Our industry began working on addressing challenges of mobile computing at the edge nearly ten years ago, when it became evident that ultra-low latency and ultra-broadband capabilities would be necessary to deliver richer applications at the edge of mobile networks as 5G matured.
In the early stages, Mobile Edge Computing (the original words behind the MEC acronym) was being designed around the value of Radio Access Network (RAN) information that can be leveraged by applications (for example location based services, contextual offer presentation to smart phones, and more).
With MEC technologies in place, operators could open their RAN edge to authorized third parties, allowing them to deliver new services to mobile subscribers, enterprises and vertical industries. Proximity, context, agility, real time automation and speed could be leveraged by mobile operators, network equipment vendors, and third parties, allowing them to monetize the “mobile broadband experience.”
Technically speaking, original MEC servers could be deployed and connected with Long Term Evolution (LTE) macro base stations, at the 3G Radio Network Controller, and/or at multi-technology cell aggregation sites.
As the understanding of the possibilities became clearer, the terminology changed from “Mobile Access Edge” to “Multi-Access Edge” computing, as more and more multi-technology cell aggregation sites made sense for enterprises and organizations with a breadth of application needs. For example, within a massive public gathering space – a mall, stadium or transportation hug – multi-technology access points are put in place to provide a density of RAN coverage, supporting different requirements.
Today, Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC for the duration!) is already enabling new services for consumers and enterprise customers. Use cases include smart cameras using facial recognition, location-based services (LBS), Internet-of-Things (IoT), augmented reality, and more. By keeping the compute at or near the edge, content distribution is optimized with data cached and the reduction or elimination of data moving to and from remote clouds (which slows performance down).
At the same time as MEC keeps computing local, it also drives new business models for Cloud Computing (traditional) and distributed Cloud Computing (with edge data centers and other architectures) and the ability to route data to many different places – which has driven the need for new thinking about security that doesn’t degrade performance.
Successful early edge compute implementations are also driving the need for more fiber to base stations which improves even more content and applications distributed between the edge and centralized data centers, with MEC enabling ultra-low latency services.
We applaud ETSI and related organizations for playing an active role in the development and implementation of MEC standards with open mobile including GSM, UMTS and LTE, driving specifications which have been adopted worldwide. In addition, ETSI is currently working on the development of standards relating to cloud and Internet technologies as well as end-to-end network architecture, along with many other important standards bodies and industry consortiums.
ETSI contributed to the successful Network Function Virtualization (NFV) revolution, which enabled operators to virtualize functions into building blocks connected or chained together to create communication services. MEC enables applications and services (Layer 4 and above) to be hosted on top of the mobile network elements (above the network layer), something Dispersive has innovated in creating our Internet overlay capabilities, enabling faster, more valuable applications and in close proximity to the customer enriched by contextual information coming from the RAN.
This includes many IoT and Industrial IoT use cases, where the availability of Internet connectivity is a natural fit, but only if the transmission of data can be done securely and faster than has been possible on legacy networks.
2020 will be the year of the “Edge of Everything” – and just as Mobile Edge Computing evolved into Multi-Access Edge Computing, we will see huge benefits coming as new ways to develop and control edge networks connecting billions of end-points, connected humans and machines come into view. This includes SASE, or Secure Access Service Edge, the convergence of wide area networking and network security services like CASB, FWaaS and Zero Trust, supported by a single, cloud-delivered service model.
We are stoked about SASE as it matches our vision and IP developed over several years, enabling organizations to apply secure access no matter where their users, applications or devices are located.
We couldn’t be more excited about the new year and new decade ahead, feeling privileged to be part of and to contribute to truly “next level” networking supporting a hyper-connected and hyper-contextual digital world with limitless creative and commercial potential.