One key element of 5G is likely to be Mobile Edge Computing (MEC), an emerging standard that extends virtualized infrastructure into the radio access network (RAN).
“MEC uses a lot of NFV infrastructure to create a small cloud at the edge,” says Saguna CEO Lior Fite. Saguna has created its own product, the Open-RAN MEC and is involved with ETSI MEC ISG. Fite says the ETSI group is creating a set of APIs to define “a tiny data center at the edge.”
Saguna’s own MEC technology comprises two main components. The first is a multi-access compute element, and the second is a management element.
“Usually access networks include all kinds of encryption and tunneling protocols,” says Fite. “It’s not a standard, native-IP environment.” Saguna’s platform creates a bridge between the access network to a small OpenStack cloud, which works in a standard IP environment. It provides APIs about such things as location, registration for services, traffic direction, radio network services, and available bandwidth.
Saguna’s Open-RAN MEC also includes a management element that’s similar to an NFV manager, but it’s a MEC manager. It runs on a small OpenStack cloud. In fact, Saguna is collaborating with Wind River to validate the Saguna Open-RAN MEC on the Wind River Titanium Server as the carrier-grade OpenStack platform.
Eight-year-old Saguna is based in Israel. It’s raised about $16 million in three funding rounds. Fite says some of the MEC startups it competes with include Quortas, Vasona, and MECsware. And of course, big vendors such as Huawei, Nokia, and ZTE offer MEC technology as well.
“I think MEC is getting a lot of attention from many operators and vendors,” says Fite. “There are a lot more companies in the ecosystem.”
In addition to being an important part of the emerging 5G network topology, MEC will be useful for the Internet of Things (IoT) as part of fog computing, says Fite.
The term “fog computing” was coined about three years ago. According to the OpenFog Consortium, it “is a system-level horizontal architecture that distributes resources and services of computing, storage, control, and networking anywhere along the continuum from Cloud to Things.”
Conceptually, it takes some, or all, of these resources down to the device level. And while MEC is intended for mobile networks, fog can include wireline networks.
Fite says that IoT devices are producing tons of data, and it’s desirable for that data to be ingested and processed at the edge of the network as close to the devices as possible. So there will be an integral connection between MEC and fog computing.