Cloud Killer? Why 5G Won’t Spell The End for Network Storage

November 7, 2019, 1:01 PM UTC

Will 5G kill the cloud?

With China rolling out the world’s largest 5G network just last week, the world’s future looks increasingly like it will be shaped by 5G, which will supercharge mobile networks, making A.I. possible on a large scale and reducing restrictions on storing data.

But at Fortune’s Global Tech Forum in Guangzhou, China on Thursday, a panel of tech executives said cloud computing won’t only continue to exist, but will be critical to building a future based on 5G technology—largely because the demands for ‘big data’ storage are so huge that 5G can’t manage them alone.

“One major limitation is that the [5G] devices only process local data, it makes it difficult to do the big data analysis from a full, big-picture perspective,” said Enita Pu, partner at Sequoia Capital China. “We still think that cloud computing and storage will play a primary role in managing the ‘internet of things’ and also of large scale data and data sets.”

The 5G world will integrate big data, data analytics, A.I., and the ‘internet of things’, creating demand for a mobile cloud computing environment that is all interconnected, said Zhang Xia, Principal Enterprise Strategic Evangelist for Amazon Web Services in China.

“All those technologies will support an edge [and cloud] computing world,” he said. Edge computing can complement cloud computing through allowing more data storage away from centralized locations, closer to the ‘edge’ of networks.

Major technological players in China have long been looking into how to integrate these technologies as the country moves towards a 5G future. On Thursday, Deputy General Manager of A.I. Cloud Group at Baidu, Li Shuo, spoke about his company’s ABC-Stack hybrid-cloud platform, and how the company plans to deploy it in a number of different sectors.

“I would not say it’s a post-cloud era, these technologies will co-exist,” Li said. “We see huge potential market through A.I. and [the] industrial sector.”

According to Pu, the potential impacts of cloud computing combined with 5G technology has the potential to revolutionize a wide-array of activities in our day-to-day lives. From creating more immersive online learning experiences, to paving the way for more robotic surgeries, and reinventing how new pharmaceutical drugs are created.

Zhang estimates that half of the developed world’s businesses, and about 20-30% of businesses in China, use the cloud for a significant portion of their business and that these numbers are poised to grow in the coming years. So as the technological world transitions to 5G, the cloud will also get larger.

“The more integrated the cloud, A.I., and edge computing are together, the more intelligent and fully connected society we could achieve in the future,” said Pu.

More must-read stories from Fortune:

—How 5G will transform the electric vehicle industry
—These brain specialists built ear pods to boost workplace productivity
—Is the future of healthcare in China?
—Goldman’s strategy chief: The trade war isn’t ‘decoupling’ the U.S. and Chinese economies
—Adding A.I. to gene sequencing can help detect cancer early
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