How 5G and Digital Transformation Will Impact Storage

September 25, 2020 Itzik Gilboa, Head of Mobile Flash Storage Component Business, Western Digital

The arrival of 5G is expected to bring a dramatic increase in speeds, low latencies, and an unforeseen level of network capabilities. This will set the stage for even more advanced and novel applications enabling everything to be more connected, in real time, all the time.

Western Digital commissioned AvidThink to analyze the near-term and long-term impact of 5G on data storage. The companies collected insights from over 40 interviews globally with a range of experts at top-tier network operators, independent software vendors, semiconductor companies, automotive companies, manufacturers, hyperscale cloud providers, enterprises, and academia.

From the data center to the edge, 5G and high-speed flash storage are enabling emerging IoT use cases from CDNs, connected and autonomous vehicles, Industry 4.0, video surveillance, cloud-based gaming, and telemedicine. Here’s a sneak peek into the top 5G use cases that surfaced during the interviews, and the role of storage in making them happen.

Virtual 5G Networks in the Cloud

We start with mobile network operators, which plan to gain new revenue by implementing 5G networks. One application might be selling 5G network slices to enterprises, which guarantee bandwidth, latency, and quality of service for certain use cases (such as a hazard warning system). In addition, 5G core software stacks and networking equipment are being developed using more open-source platforms and less proprietary services. This has opened the door for hyperscale cloud data centers to host virtualized radio access networks at scale on existing commodity servers. At the same time, data sent from the endpoints and edge of 5G networks back to the core could enable artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other data center trends.

Delivering 4K/8K Content in Real-Time

As video resolutions move from 4K to 8K and beyond, 5G will form the backbone of high-resolution video streaming. To make this happen, content delivery networks (CDNs) will need to collect, transform, and distribute more audio and video data at the edge. Doing so will decrease latency associated with sending network packets from endpoints through the edge to core data centers and back. In addition, connected technologies such as augmented, mixed, and virtual reality (collectively called “extended reality”) could create new demands to deliver time-sensitive content for real-time data overlays. Thus, 5G is a secondary driver of growth for data storage by enabling more accessible consumption of high-resolution content – whether at home, around the city, or (someday) in large entertainment venues.

Self-Driving Cars with Connected Infotainment

5G is in the passenger’s seat when it comes to future cars. One potential impact for 5G is enabling vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication, which can reduce road accidents and improve traffic flow. This can be done through real-time updates to 3D maps, analysis of road conditions, and automated navigation. As supporting edge infrastructure is built out, 5G will play a critical role in communication systems to support fully autonomous vehicles. Passengers are also looking for improved in-vehicle infotainment systems that stream high-resolution content, such as TV shows or movies. In this scenario, 5G would help stream content to larger in-vehicle buffers that maintain continuity during network glitches, improve download speeds, and enable on-demand consumption.

Cloud Gaming Anywhere on Any Device

Next-generation gaming consoles have transitioned to disk-less systems, in a full embrace of using the cloud to store video games. Gamers can purchase their favorite titles from online stores, download the games, and install on their local gaming device. The next step is full-on cloud gaming, which would give users the opportunity to stream video games and play them anywhere on their favorite device – be it a console, PC, smartphone, or tablet. We’ve already seen a surge in mobile gaming, both usage and revenue growth, with limited 5G deployments and in-progress infrastructure. However, once 5G networks and edge data centers mature, the cloud gaming could become ubiquitous due to less lag, faster game loads, more immersive gameplay, reduced cost, and convenience.

Medical Checkups from Your Couch

Medical care is becoming more virtualized, especially due to limited accessibility to health care during remote life. But, that doesn’t mean a reduction in the quality of care. With 5G, medical care can be distributed by transmitting and analyzing large medical images, supporting remote patient monitoring tools, and enabling telehealth appointments and consultations between patients and their physicians. Researchers are already using AI and ML to analyze health data and simulate treatment for epilepsy and other diseases – making medicine more predictive and personal than ever before. Additionally, people can use health wearables to track their fitness activity, nutrition levels, sleep patterns, and more.

More Insights Beyond 5G Use Cases

5G will play a meaningful role in how we travel, take care of our health, and consume entertainment. Before these possibilities can be realized, though, successful 5G deployments depend on a supportive edge infrastructure and fiber optic backbone to handle the sheer bandwidth and latency requirements.

For more insights from the new AvidThink 5G industry report, see the complete findings here.

About the Author

Itzik Gilboa has held various technology roles at Western Digital including his current role leading the mobile flash storage component business where he is responsible for the marketing of branded mobile managed NAND products. He previously led the SanDisk-Toshiba alliance. Prior to joining SanDisk/Western Digital in 2006, Itzik worked at Cypress Semiconductor as director of director of foundry operations. At Cypress, Gilboa helped develop four generations of manufacturing technologies for the production of SRAM devices. He is the author of several patents in the area of manufacturing processes for SRAM.

Gilboa holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace engineering from the Technion, Israel, and a master’s of science degree in materials science from the Technion, Israel. He also holds an MBA from San Jose State and a certificate in Strategic Decision and Risk management from Stanford School of Business.

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