Amazon’s Greengrass provides fertile ground for MEC with IoT use cases

Amazon's Greengrass - edge compute for IoT applications - provides early commercial opportunity for MEC.

Amazon’s announcement of its AWS Greengrass solution has providers of MEC platforms excited that this could be a key app to spread adoption and usage of the MEC (Multi access Edge Computing) architecture. 

Amazon greengrass AWS IOTGreengrass is a solution architecture developed by AWS that combines centralised cloud IoT platforms with edge-based processing and compute. The idea is that some applications can be processed in cloudlets right at the edge, without requiring a connection to the centralised Cloud. (Much of the data generated by IoT devices may never reach the cloud due to privacy requirements, latency constraints and costs.)

A blogpost from AWS CTO Werner Vogels says, “With AWS Greengrass, we can begin to extend AWS into customer systems—from small devices to racks of servers—in a way that makes it easy to do the things locally that are best done locally, and to amplify those workloads with the cloud.”

Amazon describes the set-up in this video below. Here’s the key architectural quote.

“Greengrass brings cloud programming and functionality to sets of IoT devices – empowering them to communicate and react when a Cloud connection is not possible. These devices together are known as a Greengrass group. Groups are defined and configured from the cloud.

The first step in creating a new Group is to establish a Greengrass core in this cloud definition. Every group needs a Greengrass core to function. Adding a core to your group represents a physical device on which you’ll install Greengrass core software. That core software securely connects your device to AWS. Once you’ve installed this software on your core device you continue to define the group in the cloud. Build safely in the cloud and then deploy your group to make it functional.”

In this architecture, an edge gateway or MEC platform deployed as part of a mobile operator’s network could be one natural host for that Greengrass core – the physical device as mentioned by Amazon in its video.

Two of MEC’s most vocal proponents, Saguna Networks and Nokia have announced they are partners with AWS on its Greengrass programme.

Saguna Networks said that it is a Greengrass launch partner, as its Open-RAN gateway – an MEC platform creates a standard-based (ETSI MEC) cloud-computing ecosystem inside the radio access network – supports Greengrass.

“At Saguna, we are proud that AWS Greengrass is now available on the mobile network edge using our MEC platform. This seamless meeting of cloud computing and communication networks, creates new monetisation opportunities for mobile operators and customers. Providing security and low latency benefits to IoT applications enables the creation of new compelling IoT services” said Lior Fite, Saguna’s CEO.

Nokia too said it would be partnering with AWS on Greengrass.

A blog post from Thorsten Robrecht said, “For years I’ve observed the convergence of IT and telco and believe that cloud services are one of the areas where the two paths have definitely crossed. And we have further confirmation this week at the AWS Pop-Up Loft event in San Francisco this week, where AWS (Amazon Web Services) announced that Nokia Multi-access Edge Computing has been chosen to complement their Greengrass (GG) software. The combination of Nokia MEC and AWS GG distributed cloud capabilities will bring significant advantages to the Industrial IoT ecosystem – to IoT sensors, devices and application developers.”

Robrecht cited mining and oil platforms where Nokia’s “MEC-GG” can add value, writing, “KPI performance figures from Nokia MEC and AWS GG testing in Nokia Lab are very promising: 93% of messages were processed at the edge of the network, round-trips time decreased by 28% and latency was 39% lower compared to the case where data needs to reach the centralised core.”

It should be noted that MEC platforms, such as Nokia’s and Saguna’s, are not the only potential hosts for the Greengrass core software, nor is there a specific need for a mobile network connection for Greengrass. However there is a clear synergy between the edge-based Greengrass and MEC’s architecture, and the architecture also provides a way for mobile operators to combine services over cellular networks with public cloud deployments in AWS, rather than operators owning a cloud application end to end.

Other Greengrass technology partners announced by AWS include Annapurna, BSquare, Canonical, Digi International, Intel, Lenovo, Mongoose, Qualcomm Technologies, Raspberry Pi, Samsung, Technicolor and Wistron.