Future thinking: Exploring the enterprise metaverse and its impact on edge computing

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Stand First: With clearer visions emerging, what’s needed to deliver the metaverse is also crystallizing

One of the most intriguing ideas to have emerged in recent times around the future of the internet, connectivity, and how we interact, is the metaverse.

Though the term itself stems from a 1992 novel by Neil Stephenson, it was last year’s rebranding of Facebook to Meta that crystallized a new level of discussion and broad intent to make it happen. While there are many high concepts about what the metaverse will be, and even a set of rules already defined, akin to the Laws of Robotics, there is, as yet, still no metaverse.

User Experience and Technical Requirements

However, there is much informed speculation as to what it might look like, what it might contain, and what technical requirements would be needed for the metaverse. And while many things remain cloudy about the metaverse, one thing is crystal clear, it will require, as a cornerstone, edge computing and its developments.

To understand the technical requirements of the metaverse takes a little bit of examination of what the user experience is expected to be. Firstly, there will be an immersive 3D visualization in real time through wearable technology that will be light (300-500 gr max), wireless, delivering at least 8k resolution with more than 90 frames a second. This will require the equivalent of 1Gbps or better fiber connectivity, with sub-50 ms latency — a tall order. Furthermore, the environments the user will access are expected to be ubiquitous, persistent, and synchronous. The metaverse environment will need to be there and available all the time, for one or every user, everywhere, and consistent for all.

metaverse and edge computing

But what does that mean?

Going back to Meta, in a blog on the subject“Delivering such an experience will require innovations in fields like hybrid local and remote real-time rendering, video compression, edge computing, and cross-layer visibility, as well as spectrum advocacy… We envision a future where remote rendering over edge cloud, or some form of hybrid between local and remote rendering, plays a greater role in the years to come.”

With that need made clear, for compute power closer to where users need it, another recent discussion from a panel of experts adds more detail, from relevant experts in Intel, ARM, Inspur Information, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, and Infinera. A summation of their comments asserts that truly persistent and immersive computing, at scale and accessible by billions of humans in real time, will require a 1,000-times increase in computational efficiency from today’s state of the art. Acknowledging the potential of the metaverse as extraordinary, equally the industry is still in the early stages of development and there are several compute elements that need to come together to see the metaverse’s true potential, again portable device form factors, edge data centers, and the cloud.

Increased Intelligent Edge Computing Capability

Changes to throughput and latency will impact the network infrastructure and will need orders of magnitude improvement in compute efficiency and performance. The metaverse will demand adaptive infrastructure that integrates hardware and software. The hardware must provide power suitable for a wide array of compute-intensive scenarios.

Taking all of this together, there will be orders of magnitude in the development of connectivity, bandwidth, latency, and compute power, with current architectures requiring significant redesign to accommodate more intelligent edge capability, while also leveraging more centralized resources to support core functions.

The implications are that the distributed, multi-platform, data infrastructure of the future is going to require an orchestration capability across multiple clouds, platforms, protocols, and environments, with real-time monitoring and management, from the user to the edge, to the data center and beyond. Currently, that kind of expertise lies with ecosystems such as data center infrastructure providers, who are already experts in edge computing development and deployment, and multi-cloud management through cloud-based data center infrastructure management (DCIM).

While it is clear the technology required for the metaverse is not all here yet, there are centers and sectors of expertise that are already advanced in key elements of what the metaverse is expected to be, and so can act as leaders to gather other elements of the stack together to collaborate on the next stages of development. There are various collaborations and facilitations offering introductory experiences.

Digital Twin Technology and Edge Computing

However, while much of the current focus is on the consumer end of things, great strides are also being made elsewhere. McKinsey posits that the current implementation of digital twins in enterprise will grow to encompass elements of immersive interaction that will result in the enterprise metaverse.

“We believe that the impact of the metaverse could be as high in the enterprise as in the consumer space — if not higher,” says McKinsey, arguing the enterprise metaverse could enable optimized decision making, from the C-suite to the front lines, through customized and immersive employee and customer experiences enabled by augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR), autonomous AI use cases, such as active self-healing equipment, that aren’t possible today, and entirely new product development mechanisms and processes.

With a digital twin as a start, enterprises can add data points, AI-enhanced automation, and connections to other digital twins, that would be accessible through AR/VR, to allow a level of interaction and orchestration not currently possible. Supply chain disruption, for example, could be modelled and understood with scenarios worked through in seconds to understand, mitigate, and adapt.

The digital twins can be connected to their physical counterparts so that when scenarios are resolved, they can be implemented immediately, further reducing risk, and delivering competitive advantage.

Enterprise Metaverse of the Future

As the technologies evolve, or are newly developed, to meet the needs of the current envisioning of the metaverse, some experts argue that a significant element of its future will be determined by enterprise. With the value of digital twins already yielding 10% savings in capital and operating expenses for some of the layering of technologies to build towards the enterprise metaverse gives a solid, value-driven route for businesses to explore the possibilities and experience the benefits for themselves, beyond the hype.

For more information on the technologies that will support the enterprise metaverse, checkout our pages on ‘what is edge computing, which contextualizes developments and has forwarding references for other key elements.

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