Multi-access edge computing or MEC is a type of network architecture that provides an IT service environment and cloud computing capabilities at the network‘s edge. MEC achieves this by moving computing services and traffic away from a centralized data center and closer to the customer.
In other words, MEC is a use case of edge computing that seeks to provide highly efficient network operations and consistent service delivery while improving customer experience. Below, we’ve discussed more about multi-access edge computing: its characteristics, working principle, use cases, benefits, and everything in between.
Multi-access edge computing has five key characteristics, these are:
Proximity – MEC deployments are often close to the source of information or data to be processed, reducing the need for back and forth transfer of data to core locations.
Real-time operations – use cases that require real-time data processing and decision-making benefit greatly from multi-access edge computing, thanks to accelerated connectivity.
Ultra-low latency – with a latency of under 20 milliseconds, MEC guarantees faster response and enhanced user experience.
Continuous operations – applications using MEC architecture are localized; hence they run independently even when disconnected from the core network.
Interoperability – multi-access edge computing allows apps and systems to communicate easily without the need of migrating or adopting them to a new environment.
At the heart of multi-access edge computing is improved network efficiency. To understand how MEC works in the real world, we will use an everyday example for illustration. Take, for instance, a system or network that uses facial recognition to give users access to certain rooms or offices within the business premises. Typically, an application will communicate with the core network, and the latter will be connected to a backend server that runs the image analysis service.
Every time an employee needs access to a restricted room, the system captures their face and sends a request to the backend server via the core network. The server performs image analysis and decides whether to allow or restrict access. Here the latency could be 50ms to 100ms.
Now, imagine that the business upgrades its security, and instead of a mere facial recognition feature, employees will need to display their faces and speak some password or command through a video recorder attached to every entrance. Latency would then become a challenge due to the resource-intensive nature of live video and audio recording.
Multi-access edge computing solves this problem by moving image analysis services from the backend servers and closer to the live video recording application on the core network. The end results are reduced latency, faster image processing, and near real-time response, allowing employees to access the restricted areas without delays.
For these reasons, multi-access edge computing is broadly defined as the new era of cloud computing that leverages cloud technologies, mobility, and edge computing to move apps closer to end-users and computing services closer to the data to be processed.
MEC-enabled networks being time-sensitive, benefit a lot from the high-speed data transfer and processing offered by the 5G network. The latter offers speeds of up to 10 times that of 4G, while MEC reduces latency by moving compute power into the network and closer to the end-user. These two technologies come together to boost the performance of applications and allow huge amounts of data to be transferred and processed in real-time.
Some service providers now offer 5G MEC solutions that achieve high-end computing dynamic and intelligent connections, enabling new business models and accelerating edge service innovation. With the integration of MEC and 5G, these providers can also enhance network security, improving the quality of service to the end-users. The distributed networking capability is another benefit that allows for a greater capacity to handle several inter-connected devices within a remote environment.
The rapid adoption of digital transformation and the explosion of connected devices has increased the need for an agile and scalable network infrastructure that delivers higher volumes of data in less time. Therefore, multi-access edge computing has become an ideal option for several industries that leverages it for various use cases. These include:
AR and VR deployments – for augmented and virtual reality applications to work optimally, there’s a need for fast response times and low latency. MEC offers these benefits, and for that reason, it has seen wide adoption among AR and VR companies looking to launch new products and services.
Industrial IoT – industries use multi-access edge computing to run various operations, from real-time monitoring of processes to predictive analysis. Some also deploy MEC-enabled devices to improve safety levels in the industrial environment with the help of real-time data recording and analysis tools.
Customer services – businesses in the commercial, industrial, and B2B sectors have begun using multi-access edge computing to boost customer service operations. The ability to access data and statistical analytics faster and in-real time can also help enhance unified communication and boost decision-making in and outside the business.
Multi-access edge computing is attractive to different market players due to the set of benefits it offers in terms of network connectivity, reliability, scalability, security, and cost. These are the main advantages of multi-access edge computing.
Reduced latency – latency is the time it takes for data to move from one point of a network to another. Having several devices connected across different networks causes data transfer issues due to delays in releasing data packets. By bringing compute services closer to the network edge, MEC significantly reduces communication latency.
Greater reliability and security – multi-access edge computing can be reliable and secure if the technology is deployed correctly. Partnering with the right edge computing provider means access to sophisticated security solutions that would otherwise be unavailable with public cloud deployments. By distributing data across a network and sealing all the security loopholes, it’s possible to safeguard data from serious cyber threats such as DDoS attacks.
Scalability and savings – Multi-access edge computing is highly scalable, allowing businesses to expand or dial back on services without incurring high costs.
In the highly interconnected business environment, organizations that adopt multi-access edge computing stand a chance to enhance their network capabilities while boosting customer experience.
Before deploying any edge computing solutions, always assess your current and future networking needs. You also want to work with an expert IT consultant to help you choose the best edge computing infrastructure that suits your unique business needs.