5G is enabling a host of new applications for enterprises and consumers, including augmented reality, virtual reality, IoT, autonomous vehicles and more. With these new applications, communications service providers (CSPs) worldwide have recognized the need for compute, storage and networking infrastructure to be placed close to the locations where these applications are consumed. The benefits of reduced latency, improved throughput, better security and isolation, along with data reduction and context- and location-awareness make Edge Computing and MEC a compelling area of infrastructure investment for CSPs.
Edge computing, fog computing, cloud computing and distributed clouds are related architectures that involve adapting cloud designs from hyperscale web companies to fit edge deployments. Sometimes, these edge platforms will run segregated from central clouds but in most cases, these edge platforms will run in conjunction with public or private clouds located in large data centers. Figuring our these deployment architectures will take time and will be dependent on the needs of each use case. CSPs and enterprises are working through these edge architectures with numerous proofs-of-concepts in the field today. Standardization of the Edge Computing/MEC platform architecture is an ongoing process with standard bodies and consortiums such as ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) MEC ISG (Industry Specification Group), the OpenFog Consortium, as well as the Open Edge Computing Intiative.
In the meantime, CSPs are trying out different Edge Computing/MEC applications. These applications at the edge can generally be classified into a few major categories including analytics, compliance, security and other virtualized telco applications (NFV) such as vRAN, cRAN (virtual and cloud radio access networks). Many of the PoCs today are focused on video caching and transcoding, immersive videos (AR/VR), RAN optimization, IoT, and analytics. To ensure that these PoCs succeed, enabling mainstream adoption of MEC, numerous issues have to be resolved. Some of the main issues include working through the details of the underlying NFV platform, ensuring bulletproof mobility support, supporting multi-operator applications, addressing scalability and ensuring security and compliance.
Finally, while efforts around defining edge architectures are certainly important to the uptake of MEC, one of the most important remaining issues for CSPs and enterprises is to figure out the right business model to make all the investment necessary for MEC worthwhile. Without a monetization strategy, MEC will be yet another interesting architecture that eventually languishes inside CSP labs. Regardless, we anticipate that Edge Computing and MEC will be one of the hottest areas of research and investment over the course of the next 12-18 months and bears close watching.