Edge Computing, the architectural standard for edge computing, and fog computing are sometimes used interchangeably. However, while both are examples of distributed clouds, fog computing is a superset of MEC. Here is an in-depth look at both definitions to fully understand the difference between MEC and fog computing.
MEC refers to computing at the edge computing of a network. ETSI described MEC as any location in a network where the compute and other resources and services are available closer to the user than the central data center or cloud.
The edge computing of the network can be found at certain base stations, including cell towers, data centers, WiFi routers, and hotspots. The proximity of the edge computing reduces latency to milliseconds and provides users with a consistent connection.
Fog Computing Defined
Fog computing extends the edge computing of the network. The OpenFog Consortium defines fog computing as “”a system-level horizontal architecture that distributes resources and services of computing, storage, control, and networking anywhere along the continuum from Cloud to Things. Fog computing shares similar benefits to edge computing including low latency, a focus on storage, and real-time analytics.
Fog Computing is the Big Picture, Edge Computing is a Specific Function
In other words, fog computing is the overall architecture of distributing resources across the network, whereas edge computing is specifically focused on executing compute processes close to end-users outside the core of the network. The confusion arises from their joint goal of decentralized computing for a better end-user experience. They are both often tied to the advancement of the Internet of Thing’s (IoT) technology and the optimization of 5G networks.
A visual representation of the broadness of each term. Source: SDxCentral
Key Differences Between MEC and Fog
While fog and edge computing both cover mobile and wireless communication, fog also uses wireline and fiber to transmit information.
Edge Computing lacks a complex hierarchy, as it is essentially one layer of nodes located near the user. Fog computing, on the other hand, has many intermediate layers between the edge computing and the central cloud, as seen in the above image.
Overlapping Use Cases
Both fog and edge computing are tied to IoT and 5G use cases and overlap in providing compute, SDS, and networking resources for the use cases. The MEC standard’s use cases include mobile video delivery optimization, caching scenarios, and mobile backhaul optimization. The OpenFog reference architecture lists use cases including autonomous vehicles, surveillance, and smart cities.
Updated April 2019