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Microsoft researcher: Why Micro Datacenters really matter to mobile's future

Bob Brown | Sept. 4, 2015
And why enterprise IT pros should be getting ready for them.

victor bahl

Microsoft Research distinguished scientist Victor Bahl has been spreading the word about Micro Datacenters, also known by the adorable name "cloudlets," as a key concept for optimizing the performance and usefulness of mobile and other networked devices via the cloud. Service providers have embraced this vision most strongly from the start, but it won't be long before enterprise IT pros will likely do the same, Bahl says.

Here's a more in-depth look at the What, Why and When of mDCs:

victor bahl bio
Microsoft Click on image to enlarge.

I notice that a lot of the research you’re involved in includes not just mobility, but the cloud. Are the two inextricably linked going forward?

Yes, absolutely. We expect more and more from our mobile devices but despite major advances in technology, resource poverty continues to limit the type of applications we are able to run on these devices. Constraints such as battery life and bandwidth are fundamental and not simply a temporary limitation of current technology. To break free of such perennial problems, we must build technology that enables mobile users to seamlessly use nearby computing resources, which have a persistent high-quality connection to the cloud. This way, users can get the benefits of cloud computing without incurring the wide area network delays and jitter that are common in today’s Internet.  If we do this, crisp interactive response from immersive mobile applications that augment human cognition will be easier to achieve.

You delivered a keynote address at IEEE WCNC earlier this year titled “Cloud 2020: The Emergence of Micro Datacenters for Mobile Computing.” 2020’s not that far off: What are Micro Datacenters and why should enterprise IT pros care about them?

At the core a micro data center, or cloudlet or mDC, is a rack of servers available at thousands of locations around the world, never more than a few milliseconds away from the client devices. The mDC is connected to the “classical” mega data center i.e. the cloud via a low-latency, high-bandwidth Internet connection. The software running in these mDCs supports multi-tenancy, which means different services from different providers can be supported simultaneously.  Client devices including smartphones, wearable computers, and other IoT devices can use an mDC both as a computing resource as well as a caching resource. This end-to-end arrangement allows developers to build new applications and enhance the performance for existing applications.

As mDCs become popular, enterprise IT pros will most likely have to deploy them on premises as cloud accelerators for the services their users depend on.  As users come to expect and rely on the high performance and new applications enabled by mDCs,  IT pros will be expected to monitor and manage these servers 24x7x365.


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