What is multi-access edge computing (MEC)?
by Christopher Trick, on May 1, 2023 8:35:11 AM
The increasing demand for low-latency and high-bandwidth applications and services, such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and Internet of Things (IoT), has led to the popularity of multi-access edge computing (MEC) as a solution to improve the performance and efficiency of the network.
In this blog, you'll learn more about multi-access edge computing, how it works, various use cases, and where Trenton's solutions come into play.
What is multi-access edge computing (MEC)?
Multi-access edge computing (MEC, formerly known as mobile edge computing, is a distributed computing architecture that brings computational capabilities and services closer to the end-users and devices at the network edge.
In MEC, computation, storage, and network resources are placed at the network edge, in proximity to end-users, devices, and sensors, instead of being centralized in data centers located farther away.
The "multi-access" in multi-access edge computing (MEC) refers to the ability of MEC to support multiple types of access technologies, such as cellular, Wi-Fi, and wired connections, and to enable seamless connectivity across different access networks.
In other words, different devices to access different types of technologies simultaneously, depending on their availability and proximity, and seamlessly switch between them as needed.
MEC can be deployed in different types of access networks, such as 5G, LTE, Wi-Fi, and fixed-line networks, and can provide computing resources and services to devices and applications connected to these networks.
MEC also enables the convergence of different access technologies and the coordination of multiple access points, allowing devices to seamlessly switch between different networks and access points while maintaining the same level of service and performance.
For example, a user can start streaming a video over Wi-Fi and continue watching it while moving to a cellular network, without any interruption or degradation in quality, thanks to MEC's ability to provide a consistent computing environment and optimize the use of network resources.
How does multi-access edge computing work?
Multi-access edge computing (MEC) works by deploying computational, storage, and network resources at the network edge, typically in small data centers or computing nodes located near cell towers, base stations, or access points.
MEC servers are interconnected with the core cloud infrastructure and can be accessed by end-users and devices via wireless or wired connections. MEC servers can run various types of applications and services, such as video processing, data analytics, machine learning, content caching, and more.
When a device or an application requests a service, the MEC server closest to the device or the application processes the request and returns the response, without sending the data to the cloud. This reduces the latency and the bandwidth requirements and improves the overall performance and efficiency of the network.
MEC servers can also communicate with each other and with the cloud infrastructure, enabling the deployment of distributed applications and services that can leverage the resources of multiple nodes.
To ensure the security and privacy of applications and data, MEC servers can use various mechanisms, such as encryption, access control, authentication, and authorization. MEC also enables the deployment of edge-based security services, such as intrusion detection, threat prevention, and data filtering.
What are the benefits of multi-access edge computing?
Multi-access edge computing (MEC) offers several benefits for both network operators and end-users. Some of the key benefits of MEC are:
- Low latency: By bringing computation and storage resources closer to the end-users and devices, MEC reduces the latency and improves the response time of applications and services, which is particularly important for real-time and interactive applications such as gaming, augmented reality, and virtual reality.
- Improved Quality of Service (QoS): MEC provides a consistent and reliable computing environment at the network edge, which can improve the QoS of various types of applications and services, such as video streaming, data analytics, and machine learning.
- Reduced network congestion: MEC offloads the core cloud infrastructure by distributing computing and storage resources to the network edge, which can reduce the network congestion and improve the network efficiency, particularly in densely populated areas.
- Enhanced security and privacy: MEC enables the deployment of edge-based security services, such as intrusion detection, threat prevention, and data filtering, which can enhance the security and privacy of applications and data by keeping them closer to the source and reducing the exposure to potential security threats in the network.
- Cost savings: MEC can reduce the communication costs by minimizing the data transfer between the devices and the cloud infrastructure, as well as reducing the load on the network and the core cloud infrastructure, which can result in cost savings for both network operators and end-users.
- New revenue streams: MEC enables the deployment of new types of services and applications that require low latency and high bandwidth, such as autonomous vehicles, smart cities, industrial automation, and healthcare, which can create new revenue streams for network operators and service providers.
