What is Edge Computing?
Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) moves the networking, compute, and storage functionality from a centralized cloud to the edge of the network. Edge computing or MEC brings real-time, high-bandwidth, low-latency access to latency-dependent applications, distributed at the edge of the network. There are a number of use cases that is realized, including augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), connected cars, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications that rely on high performance and optimum utilization of network resources.
Key Drivers for MEC
The key drivers for edge computing are IoT, 4G networks, and next generation 5G networks. Owing to the rapid growth in traffic, especially video, and the increasing usage of mobile and IoT devices implies that the network infrastructures need to scale effectively to deliver and deal with higher volumes of data. MEC provides the required flexibility and agility of the Cloud closer to the customer location and meet their demands.
What is in there for Telecommunication Service Providers?
There are quite a few compelling use cases for the edge computing that Telecommunication Service Providers consider as a revenue opportunity and value addition to customer experience. It’s not just about improving the customer experience. It’s also about enabling substantial savings in terms of CAPEX, OPEX, transport, backhaul cost, and leases.
Use Case: uCPE
When a consumer or an enterprise requests a service (like Firewall, Routing, set-top box, or DPI Box, etc.) from Service Providers, it often needs a special piece of hardware equipment to be shipped, plugged in and configured for each service request separately. uCPE or Universal Customer Premise Equipment can replace those individual hardware with a generic x86 on which each of these applications can be run as virtual functions. The below diagram illustrates the deployment of uCPE in an NFV environment.
This transformation from physical to a virtualized platform can be challenging, but the implications of this transformation are beneficial and long-lasting as it can also be deployed in a self-service fashion. It comes with portals where the customer logs in, selects the location where he/she wants the service, selects the function that he/she wants to run, pays for it and gets the virtual function downloaded and configured in a matter of minutes.
Not all Edge is the same
The size and technology of the edge nodes vary from one use case to another. As mentioned in the earlier section uCPE uses a small x86 based server, while for mobility it uses vRAN with a few racks of server in a central location. It has the ability to access different kinds of information and run in different context.
Conclusion: The Way forward
With a plenty of examples in edge deployments already in progress around the world, there are advancements in the Edge computing that enables it to work with a reduced level of functionality and on a smaller scale. Widespread adoption of edge deployments now requires new ways of thinking to solve emerging and already existing challenges and limitations. The edge computing platform must be, by design, much more fault tolerant and robust than a traditional data center centric Cloud, in terms of the hardware as well as the platform services that support the application lifecycle. It won’t be correct to assume that such edge use cases will continue to have the maintenance and support facilities that standard data center infrastructure provides. Therefore, it’s crucial for enterprise grade solution deployments to enable a zero-touch provisioning and automation orchestration for the infrastructure and platform stacks.