Multi-access Edge Computing and Current Applications

What is Multi-access Edge Computing (formerly known as Mobile Edge Computing)

Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) technology brings the network traffic and computing of services closer to the consumer, ensuring faster data processing, performed locally instead of in a centralized cloud environment.

The infrastructure of MEC allows for a quicker reaction from end users and devices while reducing costs significantly for low bandwidth applications and saving core network load for mobile data traffic.

Cloud computing is going through a fundamental shift in which accessing highly centralized resources is replaced by a distributed, decentralized architecture. Edge computing is a new paradigm that brings the core building blocks of cloud — computing, storage, and networking closer to the consumer. With that said, the choice between edge and cloud computing is always an economical one. Depending on the application, is it more convenient to pay for the platform locally, or the bandwidth.

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MEC brings the flexibility and agility of the cloud closer to the consumer so it can meet the demands of: low bandwidth, low delay, high reliability.

Using a local breakout component, network performance gains can be had by reducing end-to-end latency and preserving the strength of the core network. There are various scenarios in which using a local breakout component can benefit both the consumer and the network, some of which are summarized below.

Multi-access edge computing (MEC) versus Cloud computing

Why Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC)​

Many situations exist that create a demand for processing to be closer to the user. Two major reasons being low latency, and low bandwidth. The purpose of MEC is to accommodate applications in which you can leverage edge computing, because you don’t need or want to send the data all the way to the cloud. Here are some multi-access edge computing applications.

1. Low Latency: Gaming

As with most applications currently, gaming has gone mobile and in a big way. The demand for immersive require low latency, and Multi-access Edge Computing can improve significantly the gaming experience. The MEC solution is lowering the latency while processing locally most of the data.

It brings the game server very close to the user, and there is no need to get the data all the way to the cloud and back. This results in much lower latency, especially for users in the same area. No wonder operators are interested in this technology, like for example AT&T that attended E3 conference, the largest Gaming conference, presenting their future network that bring 5G and MEC.

Multi-access edge computing for video surveilance applications, to prevent cloud processing and high bandwidth traffic in the Core Network

2. Low Bandwidth: Video Surveillance

Low bandwidth applications like video surveillance would benefit greatly from multi-access edge computing due to upload streaming.

Assume, you have an automated piloted drone over a given area, and the drone is connected by LTE, 3G, or 5G to the cell tower. What happens is that the video stream from the drone sent to the cell tower ends up somewhere in the cloud. This can create a greater demand for bandwidth between the tower and the actual cloud.

By processing the data locally, multi-access edge computing can drastically reduce the costs associated with data transportation and transfers.

3. Low Bandwidth: Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Currently a content delivery network (CDN) is very effective in reducing the latency in fixed broadband networks. In mobile, edge computing combines the speed of content delivery networks with the benefits of cloud to enable a new paradigm of networking. As with the precepts of a CDN, MEC attempts to improve performance by getting as close to the user as possible.

How Multi-Access Edge Computing Works -> Local breakout

Local breakout (LBO) is an offloading solution of access network to save core network load and reduce the end-to-end latency. This is a crucial functionality in the Mobile Edge Computing infrastructure.

Local Breakout

The advantage of having a LBO is that you can have multiple applications depending on other devices without impacting performance. By creating a local breakout of some mobile data traffic at the core, it can enable content and applications to be processed as close as possible to the edge of the network and closer to the mobile user. This is leading to a much faster browsing experience and less strain on the Core network.

Local breakout is a main component in Multi-access edge computing
Local Breakout for Multi-access Edge Computing

There are multiple options available for multi-access edge computing depending on the applications you want to install; however, Linux is the most commonly used platform. The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) currently has a working group for MEC. Depending on the application you choose, it may work with the device you want to use, or it may work independently. This is mostly a case by case basis.

The biggest advantage to having a local breakout is that multiple applications can run simultaneously and not drastically degrade performance on your network. Installing a multi-access edge computing device offers new options in terms of revenue as well as providing third-party companies like game studios, and surveillance companies a platform in which they can leverage the customers term that already exists in the mobile network.

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