MUNICH -- Mobile Edge Computing Congress -- ETSI's "Mobile Edge Computing" group is changing its name to "Multi-Access Edge Computing" to reflect the organization's efforts to cover WiFi and fixed access technologies as part of its specifications work.
The name change, which was sanctioned a few days ago but revealed at today's Mobile Edge Computing Congress in Munich, conveniently allows European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to retain the MEC acronym, which has become widely recognized among stakeholders in the industry.
It will not take effect, however, until early next year, when the ETSI ISG (industry specification group) that is dedicated to MEC will embark on the second phase of its work.
The ISG was due to wrap up activities in March but has now received a two-year extension that will enable it to investigate the use of edge computing outside a mobile-only access environment.
"We asked for an extension and modified our terms of reference with the objectives of the next phase and this was all agreed last week," said Nurit Sprecher, the chair of the ISG and an edge-computing specialist at Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), during a presentation at the MEC Congress. "We're going to extend beyond 3GPP access technologies to cover WiFi and fixed."
Sprecher was at pains to emphasize that ETSI remains just as committed to the development of specifications based on mobile access technologies.
ETSI's plans to expand the scope of its work were first reported by Light Reading last week and reflect some of the questions that are being raised about the role that mobile edge computing -- and ETSI itself -- will play in a so-called "distributed cloud" future. (See ETSI Gets Edgy About Mobile.)
Some of the world's biggest operators have flagged interest in moving compute-and-storage capabilities much closer to the end user to improve performance, lower expenses and even realize new service opportunities.
But with various associations springing up to address edge-computing requirements, doubts have emerged about who takes the lead.
ETSI has been trying to coordinate activities with a number of those organizations but is eager to remain the "center of gravity" for the development of edge computing, in Sprecher's words.
"Some activities, such as MEC integration with 5G architecture, will need to go beyond ETSI," she says. "It is natural that the 3GPP will work on that and we need to work with them rather than reinventing."
Another challenge is to align the work of the ETSI MEC group with that of a separate unit developing specifications for NFV technology, which would allow operators to run network functions as software programs on commodity hardware.
Gabriel Brown, an analyst at the Heavy Reading market research business, has previously expressed concern about the overlap between the two groups and the risk that two separate management and orchestration systems eventually emerge.
"We are trying to use as much as possible from NFV but there are still missing parts," says Sprecher. "We are going to present a study to the NFV community to get comments and proposals and together decide on the specifications."
Sprecher also revealed that ETSI has just signed an agreement with Open Edge Computing, one of several associations promoting its own vision of edge computing, and that an agreement with OpenFog -- yet another initiative -- is in the works.
"OpenFog is planning to use architecture and APIs defined within ETSI and provide specific applications on top of that," she told conference attendees. "Both organizations want to collaborate on technical and marketing requirements and this [agreement] will be set up very soon."
The agreement with Open Edge Computing also looks important as ETSI prepares to go beyond its original mobile remit.
Sprecher told Light Reading that both associations would feed their ideas into ETSI in future. "OpenFog doesn't develop architecture or APIs but it's important for us to understand their requirements and come out with the same marketing messages," she said.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading