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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Preparing for Metaverse: Why Edge Computing is Key

By Astrid Groves, General Manager of IT and Edge, Schneider Electric

Metaverse emerged as the new buzzword in the technology industry ever since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced plans to invest $10 billion to help create the Metaverse. The Metaverse is the convergence of the digital and physical world. It is a 3D virtual space where users can gather as a group of avatars, interacting with one another in surroundings that replicate the physical world with select modifications.

Ironically, this fiction-like idea originated from a science fiction book published in 1992. But then again, three decades ago, the Internet seemed like fiction to most as well. Even then, Metaverse had already been incorporated in gaming platforms, although the extent to which it can grow is still vast and developers still have a long way to go to discover its full potential.

The Metaverse concept opens up a world of opportunities for users to try out various activities from travelling, shopping, trying on clothes and attending virtual concerts. As the idea takes a centres stage and familiarity with cryptocurrencies and digital financial capabilities growing, the early seeding grounds for Metaverse is quite suitable. 

In fact, major brands are inhabiting the Metaverse, eager for a piece of this immersive internet experience. Most tech giants have started talking about and even taking steps to apply it across various industries. Popstar Ariana Grande’s performance in a series of concerts inside Fortnite last year made headlines as the psychedelic experience gave audiences a taste of music in the Metaverse. Meanwhile, in retail, virtual clothes and dressing rooms are becoming more and more attractive for gamers, non-fungible token (NFT) investors and especially big fashion brands.

Still, while investing in the Metaverse seems like a thrill, business leaders ought to understand the Metaverse, what the constant evolution of technology could have in store for them, and what it will take to bring the Metaverse to life in the near future.

Betting A Company’s Future on the Metaverse

The world is transforming at a rapid pace. Given the onslaught of digital and technological changes, organisations will need to keep up with emerging customer demands, which in turn will enable them to navigate the current and future economic environment. For this reason, CIOs across the board must start thinking of ways to drive growth and remain agile. One way to do this is by bringing their digital presence to the next level and be well-prepared to do so, once the Metaverse becomes a reality.

While the Metaverse is still a concept for now, given its immersive nature, it can present opportunities for companies. Think about it: with post-Covid hybrid or remote working environments, organisation should leverage these increasingly creative virtual business experiences to connect and collaborate with their own people, enhance their business process and maintain a competitive edge. 

Through the Metaverse too, adopters can hone their leadership skills. As organisations invest in the infrastructure, people, and mindset to assess technologies and innovate, they are more likely to tap into strong use cases and necessary business transformations and consider them in strategic decision-making.

While the conversations and the demo seldom touch upon what is needed and how it works technologically, infrastructure support is an essential foundation that companies and CIOs need to work on if they want to join in the Metaverse universe.

Bringing Metaverse Closer to the Edge

Granted, the Metaverse is persistent and comprises large amounts of information. Connecting to this digital reality requires fast and reliable online speed – and 5G can deliver the right bandwidth to support users’ connection to the Metaverse. While 5G can manage the bandwidth and the interoperability as discussed, latency can be a major concern. This is where Edge computing bridges the gap, as it is required to create and transmit large digital contents in real time.

In a podcast with Mission Critical, Adam Compton, Schneider Electric’s director of strategy called for IT professionals, especially those who are responsible for critical infrastructure, to accept that the solutions that they are building for their cloud and core data centre must extend to an Edge environment. Companies need to ensure their infrastructure can accommodate the high bandwidth and applications that Metaverse will require.

Likewise, the Metaverse trend will also drive the adoption of Edge computing as it is a key infrastructure that will drive the evolution of Metaverse – enabling its full potential and allowing providers to scale their offerings sustainably.

Towards a More Sustainable Virtual World

While these conversations are exciting and keep the industry adrenaline pumping, the volume of data exchange, bandwidth and continuous data centre operations to keep user experiences smooth is going to cause more heat release and energy usage.

Leveraging on existing infrastructure can help to reduce the formation of new and bigger data centres that can potentially add burden to the environment. An article by Schneider Electric’s Korean Country President Kyung Rog Kim, meanwhile, addressed  the need to build an eco-friendly data centre in response to climate change. The piece highlights the increase in data centre functionality during the pandemic, with the construction of hyperscale data centres spreading across the world due to the surge in Cloud services that require large-scale servers and storage.

If the pandemic can bring about such a surge, the realisation of this virtual world culminating with our day-to-day functions will require supercomputing power and high function data centres which are powered by Edge computing. As companies move towards the Metaverse and commission more data centres to support their individual offering as well as to work with the rest of the ecosystem, they should work with experts to organise and prioritise data centre sustainability. They can start looking into their Scope 2 emissions, review their current energy mix, and consider clean technologies address their carbon footprint.

This is where Schneider Electric enters the foray with the solutions necessary for the establishment of eco-friendly data centres, such as high-level integrated architecture, intelligent power management, and building automatic control solutions and AI-based data centre DCIM solutions. These are all key in helping enterprises build more Edge data centres of the future, which in turn will allow the Metaverse to thrive.


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