Why edge computing means a whole different business model to the data center world

Much has been said about edge computing, however, beyond the hype that are some critical issues that need addressing.

The most recent Gartner’s “Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies” shows that edge computing is on the verge of becoming an “innovation trigger” with mainstream adoption expected by the early 2020s.

Within this new edge, there are many considerations around interoperability of edge sites and central data centres, workflows, reliability, availability, and security to name a few.

In addition, the topic of mobile edge computing is also emerging, and its impact on telecommunications and data centre operators is only know starting to be addressed in depth.

With that in mind, Data Economy spoke to Ian Hood (IH), chief architect, global service providers at Red Hat, to learn more.


How do you define Mobile Edge Computing? (MEC)

IH:  The rapid growth of Edge Computing has been driven by mobile computing and IoT. Edge computing allows raw data from connected devices to be processed in proximity to devices, reducing latency.

Only vital data is sent to data centres for processing and storage, conserving network resources as more connected devices come online.

Mobile Edge Computing is a networking architecture that distributes data centre technologies (compute/storage) to the edge of a mobile/cellular network to scale out the delivery of IT/network applications/services.

This term has been expanded/updated to multi-access edge computing to include the delivery of these applications over any access medium (mobile/fixed).


What does MEC have to offer to telcos?

IH: Mobile Edge Computing offers many things to telcos. Because service providers host edge locations around the world, they interconnect with connected devices. Therefore, they are very well positioned to support the IoT market by bringing intelligence to the network’s edge in the form of MEC.

As networks are becoming increasingly virtualized, MEC offers telcos an architecture on which to develop new services around IoT: there are opportunities to offer innovative new services and experiences by delivering them closer to their customers.

In addition, use of MEC architectures enables operators to consume technologies from many vendors and optimise the efficiency and utilization of their infrastructure resources, while accelerating time to revenues.


What sort of next-generation services will MEC create?

IH: MEC enables many types of use cases for the operators: IoT services across all industry verticals, virtualisation of their radio-access network (RAN) as part of their LTE to 5G architecture evolution, Enterprise/Retail Edge, and distributed content/video delivery services.

Some operators are already looking at how they can offer Artificial Reality/Virtual Reality as well as the use of Artificial Intelligence in delivery of innovative use cases.

At Mobile World Congress 2017, Red Hat used an asset tracking example to demonstrate how MEC can be used in combination with open source software.

The reference architecture is based on successful combinations of open source software and partner technology from Eurotech, which customers have already been deploying to run their IoT solutions.

The setup is based wholly on open source software which enables enterprise IoT components to be put together in a simple manner and pushes computing to the edge in an intelligent gateway.


What security hurdles exist today around MEC?

IH: MEC can leverage many emerging technologies such as Software-Defined Networking (SDN), virtualization, containers and microservices, to build a cloud-native distributed network that can enable the deployment of any application over any infrastructure.

Many of the same security hurdles exist for large distributed networks as we begin the journey to 5G/MEC architectures, these include encryption, DDOS, privacy, lawful intercept, identity and role-based access.

I would recommend that an organization running its applications over a network implements security precautions for those applications, regardless of the infrastructure underneath.

Security measures should include role-based access control for people using the applications, as well as encrypting the application before it even gets on the wire, using SSL and other methods to provide more secure data transfer.


What is the role of data centre operators in the MEC revolution?

IH: “I anticipate that the MEC revolution will expand the number of places where data centre technologies are deployed, such that they are right alongside the networking technologies and in some cases right back on the enterprise/customer premise.

As a result, the data centre operators and the network operators should take advantage of DevSecOps/Agile approaches to develop their infrastructure/environments as code, to enable them to operationalise this hybrid cloud native distributed architecture.

These approaches can help them offer “always on” services/applications wherever their customers need them, accelerate the pace of changes in their offerings, and to minimize the complexity of these applications/services deployments with innovative automation, policy, and analytics tools.“


How fast is demand growing for MEC and what do you predict for the near future?

IH: According to Market Research Future, ‘the global The Edge Computing Market is expected to grow at USD ~$33.75 Billion by 2023, at ~35.0% of CAGR between 2017 and 2023,‘ indicating that edge computing is likely to see healthy growth over the next five years. I believe this is indicative of the growth we will see specifically for MEC and is pretty much aligned with the interest to deploy 5G architectures to expand operator revenues while optimizing their operational cost structures.

While operators continue to expand use of SDN and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) to accelerate the delivery of innovative services, they are already starting trials of many of the MEC use cases now to validate the maturity of the emerging technology advances and the cost benefits they expect to gain.


What sort of other technology trends is MEC already generating? What’s next?

IH: Another key trend that MEC is generating and expanding is the need to modernize both IT and networking applications for web-scale, cloud-native deployments.

The trend towards microservices architectures that modularise legacy software applications into much smaller more granular elements is key to being able to cost effectively deploy MEC applications at scale.


To learn more about edge computing, Data Economy is hosting a forum in London on November 15, 2017. Visit the event page here.