BERLIN -- MEC Congress 2017 -- Are you ready for the next communications networking revolution? Because it's on the horizon, at the edge of the network: The addition of computing capabilities at the edge of a mobile or fixed network to enable processing closer to end users is something that's going to happen.
And that's not just the opinion of the crowd gathered here in Berlin, where the edge computing community has been gathered in recent days to take its own collective pulse. Network operators are citing edge computing as strategically important as the 5G world (which demands edge computing availability) in public speeches at industry events such as the recent Mobile World Congress Americas, at the current NFV & Carrier SDN event in Denver and, not surprisingly, here in Berlin, where the likes of Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica and Vodafone have talked of its importance and of their plans. (See CenturyLink: Edge Compute Critical, Not Easy and AT&T's CTO on Edge Compute & the Power of Low Latency.)
But while there's a certain inevitability about the deployment of such "edge computing" assets, the big questions still remain:
-- What are the edge computing use cases that meet a need right now?
-- What are the business cases that can offer a return on investment for edge computing deployments?
-- To what extent will telcos be able to use their NFV-supporting computing resources as part of their edge computing infrastructure?
-- Who will fund, build and manage the edge computing infrastructure -- will it be the telcos? After all, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure have already unveiled their distributed cloud strategies, which include the rollout of computing capabilities near to end users or on their premises, while Google has just taken its Cloud IoT Core management platform to public beta.
-- Will edge computing be enough to meet the needs of the 5G and IoT worlds, or is the broader distributed cloud (or fog) the way to go?
-- When will there be some at-scale edge computing deployments that can provide some ideas as to how it will actually work in conjunction with an existing network?
-- Will applications developers take any notice of telecom industry API specifications or just default to writing their apps to run on large cloud platforms such as AWS?
-- Can the communications networking industry get its shizz together to offer some kind of joined up, consistent approach to the challenge? This question needs to be addressed by both the network operators and the plethora of industry specifications and standards bodies that have "some skin in the game" in edge computing. It could be that we end up with another ONAP situation, whereby a major operator makes a major move and then feeds its results into the industry via an open source body, so creating a de facto "standard" approach. It's worth noting at this point that Telecom Infra Project (TIP) has an edge computing project up and running.
Some early answers are emerging to some of those questions, but what is clear from the past few days in Berlin is that there is now a great deal of movement on behalf of the network operators in terms of tests, trials, strategies and even an occasional early deployment that look certain to deliver some answers in 2018. But there are as yet no industry-wide, broadly applicable answers that will kickstart an edge computing gold rush.
And that's certainly what's missing currently: A game-changing edge computing plan that is accompanied by an eye-watering financial commitment. A few of those will be needed if some industry forecasts are to come true. (See US, Europe to Spend $272B on Edge Computing by 2026 – Analyst.)
In the meantime, here's some of the Light Reading coverage from Berlin plus some other relevant headlines, and then, below, a few snippets from the Congress.
- ARM Champions Fog, Not Just Edge Computing, for 5G
- Edge Computing Groups Wrestle With Interoperability
- Edging Closer: ETSI & OpenFog Team on Edge Computing APIs
- 5G Pushes Carriers Toward Cloud-Native NFV
- 5G Volume Knob Cranked to 11
- 'Hey! You Got Public Cloud on My Premises!'
— Ray Le Maistre, International Group Editor, and Iain Morris, News Editor, Light Reading