Edge Computing and its standard, edge computing, rely on virtualization, but face challenges. Edge Computing moves resources closer to the end user by offering the network’s edge computing as the computing source. A network’s edge computing can be found at a localized site, such as a radio tower, router, small cell network nodes, or a local data center. The edge computing of a network allows for ultra-low latency and a consistent connection to the end user.
MEC may operate on a standalone architecture, or the MEC architecture may converge with NFV architecture to enhance the computing experience. A benefit to the convergence of NFV and MEC architectures is that “NFV enables edge devices to provide computing services and operate network functions by creating multiple virtual machines (VMs),” according to the research paper “Edge Computing Technologies for Internet of Things: a Primer,” published in the April 2018 edition of Digital Communications and Networks.
However, two other solutions deliver lightweight virtualization to edge computing for optimal performance. Here’s a brief review of those products and how they assist in lightweight virtualization.
Architectural differences between containers and unikernels used in system virtualization. Source: ResearchGate
MEC Virtualization Equipment
Containers process application packaging that delivers service and applications to the edge computing of the network. Some examples of containers helping with virtualization include Docker and Linux containers.
Unikernels are single-purpose appliances that can’t be modified after deployment. Unikernels were originally designed for the cloud, but their small size and flexible nature are perfect for the IoT edge computing environment according to the research paper “”Consolidate IoT Edge Computing With Lightweight Virtualization, published in IEEE Network Magazine in January 2018. A perk of unikernels is increased security, as each kernel has unique vulnerabilities. So while an attack may affect one, it will not spread to the other kernels.
Edge Computing Virtualization Benefits
Edge Computing virtualization offers several benefits. It is instrumental in creating a network capable of handling the IoT boom, by offering continuous connectivity and high-bandwidth for devices. Adding virtualization to edge computing, as ETSI pointed out in a press release, also allows the “capability for an application to discover applications and services available on other hosts, and to direct requests and data to one or more hosts.” Essentially, edge computing applications can explore their environment. NFV technology can also greatly help edge computing. NFV allows for network slicing, where segments of the edge computing network can be dedicated to specific network functions, ensuring high-bandwidth apps get the resources they need, while not forcing out lower-bandwidth apps.
Edge Computing is not without challenges. Edge Computing players are tackling problems including immobile nodes serving fast-moving devices like cars or airplanes. Professionals in the field are also grappling with cybersecurity and physical security challenges.
Updated April 2019