What the heck is MEC?

October 13, 2015

cowboyFor those who have been following our posts for the last few years, we have been discussing three emergent trends:

  1. The blurring of the lines between mobile operator and enterprise infrastructure.
  2. The reversal of common IT platform services spend from 80% capex/20% opex to 20% capex/80% opex.
  3. The innovation opportunity created by mobility and the immense untapped capability of mobile operating systems to transform business.

Each trend is discussed in the context of computing needs in the cloud services offerings and, in the near future, edge processing inside the enterprise. The use of edge processing has been slow to emerge due to a lack of standards and the need to accumulate enough interest to catalyze the mobile operator market.

In the last year, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute “ETSI” kicked off an initiative to more fully develop Mobile Edge Computing “MEC” (pronounced MECk) and create a common technical landscape. This will allow the Independent Software Developer “ISV” community to more easily develop packages that are portable to any RAN vendor’s MEC hardware platform. You can learn more here. This is exciting to us as it’s a further proof point that the journey that SpiderCloud has been on to create an awesome customer experience along with critical services has been embraced by mobile operators and their key suppliers.

SpiderCloud spoke at the first MEC Congress, in London on 29-30 Sept 2015, about our early prototypes and experiences with our E-RAN in learning about the market and technology potential in the past five years. While many of the present considerations around MEC are focused on foundations for 5G services, SpiderCloud has been showing enterprise-focused services targeted at increasing revenue directly, or as feeder service that must be performed locally.

A few examples could be helpful to illustrate them:

  • Increasing revenue: Unified Communications tying the native interfaces on a mobile device to the enterprise’s infrastructure have drawn interest from enterprises that wish to integrate and simplify the lives of their business customers who are highly mobile. This reduces the need to build “enterprise OTT”, and simplifies day-to-day usage.
  • Feeder Service: Location Based Services raw events are capable of generating a very large stream and can impact backhaul if it’s sent in raw form to a cloud service. We collaborated withVodafone and HP to build an on-board x86 Services Blade and App for the E-RAN’s Services Node. The process of events stream into UE locations could easily be handed to an external application using the context of UE locations to make better decisions within an equipped facility. The edge service was necessary due to both time critical events, and the sheer volume.

The E-RAN’s ability to conduct many of these early prototypes is directly related to the Services Node aggregating the cloud of radios in the building. All mobility events are “in front” of the x86 Services Blade such that mobility event handling and context switching don’t need to be incorporated into the macro-network. Further, the cost of x86 processing capacity is amortized across all the Radio Nodes in the building. This makes the business case work. If every small cell needed an onboard processor, edge computing could easily be cost prohibitive for most applications.

And, finally, 451 Research’s Ken Rehbehn moderated a webinar on MEC development with Intel’s Caroline Chan, McAfee’s Dan Frey, and SpiderCloud on 8 Oct that is available for replay here. It explored MEC concepts, SpiderCloud’s early edge cloud experiences, a deep dive into operating the McAfee NG-FW as an enterprise service, and a number of audience questions about MEC.

So, we welcome ETSI MEC as yet another proof point that the trail we are blazing with our early mobile operators in both R&D and deployment is going in the correct direction. As MEC applications hosting and use cases develop, we suggest that Product Managers in mobile operators pay attention to the indoor applications market as it’s very unique and potentially far more profitable, relative to MEC in the macro-cellular.

– Art King, SpiderCloud Wireless, Director of Enterprise Services & Technologies

Twitter: @EMobilityInside
Visit our Enterprise IT site @ http://SpiderCloud.com/EInsider


If You Can Scale Small Cells Inside, then Service IT: Small Cell Services at the Enterprise Edge

October 9, 2014

At the heart of SpiderCloud’s scalable 3G/4G small cell system is the Service Node (SCSN).

This is a “local” control point for the small cell network deployed inside the enterprise over existing Ethernet. It’s also where the enterprise edge meets the mobile operators edge network. SpiderCloud’s small-cell system can provide cellular capacity and coverage to over 1.5 million sq.ft. of space and support over 10,000 voice and data subscribers.

Now why does that matter you may say? Beyond coverage and capacity, after credibility has been established with the IT department that mobile services work reliably inside the building, the Services Node is a strategic point of entry into the enterprise IT environment for mobile operators and business partners to service IT, and a potential great revenue opportunity.

