03 May 2018

Multi Access Edge Computing: Telcos cooperation in IaaS vs PaaS scenarios

It was 2013 when IEEE Com. Magazine (2013) published my paper “Clouds of Virtual Machines in Edge Networks”, a first seminal work on Edge Computing. Paper claimed (for the first time to my knowledge) the advantages of bringing the Cloud model towards the edge of a SDN-NFV network.

In 2014 ETSI released an introductory technical white paper on MEC, at that time meaning Mobile Edge Computing, then renamed  Multi Access Edge Computing (MEC). 

Technical speaking, MEC can be seen as an extension of the Cloud Computing paradigm towards the edge (i.e., aggregation and access segments) of the Telecommunications Networks. 

As a matter of fact, the use of IT resources (computing, storage/memory and networking), allocated at the edge of the infrastructure, can bring a number of advantages, for example: to improve QoS/QoE by reducing the network latencies, to reduce costs in the Cloudification of the infrastructure towards 5G, to enable new service/biz models, etc:

In fact, in the medium-long term, it is likely that the network infrastructures will be composed by a physical layer (i.e., IT and network hardware and physical links) hosting dynamic software platforms executing millions of software processes, implementing both network and services components/functionalities (e.g., VNFs, Virtualized Network Functions).

In these scenario, MEC aims at complementing Cloud Computing (it is not replacing it, obviously…): for example, the so-called “slices” of the network infrastructure (e.g. future networks, 5G) may integrate both Cloud Computing and MEC resource, requiring this orchestration capabilities spanning across the overall infrastructure.

Today, Operators are exploring different strategies for MEC adoption, motivated by:

  • costs savings in the Cloudification (SDN-NFV) of the infrastructure: for example  using MEC for deploying smaller Central Offices at the edge (for example., Cloud CO inititative of Broadband Forum);
  • revenues generation.

Regarding the latter, among the various approaches and biz models for revenue generations, decoupling MEC IaaS vs PaaS appear to enable cooperation between Telcos, who can join forces to boost the development of multi-domains open/ecosystems (e.g., for V2X, Industry 4.0, etc.).

In particular, decoupling MEC IaaS vs PaaS means:

  • Telcos deploy MEC servers (e.g. Cloudlets) for providing infrastructure services (i.e., MEC IaaS);
  • Third Parties (or also Telcos, themselves) deploy a MEC software platform/framework for providing platform services (i.e., MEC PaaS);

To achieve this decoupling, and to allow different companies to develop and to interwork,  it is crucial well-defining what's MEC IaaS, MEC PaaS and standardizing interfaces between MEC IaaS and PaaS.  

In the menawhile, a numer of initiatives on MEC, in general Edge Computing, are emerging and flourishing, such as this one: https://www.akraino.org/