5G is enabling an era of user-centric network by bringing in the concept of network slicing and composable networking. This has caused a fundamental shift from “network aware application design” to “application-centric network provisioning”. It marks a major step in network architecture. The big question, however, is how the network will compose and organize itself to deliver diverse user requirements that may contend for the same network resources with conflicting attributes. Edge computing is one of the key enablers that helps achieve this goal.
Need for edge computing
Cloud computing has revolutionized the way we perform computational tasks, be it hosting an analytics application, web services or enterprise applications. However, cloud architecture gets challenged when computing servers and high-volume data sources are far away. If the use-case can wait for remote data to be transported within an acceptable time, this architecture still delivers value. When computation needs to be performed in real-time but the data cannot be transported in real-time, then this architecture fails. This is where edge computing comes in. Ideally, equipping the data source with the required computing power is the best option, but it may not be the most economic option. For example, if we want a mobile phone to perform video analytics using machine learning algorithm with a large image repository, it will be a very expensive and power-hungry phone.
Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) is a natural development in the evolution of mobile base stations and the convergence of IT and telecommunications networking. MEC enables new vertical business segments and services for consumers and enterprise customers. Edge computing architecture brings in computing at the edge, which deals with local data, does the necessary processing to derive insights, and reaches out to the central cloud computing platform with low amounts of data, only if required.
Edge computing is not just about hosting them close to end users and the data source. It is also about the way use-case realization is made possible by fundamental architectural constructs at the edge. MEC provides a new ecosystem and value chain as they have the option to authorize third parties, allowing them to flexibly and rapidly deploy innovative applications and services toward mobile subscribers, enterprises and industry verticals.
The addition of this edge computing option adds several interesting possibilities of composing and delivering innovative applications and solutions. Many existing distributed applications can get a large capacity and performance boost. For example, the whole multi-player online gaming experience will be enhanced when a part of the logic is processed at a common edge closer to the players.
The below diagram shows the various options of deploying application components and distributing information processing along the path of the data.