ETSI gives the federated edge a push

Ian Scales
By Ian Scales

Jul 20, 2021

  • ETSI is looking to slicken up edge-to-edge communication and signalling, especially where MEC platforms or applications belong to different MEC systems
  • It's released a report to describe its approach, the current work status and the path ahead
  • The report includes use cases exploring V2X continuity and augmented reality gaming

ETSI is working on inter-MEC (multi-access edge computing) coordination so that mobile network operators can form federated MEC environments to exchange information at the edge with each other in a secure and structured way where MEC platforms or applications belong to different MEC systems. To that end, ETSI has just released a new group report to explain where it is with the effort. The report was motivated by the mobile network operators’ interest in forming federated MEC, says ETSI.

“As MEC deployments gain momentum, inter-MEC system communication is an imperative requirement in today's as well as the future's, edge computing industry and ecosystem - a federated model of MEC systems enables shared usage of MEC services and applications,” said Dario Sabella, Chair of the ETSI ISG MEC. “However, to unlock the full potential of federated MEC environments, an effective and well-defined signalling framework among MEC system entities is needed, both at system level and at host level. The report (downloadable at GR MEC 0035) studies this framework for the first time.“

In fact it seems likely that other players are already coming at the general edge connectivity/orchestration issue from different places with different perspectives and a different bag of tricks. Over the past 6 months especially, the hyperscale players have all moved in to plant flags in various telco edges and will no doubt be looking at the ways they can orchestrate services across them.

“Edge orchestration is an area that a lot of companies are getting involved with in one way or another,” said Dalia Adib, Edge Lead at London-based consultants, STL.  “It’s quite a confusing space to to be in at the moment,” 

It’s also an area that the GSMA has been tackling and, says Dario Sabella, the ETSI work may require further alignment with other standard bodies to avoid duplication of effort.

In  early 2020 the GSMA announced the Telco Edge Operator Platform, a specification designed to help the ecosystem – including operators and developers – to create and deploy compelling edge-based services (see - Operators line up to trial GSMA’s telco edge platform). 

The GSMA subsequently launched the Telco Edge Cloud (TEC) Forum, where companies that are “actively developing an open, standard and global edge computing service [can give shape] to the future development of this category," according to Juan Carlos Garcia, SVP of technology innovation and ecosystems at Telefónica. 

It’s certainly an area that’s getting a lot of attention with telcos anxious to ramp up the prospects for 5G becoming the default way of users getting access to advanced edge-based services for gaming and immersive experiences of all kinds. Certainly multi-user, high octane online games where performance will be dictated by minimal latency between players, will need inter-system coordination and high-performance edge-to-edge linkage. 

The ETSI report analyses eight use cases that require these characteristics, including those in multi-mobile network operators’ (MNOs) environments. Recommendations, evaluations and possible technical solutions to solve key issues are issued in the report for each use case.

Two use cases explore V2X service continuity (cars moving from one operator to another) which will likely be a typical  federation scenario in an MEC-system environment with multiple operators and multiple equipment manufacturers.

Another use case describes a location-based immersive Augmented Reality game where a MEC federation enables an interactive AR application with users connected via different mobile operators.

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