Alef Mobitech recently completed interoperability testing of its Edge Computing Platform with a handful of vendors and one “Tier-1 global mobile carrier.” Company CEO Ganesh Sundaram said the test partners included Cisco, Huawei, Nokia, Dell, HP, and Ericsson. The Tier 1 mobile operator is presumably based in India as Sundaram said the tests were done in a lab and on a live network in that country.
Components of the test included standard billing interfaces, interconnection with existing operations, administration, and maintenance. The tests were complete enough for Alef Mobitech to gain several local government approvals, including for lawful intercept. It was also able to certify HP and Dell computing platforms and “other virtual machine configurations” for its platform.
The Alef Mobitech platform is software-based and is compliant with 3GPP standards to work with relevant network standards. Sundaram explained that the “platform and solution stacks focus on mobility network functions needed to interconnect any edge application without any upgrades to underlying network or origin cloud.”
Architecturally, the platform can sit anywhere between the eNodeB and the serving gateway (S-Gateway). The eNodeB is hardware that manages connectivity within an LTE network. The S-Gateway acts as a router and forwards data between the base station and the packet data network gateway (P-Gateway).
Physically, the platform is deployed at the edge where it interfaces with the central cloud. It also requires either existing virtual machine (VM) computing capabilities or standard 1U servers.
And since the platform sits at the RAN it can direct upstream and downstream traffic to any compute or storage environment. It can also be deployed on top of other platforms that sit north of the P-Gateway. This includes something like the open source Akraino Project, IoTium’s platform, and the Kubernetes IoT Edge Working Group initiative.
The recent testing also backs Alef Mobitech’s push for operators to begin deploying edge platforms today on their 4G LTE networks instead of waiting for the maturation of 5G deployments.
“5G requires edge computing, but edge computing does not require 5G,” explained Alef Mobitech COO Steven Spencer in a statement. “Mobile operators need not wait until 5G to start leveraging the power of edge computing. We developed our platform to transform mobile networks into a hyper-distributed computing environment that puts content and resources close to the end user.”
Alef Mobitech launched in 2013. It’s headquartered in New Jersey, but also has offices in Brazil and India. The company has raised $25 million through six funding rounds. Investors include Tata Capital.
MEC, But Not That MEC
While Sundaram described the Alef Mobitech platform as an “overlay multi-access edge computing solution,” that should not be confused with the ETSI Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) initiative. That initiative is a generic framework that can open the network and expose information for authorized third-party applications.
The ETSI MEC Industry Specifications Group (ISG) last year released its first package of standardized APIs that will support MEC interoperability. The APIs are based upon a generic set of design principles and patterns. ETSI added that the TM Forum and Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) contributed to the process.
Some vendors have moved to use the ETSI MEC specification as an attempt to harmonize what is becoming a convoluted edge computing ecosystem. Radisys, for instance, recently released an edge software platform using those specifications.
“We will go wherever our customers need us to go and that right now is in the direction of fully open solutions,” explained Natasha Tamaskar, vice president of global marketing and sales strategy at Radisys. “Operators don’t want to guess right now on what they need to support specific applications. If the platform is open, disaggregated, and has a lot of APIs, they can build the network they want, not what someone else thinks they need.”