Multi-access edge computing (MEC), now only referred to as edge computing or the edge, and network functions virtualization (NFV) share characteristics but are not quite the same. Used together, however, they elevate computing capacity to meet the increased consumer and business networking demands. Edge computing is the term used to denote computing on the edge of the network. It’s a distributed cloud that’s closer to end users, because the network’s edge is located at base stations, such as radio towers and micro-data centers. NFV decouples network functions from hardware to run on software to support a virtualized infrastructure.
Edge computing’s infrastructure is also based on a virtualized platform similar to NFV’s but with a mobile-focused software application platform. Both the edge and NFV‘s infrastructure features stackable components and each has a virtualization layer. They may operate independently or in conjunction with each other. The European Telecommunications Standards Institute’s (ETSI) white paper stresses that with the similarities between the edge and NFV’s infrastructures is “beneficial to reuse the infrastructure and infrastructure management of NFV to the largest extent possible, by hosting both VNFs (Virtual Network Functions) and edge applications on the same platform.” In fact, part of the edge standardization, MEC 003, mentions that edge architecture will be able to incorporate NFV architecture to enhance the computing experience. Review how the edge and NFV used together can bring about certain benefits.
Edge Computing’s Low Latency + NFV’s Scalability = Dynamic Computing
The converging of the edge and NFV offers a potent solution to modern computing by ensuring speed and reliability to the end users. Here are the areas this powerful duo will elevate:
Scalability + Low Latency
One of the consequential benefits of using both the edge and NFV is the combination of scalability and low latency. NFV delivers scalability for networking computing, scaling in and out the network’s resources depending on need and application usage. Edge computing offers low latency. The latency time from transmitting data to the data center and back to the end user is shortened since the edge is closer to the user, thus creating a faster computing experience for the end user. Combined, these two characteristics deliver a dynamic, quick, and reliable computing. Another perk of edge computing and NFV’s scalability is that data can either remain at the edge of the network or data can be offloaded to the cloud when computing demands peak.
Network slicing is capable through NFV. Different partitions (a.k.a. slices) of the edge can be targeted for specific network functions. This practice ensures that those high-bandwidth applications receive the networking capabilities they need without hindering the computing functions for other applications using the same network edge. NFV’s network slicing with MEC’s low latency gives network slicing an additional boost by ensuring reliable services and constant connectivity for high-bandwidth applications and products, such as autonomous vehicles and medical robotic instruments.
As mentioned earlier, the edge architecture and NFV architecture may be separate architectures or converge into one architecture in order to satisfy computing objectives. An MEC NFV multilayer architecture ensures the quality of service throughout the lifecycle of applications running of the network edge. In anticipation of the burgeoning use of Internet of Things (IoT) and the upcoming 5G era — in which edge computing will play a significant role in alleviating and solving network demands — a few organizations have proposed the layout of the MEC NFV converged architectures, including the architecture design featured in this article, “Monitoring self-adaptive applications within edge computing frameworks: A state-of-the-art review,” and in this research article, “An MEC and NFV Integrated Network Architecture.“