Multi-Access Edge Computing Use Cases
Military Use Cases
In a battlefield, military units need to communicate with each other and exchange real-time information, such as locations, maps, and target data, over secure and reliable communication channels. However, the communication infrastructure in a battlefield is often limited and prone to disruptions due to harsh environmental conditions and enemy attacks.
The challenge is to establish a robust and low-latency communication infrastructure that can support the communication needs of military units in a battlefield, without relying on centralized cloud infrastructure or vulnerable communication channels.
Multi-access edge computing can come into play by deploying computing and communication resources at the network edge, in proximity to the military units, and enabling secure and low-latency communication between the units. MEC servers can also provide real-time data analytics and situational awareness to the military units, allowing them to make informed decisions and respond to changing battlefield conditions quickly and effectively.
In a military operation, autonomous vehicles such as drones and unmanned ground vehicles are used to perform various tasks, such as reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition. However, the autonomous vehicles require real-time data processing and decision-making capabilities, which are often limited by the communication latency and bandwidth constraints in a battlefield.
The challenge is to enable autonomous vehicles to perform complex tasks and make real-time decisions, despite the limited computing and communication resources available in a battlefield.
Multi-access edge computing can come into play by deploying edge computing resources and services on the vehicles or at the network edge, allowing the vehicles to process data and make decisions locally, without relying on centralized cloud infrastructure or high-latency communication channels. MEC can also enable the coordination and collaboration between multiple autonomous vehicles, allowing them to perform complex tasks together and share the workload.
Critical Infrastructure Use Cases
Remote Monitoring and Control for Oil and Gas
In an oil and gas production facility, various sensors and equipment are used to monitor and control the production processes, such as temperature, pressure, and flow rate. However, the facility is often located in remote and harsh environments, with limited connectivity and unreliable communication channels.
The challenge is to enable remote monitoring and control of the production processes, despite the limited connectivity and harsh environmental conditions.
Multi-access edge computing can come into play by deploying edge computing resources and services at the facility, allowing the data from the sensors and equipment to be processed and analyzed locally, without relying on centralized cloud infrastructure or high-latency communication channels. MEC can also enable the remote control of the production processes, allowing operators to adjust the parameters and settings of the equipment in real-time, based on the analysis of the data.
In a public safety scenario, such as a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, various critical infrastructure systems, such as power grids, transportation networks, and communication systems, need to be maintained and operated under extreme conditions. However, the centralized control systems of the infrastructure are often vulnerable to disruptions and attacks, and the communication channels are often congested or unavailable.
The challenge is to ensure the resilience and continuity of the critical infrastructure systems, despite the disruptions and attacks, and to enable effective communication and coordination between the first responders and the operators.
Multi-access edge computing can come into play by deploying edge computing resources and services at the critical infrastructure sites, allowing the local operators to monitor and control the systems locally, without relying on centralized control systems or vulnerable communication channels. MEC can also enable the first responders to communicate and coordinate with the operators, using secure and low-latency communication channels, and to access real-time data and situational awareness from the infrastructure systems.
Where does Trenton Systems come into play?
At Trenton Systems, we provide our customers with COTS, TAA-compliant, 5G-powered computing solutions for enhanced compute/connectivity, increased scalability, and reduced total cost of ownership.
With Intel® Smart Edge and Intel® FlexRAN, our modular and non-modular rack mount servers and small form factor mission computers can work separately or together to provide multi-access edge computing capabilities to run multiple critical applications, networks, and services simultaneously in real-time at the edge.
We customize our solutions per customers most complex technical, performance, and environmental requirements. This includes the latest hardware- and software-based processing, intelligence, networking, security, and storage technologies, enhancing adaptability as workloads evolve.
It offers several benefits, such as low latency, improved Quality of Service (QoS), reduced network congestion, enhanced security and privacy, cost savings, and new revenue streams.
MEC can be applied in various use cases, such as military communication, autonomous vehicles, remote monitoring and control for oil and gas, and public safety.
Trenton Systems provides customized computing solutions that can support the deployment of MEC infrastructure, enabling high-performance computing at the network edge.
Want to learn more about our multi-access edge computing capabilities? Just reach out to us anytime here.