Defining a standard model for MEC

Article By : Dario Sabella

Operators are realizing the need to collaborate to enable inter-MEC system deployment and MEC-Cloud system coordination.

Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) offers application developers and content providers cloud-computing capabilities and an IT service environment at the edge of the network. This technology, standardized by ETSI ISG MEC, enables an open market and new business models, including the possibility to serve multiple use cases and applications. Edge computing environments are also characterized by a diverse ecosystem of market players, ranging from infrastructure owners, to service providers, system integrators and application developers. This scenario is characterized by a complex multi-vendor, multi-supplier, multi-set of equipment including both HW and SW devices. As an additional degree of complexity, typical real-world scenario include the presence of multiple Operators, each one with its own edge computing infrastructure, network capabilities and customer base.

In this heterogeneous environment, in the view of offering global edge computing services to customers, Operators are realizing the need to collaborate and form the so-called MEC Federation, which use cases and key issues are defined and analyzed in the recently published Report  GR MEC 035 “to enable inter-MEC system deployment and MEC-Cloud system coordination”.

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MEC Federation helps provide customers with seamless access across a diverse ecosystem of Mobile Network Operator (MNO environments. (Source: ETSI)

The study, led by the Japanese telecommunications operator KDDI, supported by other operators and in collaboration with many other MEC members and participants, was also taking into account the requirements from GSMA OPG (Operator Platform Group). The goal of that GSMA initiative is to make edge computing an Operator service, where customers using an edge application should have seamless access to applications with edge Quality of Experience, whether the application is running on their Operator’s edge cloud, or on the edge cloud of a different (but federated) Operator. The work in ETSI ISG MEC is indeed targeted at introducing a proper standard that could achieve this goal (also in collaboration with 3GPP and other bodies).

More in detail, the ETSI GR 035 report is highlighting the problems, gaps and solutions, and recommendations related to a MEC Federation, which is defined as “federated model of MEC systems enabling shared usage of MEC services and applications”. Various use cases are motivating the establishment of a MEC federation, and they are analyzed in this report, together with a description of possible solutions and related evaluations:

  1. MEC federation scenario of V2X services
  2. multi-operator agreements enabling MEC Federation for V2X services
  3. Application instance transfer between MEC and Cloud systems
  4. Inter-system communication involving a MEC system in an MNO’s network
  5. MEC federation scenario for connecting different services
  6. MEC federation scenario for immersive AR game
  7. MEC federation scenario for Edge Service availability on visited networks
  8. MEC federation scenario for edge node sharing

In particular, the use case #1 (“MEC federation scenario of V2X services”) is of interest for automotive stakeholders from 5GAA (5G Automotive Association), who recently joined ETSI MEC membership.  This MEC federation scenario of V2X services (i.e., multi-MNO, multi-OEM, multi-MEC) is typical in Smart Cities, where cars with different SIM Cards and network subscriptions are connected to different operators, each one with different capabilities, in terms of availability of MEC platform and/or APIs. In this perspective, enabling inter-MEC system communications between MEC applications, but also application interoperability and portability, is a key need for the whole automotive ecosystem, to provide V2X services (starting from MNOs, OEMs, but also technology providers, city municipalities and their subsidiaries, regulators and policy makers). From a technology perspective, this scenario requires the MEC system to support:

  • MEC system discovery, including security (authentication/authorization, system topology hiding/encryption), charging, identity management and monitoring aspects as an essential prerequisite to form a MEC federation.
  • MEC platform discovery, by means of the MEC systems exchanging information about their MEC platforms, i.e. their identities, a list of their shared services, as well as authorization and access policies.
  • Information exchange at MEC platform level, for the needs of MEC service consumption, or for MEC app-to-app communication.

Another use case of interest for the automotive domain is the #8 (“MEC federation scenario for edge node sharing”), where the MEC federation may be also used to share edge capabilities from one operator to another, in situations where one of them has no edge resources in a certain region. This is particularly convenient for all operators that may want to join a federation and benefit from each other’s edge computing infrastructures, in the view of offering a global user experience to their customers, whichever country the customers are located. In addition to the requirements introduced by the first use case, this one is also requiring a connectivity between MEC platforms of Operator A and network gateway of Operator B (and vice versa) to optimize the service delivery form one operator to the other. Consequently, this implies the introduction in the MEC Standard of an information exchange mechanism to support application discovery/publishing as well as subscriber redirection.

The requirements defined by GR 035 (not only related to automotive domain, but in principle serving all MEC use cases) led naturally to the start of a normative work in ETSI MEC (work item GS 040), that will be focused of the definition of proper MEC Federation APIs as communication means between federation managers of different MEC Systems (i.e. the so-called EWBI, in OP parlance).

The ETSI MEC GR 035 report is the very first study in this domain, considering the GSMA requirements on MEC Federation, and the aim of ETSI ISG MEC is to collaborate with 3GPP and open source communities to deliver a consistent standard that could support an interoperable service offer to all stakeholders in the edge computing ecosystem.

This article was originally published on Embedded.

Dario Sabella is Chairman of ETSI MEC (Multi-access Edge Computing), an Industry Specification Group (ISG) within ETSI. He works with Intel as Senior Manager Standards and Research, driving new technologies and edge cloud innovation for advanced systems, involved in ecosystem engagement and coordinating internal alignment on edge computing across standards and industry groups. Prior to becoming ETSI MEC chair, from 2019 he served as vice-chairman, previously Lead of Industry Groups, and from 2015 vice-chair of IEG WG. Since 2017 he is also a delegate of 5GAA (5G Automotive Association). Before 2017 he worked in TIM (Telecom Italia group), as responsible in various research, experimental and operational activities on OFDMA technologies (WiMAX, LTE, 5G). He is author of several publications (40+) and patents (30+) in the field of wireless communications, energy efficiency and edge computing, Dario is IEEE senior member and has also organized several international workshops and conferences.


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