? Yes, 5G will improve many things, such as the benefits covered above. However, most people who use cloud computing won’t really recognize the difference. The exceptions will be those with heavy dependencies on mobile and remote computing (such as edge computing), enterprises that include remote offices on the cloud infrastructure or want to expand their work-from-home programs, as well as others with use cases where 5G will have a positive impact. 

It’s likely that rank-and-file cloud users already have high-speed connections to their cloud provider and a reliable Wi-Fi and cellular network. This covers about 80% to 85% of cloud users, based on my experience. The average cloud user who does not utilize the specialized systems I mentioned will see few if any benefits from 5G.

Although there are some advantages, mostly it’s going to be business as usual, and that’s fine by me. For those of you with specialized systems? 5G will be the bomb. 

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