5G, the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks, is getting a lot of attention right now – and rightfully so. From discussions about air traffic disruptions to infrastructure to when 5G will be coming to your device, 5G is top of mind for many at the moment.
In the enterprise IT space, we know that 5G will bring about massive disruptions as well as massive opportunities – not unlike Wi-Fi did a generation ago. We also know that moving forward, 5G won’t just supplement Wi-Fi, it will replace it, and in doing so, transform IT infrastructures so that they are aligned for high-speed, high-performance compute demands providing gigabit speeds at the point of need previously only available via ethernet.
From my perspective, there are at least four major disruptions that IT leaders should be planning for now to ensure their organizations can capitalize on all that 5G can enable. They are:
1. A New Cloud Paradigm
5G will usher in new cloud and network paradigms for the enterprise. Multi-purpose edge computing (MEC) will become ubiquitous and on-demand, displacing cloud serverless solutions. To support this evolution, 5G will bring in the next generation of cloud computing architectures and force a re-evaluation of current on-premise and cloud-based application architectures. In this way, 5G is also the next generation of cloud – not just the next generation of cellular networks.
2. New Cyber Risks
With new opportunity afforded by 5G comes new security risks. But the good news is that 5G has a stronger security baseline than 3G or 4G, or even 4G-LTE, which all had lots of hard tokens and authentication that wasn’t required to be encrypted. 5G will facilitate seamlessly using neutral hosts that operate on and through public and shared infrastructures, which will make zero trust and end-to-end cyber security solutions even more essential. Why? Because since you’re virtualizing everything and putting it on generic, x86-based hardware, you have an attack surface that’s wider. Zero trust and additional layers of encryption will make 5G more secure, and will also escalate the need for cyber talent, expertise and tools within an enterprise. Which leads me to my next point…
3. New Work Force
In a 5G world, enterprise IT is going to take on a diversity of new skill sets needed to manage and support 5G cellular networks. This includes everything from private standalone 5G LAN deployments for large campus sites to operate through and on, to non-standalone networks that share infrastructure from commercial mobile operators (e.g., Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile). Today, enterprise networks and cellular networks are separate silos. With 5G, it will be easier to deploy and manage 5G networks and the evolution will be just like Wi-Fi – every contract will have a component of it, and integrators like GDIT need to have a workforce in place to capitalize on those opportunities.
4. New Generation of Connected Applications and Associated End user Devices.
Finally, 5G will bring in a new wave of applications and end-user devices (and users, for that matter). We’re already seeing the tip of the spear in manufacturing where augmented reality and virtual reality devices are being deployed and connected with Internet of Things and smart devices to drive efficiencies and safety, as examples. The deployment of 5G networks will accelerate the use of devices like this across industries and use cases. For mission support, 5G has exciting potential to help further support the creation of data-centric environments where information is accessible and secure, but also aggregated and applied to users at the edge – such as a single warfighter in combat.