A local control point is essential for Local IP Access (LIPA), also known as local switching and local breakout. LIPA enables content caching, access to content-based and localized services. The Services Node offers a platform to host Virtual Network Functions (from any source) at the edge of the network.   As shown in the figure below, the SCSN supports up to three modules: two Access Modules (AM) and a Services Module (SM).

The access module supports radio access technologies such as UMTS and LTE. The services module is designed to support third-party VNFs and is powered by an Intel Xeon processor. The module offers a Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) environment that enables hosting of multiple concurrent virtual appliances across different operating systems (Guest OS) and programming languages.  SpiderCloud has been working with 3rd party ISVs, to bring to market VNF’s associated with security, content filtering and content delivery. See more in Senza Fili’s recent report (“NFV lands in enterprise small cells”).

With the services module, mobile operators can host VNF’s at the edge. Recently, the new incoming chairman of the Small Cell Forum, Dr. Alan Law, pointed out the importance of small cell services, virtualization and leveraging processing power at the edge of the network in an interview with @Lightreading.

As an example, if you take SpiderCloud Wireless, for instance, and what they have with their services node, they have in essence a platform there potentially capable of running applications at the edge of the network already. In essence, you could start to exploit NFV in certain areas relatively quickly.”

SpiderCloud’s powerful services platform enables migration of content delivery and core network functions at the edge. Also, the Services Node becomes a single point of inspection for all mobile traffic coming into or leaving an enterprise or venue, enabling intelligent data filtering and caching applications. In addition, SpiderCloud’s 3G/4G Services Node offers location and presence detection capabilities that enable context aware VNF’s, or Network as a Service (NaaS) opportunities. Dr. Alan Law goes on to say:

As a mobile device moves, it reports measurements to and from networks. Having to pull all those measurements back takes a lot of bandwidth. So if you wanted a location function, you would push that location function to the edge of the network to process all those functions being reported, so you get the best granularity of the data, but without the burden of having to port those features deeper into the network.”

The Services Node provides a trusted connection to the Radio Nodes and a logical view into all devices on the network to enable secure services to any mobile device on the network. The SCSN enables mobile operator managed cloud and application services, such as MDM, BYOD, location and context-aware, security, and IP-PBX services. The Intel Quad-Core Xeon Processor is the basis for the services module, which enables us to host virtual machines on the Services Node.

With Intel, SpiderCloud has established several services partners to showcase how managed services for enterprise customers are enabled via the existing small cell system.

  • Security threat detection with virtualized Network Security Platform (NSP) to identify and prevent network security threats at the edge of the mobile network, before such threats can reach the core network, by blocking malicious packets sent by a mobile device.
  • Location and detection. Using a virtual machine hosted on the Services Node, IBM can demonstrate handset-to-location video and advertising “push” services for use at venues and shopping malls.
  • Caching at the Edge (stadiums). Saguna can show backhaul savings and user experience benefits of a centralized content cache on the Services Node as part of a scalable small cell system for large campus, venues and shopping malls.
  • Context Aware Applications and Location Based Services. SpiderCloud, HP and Vodafone UK won a Small Cell Forum award in June 2014 for innovative work in this area.
  • PBX Integration: Tango Networks (enterprise). Druid Software PBX for Hospitals.

 

You can read more about the progress of small cell services for the enterprise in one of these recent RCR Wireless articles:

Keep in mind, by fixing in-building mobility with a scalable small cell system capable of also offering managed mobility services, the blurring of the lines between the enterprise and service provider networks will extend the “edge” of the mobile network from the operator’s core into the enterprise premise – thus opening the door for IOT, LBS, NFV and UC services on ONE common platform.

A 2013 research study by Exact Ventures outlined a $100 billion emerging market opportunity for mobile operators in providing mobility services for enterprise customers. The research showed that enterprise customers could save 35% a year by adopting such operator-delivered managed and hosted services. This report and estimate would be wayyyy off. It could indeed be way more.

Meet with SpiderCloud to discuss small cells and services at one of these upcoming events.  Our next presentation is at Small Cells MENA in Dubai October 27-28, followed by Small Cell Deployment & HetNet in Atlanta on November 4-7.

Ronny Haraldsvik
SVP/CMO

Twitter: haraldsvik
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