A Brief Overview of Multi-Access Edge Computing

Multi-access Edge Computing initially appeared like an ETSI ISG in 2016, reflecting the natural growth of mobile Base Stations and the Radio Access Network (RAN). The description was originally specified as Mobile Edge Computing, but it was modified in September of that year to reveal that the same ideas outlined in the initial specifications were applicable to fixed Wi-Fi, wireless, and wireline access. The ETSI MEC ISG papers under progress may be accessed here.

Multi-Access Edge Computing architecture enables the deployment of software-only mobile functionalities or Software-as-a-Service applications that run solely within a standardized virtualization platform deployed at or near the network edge.  

The Multi-Access Edge Computing application is divided into two functional areas: host and management. Both host and system-level administrative entities are in the management layer. The combination of these functional elements forms the basis for running a distributed environment for instantiating and scaling mobile services and applications in a highly dynamic and granular manner.

The virtualization infrastructure, which provides compute, storage, and network resources to mobile edge applications, is at the heart of the mobile edge host. Within the virtualization architecture, data plane functionality implements policies and carries out access control lists while transmitting traffic between mobile apps and network services. These might be local to the host or external to hosts in different networks.

Within the host, the mobile edge platform offers service and application help for mobile apps. This comprises mobile edge service authentication and permission, as well as their discovery, advertising, and notification of any state changes. The mobile edge platform manages the spin-up, quiescence, and graceful termination of mobile edge apps under the guidance of the mobile edge platform manager. The platform stores all data relevant to the mobile edge app instance, including any transport requirements, traffic rules, and DNS rules.

The mobile edge platform manager is in charge of the whole application lifecycle and notifies the mobile edge system of any application-level events that occur. It also receives and processes virtualization infrastructure management status reports and performance measurement data (VIM). The VIM is a vital component of the ETSI NFV ISG architecture requirements since it is in charge of assigning, maintaining, and releasing virtualized computing, storage, and networking resources – in other words, preparing the infrastructure to execute a software image.

The mobile edge orchestrator, a key component of the underlying mobile edge system, maintains a comprehensive picture of the mobile edge hosts, including their available resources and services. Mobile edge orchestrator records and on-boards programs, performs integrity checks and validates that the policies and conditions for executing the software packages are in accordance with operator policy. The mobile edge orchestrator may identify the most relevant mobile edge host from which to instantiate an application by having a comprehensive topological picture of the whole mobile edge system. This is usually determined by the available services, necessary resources, and infrastructure demands, such as latency.

External operations support systems (OSS) communicate with the mobile edge orchestrator through mobile edge management reference point one (Mm1), the specifications for which are outlined in ETSI GS MEC 010-2. Between management functions, orchestration elements, and host programs, additional Mm reference points are established, while 2  Mx reference points communicate with foreign entities. The mobile edge platform reference points provide service registration, discovery, and communications interfaces to local or distant applications. This reference point group also communicates with the data plane, providing instructions to the underlying infrastructure on how to route traffic between applications and network services.

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