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Edge computing takes a further leap forward with move to harmonize standards

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Edge computing offers cloud-computing capabilities and an IT service environment at the edge of the network, constituting a powerful catalyst for innovation, unparallel user experience and lucrative business opportunities.

The Edge environment is characterized by proximity, ultra-low latency and high bandwidth. IT economies of scale can be leveraged, allowing proximity, context, agility and speed to be used for wider innovation which can be translated into unique value and revenue generation.

Interactive and delay-sensitive applications such as gaming, augmented reality or indoor navigation, located in close-proximity to users, can benefit from the increased responsiveness as well as maximized speed and interactivity. 

Robust low-latency, where a very high volume of data messages is delivered with minimal delay – in near real time, can be ensured for critical communication, for example in industrial environments. Real-time analytics can be performed at the point of capture and corrective actions can be instantaneously taken locally. David Linthicum, the chief cloud strategy officer at Deloitte nicely illustrates this, explaining “if you’re flying an airplane, you don’t want to send data down to a cloud server to see if the engines are on fire”.

Furthermore, the Edge platform can provide insight of real-time network and context information that can be used to optimize network and service operation, and proactively maintain customer experience. For example, being aware of the near real-time capacity available at the radio downlink interface, a video server can intelligently maximize the utilization of precious radio resources and accelerate the video delivery improving video quality and eventually the user experience.  

In summary, Edge computing is a keystone of the Ultra-Reliable, Low-Latency Connectivity (URLLC) transformation and the digital mobilization of the enterprise industries, which as estimated by GSMA, will be the main source of the 5G revenue of $300bn by 2025. Edge computing opens new business opportunities with enterprises and verticals, especially in ultra-low latency use cases. Edge computing can also be considered as the “cloud” for real-time and personalized services, providing an unparalleled experience with reduced latency in addition to highly efficient network operation and service delivery.

How does this relate to 5G?

5G networks are expected to provide virtually-unlimited-gigabit and ultra-reliable connections to people and objects, when and where it matters, supporting diverse use cases with an extremely demanding range of requirements. Edge computing is a natural element of 5G, helping to satisfy the 5G throughput, latency, scalability and automation targets. It also offers additional privacy and security.

The need for standards

Open standards are key to boost innovation and promote mass deployment of third-party applications in a multi-vendor environment.   

For mobile edge computing, open standards are required to enable plug & play of applications, and to ensure that the capabilities and practices that are provided for the application developers are consistent across networks and national boundaries. Standards are also needed to enable zero-touch automation, with intelligent and dynamic orchestration of resources, services and applications over geographically distributed edge platforms.

Furthermore, standards are used to enable the exposure of (network and context) information to the applications, that can empower the applications’ developers to create extra value, for example by creating highly personalized services which are tailored to individual needs and preferences.

Also, interaction between multi-operator/multi-vendor edge platforms is enabled by standards. This is required for example to assist coordinated application re-location or to support use cases such as Vehicle-to-everything (V2X).  

The objective is to keep the standards application-agnostic, providing the developers with the opportunity to revolutionize, differentiate and create value.

Time for harmonizing standards for Edge computing

In September 2014, Nokia drove the formation of Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) group in ETSI, with the purpose to create open standards for edge computing. ETSI is a standardization organization in the information and communications technology industry fulfilling European and global market needs.

The MEC group is a multi-stakeholder industry initiative with 110 members and participants representing the different players in the value-chain: operators, vendors, IT players, industries and application providers. With the 36 deliverables published since the inception of the group, ETSI MEC has created the foundation for edge computing and is widely recognized in the industry as the leading standards developing organization (SDO) for application enablement and edge computing.

MEC provides a foundation for openness and a focal point where operators can collaborate with enterprises and application providers. It is aligned with the overall cloud transformation and is a natural element of 5G. 3GPP, which develops protocols for mobile telecommunication has specified the key enablers for the integration of MEC in 5G. The Nokia Enabling Applications at the edge of the 5G Network paper describes how these enablers can be used.

As the Edge cloud ecosystem is still being developed, we are witnessing a rapid expansion of Edge-related initiatives. For example, 3GPP has started working on edge application architecture. To avoid unhealthy industry fragmentation, accelerate time-to-market and ensure industry adoption, it is essential to ensure alignment, leverage synergies and offer common practices and tools for the developers. Figure 1 depicts such a common service environment at the edge. This will help to foster innovation, allowing the developers to write a single application software module that can run on every edge environment.

Figure 1: A common edge service environment for enterprise, verticals and application ecosystems

Figure 1: A common edge service environment for enterprise, verticals and application ecosystems

Nokia has driven the multi-company effort to create a ETSI white paper on “Harmonizing standards for edge computing” with the purpose to harmonize standards for edge computing. The paper introduces a synergized architecture which leverages the ETSI ISG MEC and 3GPP specifications and show how those standards may be combined when it comes to deployments.

Save the date for ETSI Webinar "Boost innovation and create business opportunities with mobile edge computing" on 1 October. Dave Bolan, Research Director at Dell'Oro Group, will provide keynotes and join with the ETSI MEC and 3GPP experts to review the emerging mobile edge computing use cases and the recently updated five-year mobile edge computing market forecast. They will also highlight the role of standards, the value proposition of the different standards streams and to show how those standards can complement each other when it comes to operational deployments. Some deployment scenarios will also be introduced.

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