Another MEC initiative targets key holes in edge compute standards

Welcome to the MEC Experience: a group of operators is looking to plug holes in the edge.

A group of operators have established a technology initiative designed to fill in gaps in existing mobile edge standards.

Four operators, Telefonica, KT, China Unico and Telstra, will work with technology company Altran to develop and test software solutions that they will then submit to open source and standards organisations developing mobile edge computing standards.

The initiative, known as the Multi-Operator Multiaccess Edge Computing (MEC) Experience, is part of the GSMA Operator Platform project. This is a wider initiative to bring some shape and order to mobile operator edge cloud deployments, finding means to federate them to make it easier for enterprises and developers to do business with operators. 

Juan Carlos Garcia, SVP Technology and Architecture Telefonica, said that the operator has been assessing how to monetise its network capabilities within the new 5G architecture, including how to expose and monetise its edge capabilities. There are currently a number of solutions to expose network capabilities via APIs, but after assessing 30-40 commercial solutions on the market, Telefonica concluded nobody had a mature telco-grade solution and also that many were lacking the basic functionality to meet its needs.

Nor did the standards hold all the answers. Garcia said that the standards had holes in three main areas. First, in the connection of different operator edge platforms. Second, how to handle mobility of a device between different edge locations within the same network, and third, service continuity when a user requiring an edge-enabled application leaves one operator’s network and roams onto another operator’s network.

The work that the MEC Experience group does might complement commercial trials being planned by another recently-formed operator group, the Telco Edge Cloud. The Telco Edge Cloud is also operating as part of the GSMA’s Operator Platform Project, and Garcia said that it is focused more on commercial implementation of MEC specs, trialling different tactical approaches such as MobiledgeX’s aggregator model. The MEC Experience is focused on delivering those technical requirements that will be missing whatever edge cloud delivery model is chosen.

It will also concentrate on contributing its specifications to the ETSI MEC working groups and into open source programmes. There are a host of edge-focussed open source programmes, such as Akraino Edge Stack, EdgeX Foundry and OpenStack StarlingX.  

However, the MEC Experience does appear to risk overlap with another group that sits outside of the GSMA umbrella – the 5G Future Forum. The 5G Future Forum, which has names such as Vodafone, Verizon and KT, is similarly focussed on cross-operator interoperability of edge environments, giving developers a common framework to address.

Garcia said that the MEC Experience had reached out to the 5GFF to understand more about its aims, but added he is not yet clear on what the group’s deliverables and objectives are. 

Altran’s Shamik Mishra, Vice President and Global Industry Chief Architect, said, “From an Altran perspective, we are a systems integration company, primarily, that’s our business. What we are trying to achieve here is to help a group of operators to solve a certain open set of problems that exists today in edge compute.”

“The best way to solve such problems is actually to build a reference implementation so we know what’s wrong, what exists and what the gaps are. And we then try to fill those gaps. The intention is to go through an open source or an open standard model, because whatever we find out needs to feed into the ecosystem.

“So we are looking to build a solution that can drive open standards and open APIs, and can fill those gaps which maybe the hyper-scalers are not looking at – such as mobility.” 

Mishra said that Altran would be basing its development on its existing Edge Compute offering.