Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) is quickly gaining traction as a disruptive technology that promises to bring applications and content closer to the network edge. It is also expected to reduce latency in networks and make new services possible.
Analyst Iain Gillott of iGR Research says that he expects MEC to be as disruptive to the market as 5G and software-defined networking (SDN). And several companies, including Huawei, have said that they are currently testing MEC.
There currently is no MEC standard, however, there are several projects working on standards and trying to bring some order to this burgeoning technology.
Here are four groups that are involved in MEC that are worth watching:
The OpenFog Consortium is a nonprofit group founded in November 2015, and its members work on “fog computing,” which adds a hierarchy of compute, storage, networking, and control functions between the cloud and endpoint devices and between gateways and devices. According to 451 Research, the fog computing market is on track to exceed $18 billion worldwide by 2022.
The nonprofit says it’s different from MEC because it covers all the layers between the edge and the cloud while MEC only covers the edge, and not the cloud.
Early this year the OpenFog Consortium released its OpenFog Reference Architecture, which basically created fog computing standards for data intensive applications like the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, and artificial intelligence (AI). In October, the group announced that its Reference Architecture will serve as the basis for a new working group formed by the IEEE Standards Association to help create industry standards for fog computing and networking.
OpenFog is also working with ETSI to develop fog-enabled mobile edge computing applications and technologies. The two groups signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) saying they will share work related to global standards development for fog-enabled MEC technologies including 5G, IoT, and other data-dense applications.
The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has been working diligently on a MEC specification through its MEC Industry Specification Group (MEC ISG). In July it released its first package of standardized application programming interfaces (APIs) that will support MEC interoperability.
ETSI said that the MEC ISG standards will give operators the confidence to open their radio access network (RAN) to authorized third-party apps so they can then offer new services to their mobile subscribers and vertical segments.
The five ETSI specifications — GS MEC 009, GS MEC 010-2, GS MEC 011, GS MEC 012, and GS MEC 013 — cover topics like application lifecycle management, mobile edge platform application enablement, radio network information, and location.
As noted above, ETSI’s MEC ISG is working with OpenFog to develop fog-enabled MEC standards.
Called Barcelona, the code is supposed to eliminate some of the complexity of IoT by supporting certain key APIs as well as industrial protocols like Bluetooth Low Energy, MQTT (a low-energy machine-to-machine protocol), and simple network management protocol (SNPP).
The Linux Foundation said the Barcelona release is expected to be especially helpful to small- and medium-sized companies that don’t have a lot of IT resources to devote to integrating different tools and components.
The group has a fairly aggressive release timeline. Its next major release, dubbed California, will be available in spring 2018 and will evolve the existing framework to support certain business-critical industrial IoT applications. The third release, named Dehli, will occur in December 2018.
The Open Networking Foundation (ONF)’s Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center (CORD) project wasn’t originally targeted at edge computing, but the ONF now realizes its code is very relevant to the edge. In fact, the ONF recently told SDxCentral that CORD is becoming the de facto platform of choice for edge computing because CORD can run in a tower, a car, a drone, or anywhere.
Unlike ETSI’s MEC ISG, which is working with OpenFog to coordinate on specs and make them interoperable, ONF said it isn’t coordinating with any MEC standards group because it is pushing an open source approach.
CORD 4.1, which is the ONF’s latest software release, supports all subscriber types including residential, mobile, and enterprise from a common shared cloud infrastructure.