Living on the edge (of the network)

With faster access speeds, will datacentres move closer to the edge of the network? If so, has the National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) factored this into its design?

There’s a straightforward economic consideration when determining where to store data — is it cheaper to carry the traffic to a more centralised location than it is to run multiple centres across the country?

Until now, centres have been relatively centralised, but online behaviour is changing in a way that may change that equation. As we move more data into the cloud we’ll be accessing more of our own data — that means it can be local and delivered with low latency. Yet, until the ACCC forced it to rethink its plans, NBN Co was planning to backhaul traffic to the capital cities. That would have meant that there was no opportunity for companies to cache content or build datacentres in regional areas.

To discuss where the datacentres of tomorrow will sit:

  • Hugh Bradlow, chief technology officer at Telstra; and
  • Steve Alexander, chief technology officer of Ciena Networks.

I had hoped to include Simon Hackett, MD of Internode, on the program. He was heading overseas but added his views in writing. His view is that with abundant fibre, there’s no need for caching in regional Australia. He says that there’s no need for caching within the NBN, and reiterated his view that the NBN Co plan to backhaul all traffic to capital cities was the sensible approach. He admits that the “answer to the question varies over time with changes in industry structure, caching technologies, and the spreading presence of content distribution networks (CDNs)”. To that we can add the influence of changes in behaviour, which is discussed in the program.

First published on ZDNet

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