Why the edge? This is the question at the top of every communication service providers (CSPs) and equipment manufacturers’ mind these days as the telecommunications industry continues to evolve and turn to open source and multi-access edge computing (MEC) solutions. These types of solutions are needed in order to meet key infrastructure requirements such as cost efficiency, deployment flexibility and high-quality delivery of mission-critical services. This will enable CSPs to accelerate and innovate their 4G/5G cloud RAN initiatives, ensuring better user experience by moving compute-intensive, latency-sensitive applications to the network edge.
In this first blog in our Getting to the Edge series, I’ll look at the key technology and business drivers for edge computing. In Part 2, I’ll address the Challenges of Building an Edge-Focused Mobile Solution, followed by our final Part 3, where we’ll explore Solving the Integration Challenges.
The 4th Industrial Revolution
The 4th industrial revolution refers to the fourth major industrial era, following the initial industrial revolution of the 18th century. Each technological revolution fundamentally alters the way we live, work, communicate and more. The 4th industrial revolution will highlight the evolution of connected devices to connected everything – people, places and things – also known as 5G. 5G will include 50 billion connected devices, 1000x mobile data volumes, significant decrease in latency and 10x-100x end-user data rates. These are not only key drivers for 5G, but also for the edge.
Traditional RAN vs Open RAN
Traditional RAN is proprietary, embedded, and includes integrated RRU & BBU with high cost last mile transport. We are now seeing that all change. RAN is becoming more software defined, and, while disaggregating the RAN is one of the last and hardest areas, it is now finally happening. Bringing in SDN and NFV efficiencies, the RAN is being unbundled and disaggregated, while becoming more flexible and programmable based on real world network conditions. Traditional RAN is moving from distributed and integrated towards virtualized and centralized.
Forces Driving the Edge Cloud
There are multiple forces driving the need for the edge cloud, including:
- Law of physics – customers want to build applications that make the most interactive and critical decisions locally. This is determined by basic laws of physics as it take time to send data to the cloud, and networks don’t have 100% availability.
- Law of economics – data production has grown more quickly than bandwidth. Local aggregation and filtering of data allows customers to send only high-value data to the cloud for storage and analysis.
- Law of the land – some industries have regulatory or compliance requirements to isolate or duplicate data in particular locations. Some governments impose data sovereignty restrictions on where data may be stored and processed.
- Law of biology – immersive experiences rely upon Vestibulo-Ocular Reflex (VOR), or stabilizing function of the human eye to compensate for head movements. Immersive experiences rely on VOR to avoid causing motion sickness.
For these “laws”, workloads are moving more towards the edge. This means, computing edge is shifting closer to the customer, and 4G/5G will cater to new, enhanced mobile broadband, as well as mission critical and ultra-low latency application demands. The combination of reduced latency and increased bandwidth is driving the new mobile edge.
In my next blog in this three-part series on “Getting to the Edge,” I will explore the Challenges of Building an Edge-focused Mobile Solution with a look into MEC placement and systems integration. Stay tuned.
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