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Multi-Access Edge computing was formally known as Mobile edge computing. It is an ETSI-defined network architecture that enables cloud computing capabilities as well as an IT environment at the edge of the cellular network or any network that is why it is termed edge computing. The basic fundamental concept of this technology is that by running different applications and performing the related processing tasks closer to the customer. This technology is designed to be implemented at the cellular base stations or the other edge nodes closer to the user. It enables various flexible and rapid deployment of various new applications and services for customers. Multi-access edge computing (MEC) services offer various application developers and the different content providers cloud-computing capabilities and an IT service environment at the edge of the network.

The various use cases include:

  • Video Analytics services
  • Location services
  • Internet-of-things 
  • Augmented Reality
  • Virtual Reality
  • Optimized local content distribution 
  • Data caching 
  • Customer services
  • Industrial IoT
  • Emergency services 
  • Commercial operations  

MEC aims to place the compute and storage resources in the Radio Access Network (RAN) to improve the delivery of the content and various applications to the end-users. Multi-access Edge computing will enable the deployment of various services in the RAN so that the user service experience can be improved. It can also help to adapt different services as per the load on the radio link, it can also reduce the total need for the backhaul through the use of the concept of local content caching and the local internet breakout concept.  The important concept of Mobile Edge Computing is to balance the low latency and the mobility. In this, the operators start to distribute the mobile packet core gateways for the reason of performance. In this, because of the presence of MEC, it can reduce the number of PGW’s (Paging gateways) needed which can further reduce the total number of handovers. The MEC environment is always characterized by low latency and high bandwidth.  It deals with real-time access to the radio network information that can be leveraged by various applications. 

The Multi-Access Edge computing initiative is an Industry Specification Group (ISG) within the ETSI. ISG can create a  standardized open environment that will allow the efficient and seamless integration of various applications from different vendors. 

MEC Characteristics:

  • Proximity
  • Ultra-low latency
  • High bandwidth
  • Virtualization 

Multi-access edge computing offers various cloud-computing capabilities and also they can provide an IT service environment at the edge of the network. By moving the cloud services closer to the user, latency is reduced and throughput demands are met easily. All the applications that are at the edge of the network require high bandwidth and low latency environments. In order to achieve all the requirements of the MEC, various service providers have created distributed data centers or distributed clouds in their network. The resources in the cloud can reside anywhere from a centralized data center to a cell site, it can be located in a central office, an aggregation site, a metro data center, or on the customer premises end. The different drivers for edge computing include the Internet of things (IoT) and the 5G technology.  

MEC Architecture:

The Functional Architecture of Multi-Access Edge computing consists of two functional areas which are the Host and the Management. The management layer comprises both the host and system-level administrative entities. The combination of these functional entities provides the foundation which operates a distributed environment for installing and scaling various mobile applications. This scaling of various mobile services and applications is done in a highly dynamic manner. At the core of the mobile edge host of the network, there is a virtualization infrastructure that supplies the compute, storage, and network resources in a highly dynamic manner. There are two types of functionalities: Control plane functionality and data plane functionality. The data plane functionality within the virtualization infrastructure applies various rules and they apply the access control while routing the traffic between the network services and various mobile applications. 

Mobile Edge Platform: 

The Mobile Edge platform within the host, provides various services and assistance for the mobile applications which include the authentication and authorization of various mobile edge services. It also includes the discovery, advertisement, and notification of the change in any state. 

One of the key concepts in the 5G networks is the network slicing concept. The NSSF (Network Slice Selection Function) is the function that assists in the selection of suitable network slice instances for different users. The PCF (Policy Control Function) works as an Application function (AF) such as the MEC platform requests for traffic steering rules. 

The UDM (Unified Data Management) function is responsible for managing different services related to the users and subscriptions. 

The UPF (User Plane Function) has a key role in the deployment of MEC in the 5G networks. In this, the UPF can be seen as a distributed and configurable data plane. 

Logically, the MEC hosts are deployed in the edge or central data network. It is the UPF that takes care of steering traffic towards various applications 

MAC architecture

MEC Applications:

  • MEC applications include asset tracking, video surveillance, and analysis of services,  local voice, and data routing.
  • It can help real-time applications run smoothly. An increasing number of applications are real-time and cannot tolerate latency more than in the order of 10’s of milliseconds. 
  • The available bandwidth from the MEC to the UE/CPE will create a wide range of new applications.
  •  It helps in cost reduction.
  • It helps in Analytics: Edge technology can help in Analytics. Various places where the edge can offer local services like in the Stadiums, Airports, various concerts, universities, etc. where data transfer rate is increased because of the edge computing. 
  • Critical communications 
  • Security: Edge computing allows for applications such as DDOS and cybersecurity to prevent these types of attacks etc. 
MEC application, Interaction and service exposure

MEC and 5G is a powerful combination that can help in the virtualization from core to the edge, extensive reach, and performance and reliability. 

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