Multi-access edge computing (MEC) is going to have a few moments in the limelight at this year’s Mobile World Congress 2018 event, although much of the attention is likely to come from show floor demonstrations and as part of larger discussions.
The event itself is hosting just a handful of sessions and panels targeted specifically at MEC. The most pertinent is likely to be a session on Monday entitled “Owning Edge Infrastructure: Burden & Opportunity.”
The session will include representation from a telecom operator (Telia), vendors (Ericsson, Mavenir, and SES), and the senior director from the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA). The focus will be on how operators can partner with the vendor community in deploying and managing MEC components.
MEC platforms are desired for moving computing power closer to the end user in an attempt to lower latency and improve service performance. Services targeted by MEC providers include the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), connected vehicles, content-delivery networks (CDNs), and 5G.
Iain Gillott, president and founder of research firm iGR, linked MEC with the Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center (CORD) initiative for operators to shift their traditional network architecture to one that looks like a data center.
“Simply put, MEC marries a radio with a data center,” Gillott noted in a report. “Today, that radio is LTE, but it could also be WiFi, 5G New Radio, or some combination of them all. The server component is a secure, virtualized platform that network owners can open up to third parties, such as content providers and application developers.”
MEC and Friends
Many expect robust discussions at the show on the MEC topic as it will tie into other opportunities. These include support for 5G, IoT, and evolving network architectures.
Ovum noted in a report that it expects early demonstrations showing support from MEC for the IoT “from a wide range of players.” This will include use cases, deployment timelines, revenue opportunities, and verticals driving the market.
“Edge computing will be a key driver for this, and we expect announcements from players like Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Ericsson, Nokia, and Huawei,” the firm wrote in an MWC preview note.
Francesco Venturini, a senior managing director at Accenture, said he expects the growing confluence of webscale cloud platforms and the need to extend smart network coverage will drive a stronger push behind MEC.
“Conversations at MWC will focus on how those networks need to move from hardware to software-based pervasive networks, and how they can build these next-generation platforms by harnessing 5G, edge computing, and blockchain to meet the demands all the way from customer engagement (B2B and B2C) through to the network infrastructure,” said Venturini.
He explained that service providers are realizing that new business models are being built on an open API infrastructure. This is being enabled by microservices and programmable networks that are allowing enterprise customers to take advantage of advanced services.
Beyond predictions of companies expected to show off MEC advances, a number of organizations have already placed stakes in the ground.
Rui Frazao, CTO at Vasona Networks, said the company will be showing an online gaming demonstration using its Edge Breakout application, running over a mobile network. The platform exposes real-time network insight and management that allows third-party applications to redirect traffic to its most efficient path.
Frazao said the MEC market has evolved slower than many vendors have expected. He attributed this to the lack of business models showing operators how they can monetize the needed investment.
“We think the vendor community has an obligation to work with telecom operators to not sell just use cases for the future, but to actually deliver the technology that allows for a revenue model today,” Frazao said.
He did note that he expects market adoption to accelerate, bolstered by the increasing deployment of virtualized platforms.
“Having these virtualized networks in place makes it much easier for operators to take that next step and introduce edge computing,” Frazao said.
Timon Sloane, vice president for marketing and ecosystem at the Open Network Foundation (ONF), earlier this month said the group planned to show several demonstrations using its CORD project. Some of those will include integration of the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) with CORD edge cloud work and MEC integration.