Mobile-edge computing (MEC) is a highly distributed computing architecture based on the deployment of small computing units in both outdoor and indoor radio access network (RAN) facilities at the edge of their mobile networks. Red Hat has joined a recently created European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) working group to help define MEC use-cases and architecture details as a complementary effort to the existing NFV and 5G initiatives.
The goal is to provide on-premises computing that could run isolated from the core network (ideal for machine-to-machine or MTM and IoT scenarios), with proximity services enabled and location awareness to capture and analyze key information (like geo-location and trajectory) from the user equipment, thanks to very low-latency access to the radio channels and detailed network context information such as radio conditions and neighbors statistics. These features can help differentiate the telco’s solutions from over-the-top (OTT) players, and offer substantial competitive advantages, or even host these OTT platforms and get extra revenue while offering a better user experience, with more efficient usage of the capacity.
The key element here is the MEC IT application server, which is integrated at the RAN element. The first release of the MEC working group focuses on a scenario where the MEC server is deployed either at the LTE macro base station (eNB) site, or at the 3G radio network controller (RNC) site, or at a multi-technology (3G/LTE) cell aggregation site, although wireless LAN (WLAN) deployments will be soon included. This should enable a common architecture for the first trials of IoT, LTE-U (LTE in unlicensed spectrum, 5G, cloud RAN (C-RAN), virtual content delivery network (vCDN,) mobile video delivery, and other distributed network function virtualization (NFV) use-cases.
The MEC server platform consists of a hosting infrastructure (equivalent to the NFV infrastructure) and an application platform. In some ways, the MEC Application Platform is similar to an IoT gateway or a more classical IT Application Platform (like Java2EE). It offers a virtualization manager (an infrastructure as a service or IaaS abstraction), and advanced services such as traffic offload function (TOF), Radio Network Information Services (RNIS), communication services and a service registry. This layer abstracts the details of the radio network elements, so the MEC applications are portable and compatible across the network thanks to the standard, open APIs that will be defined. In other words, MEC will define a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) equivalent, hosted in a NFVi IaaS such as OpenStack, with Openshift applications on top. These components and functional elements that are key enablers for MEC solutions in a multi-vendor environment. As enablers, they will stimulate innovation and facilitate global market growth, while leaving room for differentiation and value creation, in a similar way as the ETSI NFV has done since 2012.
The ETSI MEC concept introduces three management layers: one for the hosting infrastructure, like OpenStack, one for the application platform and one for the software applications and services. Using open source solutions like OpenStack for the infrastructure and JBoss for the application platform, most of the problem is now solved and the research can be focused on the definition of open APIs for the “northbound” interfaces with the software applications. At Red Hat we believe that combining ETSI NFV and EMS interfaces, with newly defined APIs like TOF, RNIS and the collaboration with NFV application development kits such as DPDK, OCP, fd.io or IOVisor, we can create an open telco ecosystem based on open standards and open APIs.
Start your MEC journey building your edge infrastructure with containers, OpenStack and Ceph for an optimal distributed compute and storage architecture. Relying on commercial, off-the-shelf solutions should enable cost savings that can be used to build highly-available and resilient services on top, with Openshift containerized applications and Red Hat Enterprise Linux with real-time scheduling and DPDK acceleration. This setup should provide much better performance and reliability than traditional solutions that can be monolithic, inflexible and oversized. Additionally, we certify third-party solutions that use state-of-the-art, accelerated packet processing like DPDK, and leverage the real-time execution environment for minimizing latency and controlling jitter.
Learn more about Red Hat participation in ETSI, OPNFV and OpenStack, as well as other recent news and exiciting developments in our telecommunications portal. And visit us this week at Mobile World Congress 2016 in Hall 2, Stand 2G30 to talk with us about MEC, open source and more.