The original design of the Internet was hierarchical, consisting of an access, distribution, and core network. Clients would connect to access networks, including fixed line, cellular, and WiFi, in order to reach content and applications hosted on the Internet. Subscriber traffic would transit one or more core network, depending on where the content and applications resided.
As the Internet has grown, however, content and applications have migrated to the network edge. One such example - Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) - hosts images and videos on behalf of Internet destinations and content providers. CDNs may be provided by operators themselves, third parties, and content providers and aggregators (i.e., Netflix Open Connect, Google Global Cache). These CDNs have increasingly peered directly with access network operators in order to improve subscriber experience. Other low latency application providers, such as Voice over LTE (VoLTE), video conferencing, voice-based search and navigation applications, have followed suit, building data centers or deploying local servers closer to access networks.
IoT and Vertical Applications Driving a New Mobile Edge
With the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), new applications and services are expected to benefit from deployment at the network edge. Vertical applications, such as those enabling Connected Vehicles, and applications that deliver experiences based on real-time interactions with devices, such as augmented reality are expected to benefit from not just low-latency, but the improved bandwidth inherent in residing in closer proximity to subscribers.
Such is the case with the growing trend to bring cloud to the edge of the mobile networks. And not just the current mobile edge, in the S/Gi-LAN, post-packet core. In December 2014, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) established an Industry Specification Group (ISG) on Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) to develop a standardized, open environment that allows for the efficient and seamless integration of third-party applications across multi-vendor platforms. The MEC ISG is developing terminology, service scenarios, technical requirements (including use cases and their benefits) and a framework and reference architecture, with future plans to work on platform services, APIs and interfaces for a node that resides between the eNodeB and the EPC.
Brocade’s Role In The New Mobile Edge
Brocade has been participating in this working group since the second half of 2015, and has unique capabilities applicable to the mobile edge virtual infrastructure, including the Brocade 5600 vRouter. Note that the mobile edge virtual infrastructure is different from the Mobile Edge Platform (provided through partnership) identified in the ETSI MEC architecture work – Brocade’s capabilities fit squarely in the Virtualization Infrastructure identified by ETSI MEC, upon which the Mobile Edge Platform and Mobile Edge Applications reside.
Brocade’s Software Defined Network (SDN) capabilities, such as the Brocade SDN Controller, provide additional capabilities for the integration and interaction with the mobile edge virtual infrastructure.
Brocade Virtual Core for Mobile (VCM) solutions, including a fully functional Virtual Evolved Packet Core (vEPC), provide a mechanism to localize Access Point Names (APNs) onto the mobile edge virtual infrastructure.
The Brocade virtual Packet Broker (vPB) delivers real-time, programmable network visibility into the traffic traversing the mobile edge virtual infrastructure.
By pushing IT and cloud-computing capabilities in the Radio Access Network (RAN) as close to the mobile subscriber as possible, MEC puts intelligence, applications, and content closer to devices and their users. The result is a low latency, high bandwidth environment capable of improving service experience. Operating on individual servers or in a cloud-based services environment at the edge of the mobile network, Brocade mobile edge virtual infrastructure capabilities:
Address both the performance and cost challenges created by a more-centralized services edge, including increased latency caused by locating services back to the center of networks, lack of visibility into network conditions, decreased security, and higher delivery costs.
Create a new revenue stream for mobile operators to deliver a distributed Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform for third-party applications that benefit from closer proximity to the RAN.
Brocade’s approach to the mobile edge virtual Infrastructure is unique, while still delivering the capabilities and requirements to Mobile Edge Platform and applications. The approach simultaneously integrates in multiple operator domains – the backhaul network, operator NFV, and the cloud:
The Mobile Edge Host is a network element, and must be capable of coexisting in the mobile operator backhaul network, including networks where operators deploy Security Gateways (SeGWs) for encrypting the S1-U interface, and participate in network routing.
The Mobile Edge Host is the NFV-I for operator services, and must integrate seamlessly into NFV Management and Orchestration (MANO) to allow operators to migrate specific mobile Access Point Names (APNs) and associated S/Gi-LAN services and service function chains to the MEC infrastructure platform.
The Mobile Edge Host is a distributed IaaS platform, extending the cloud to the edge of the mobile network, and must provide cloud APIs for third-party application providers in a manner that is consistent with those from public cloud providers
The following diagram highlights Brocade’s approach to the mobile edge versus the current industry perspective.
Developing a Mobile Edge Platform
Brocade believes MEC will play a key role in future generation networks, specifically as 5G network technology standards are defined and the continued growth of the Internet of Things (IoT)/Machine-to-Machine (M2M) services, and other analytics-driven services create increased network congestion and the need for real-time data processing. Technology improvements, including low latency, better flexibility, agility, use of virtualization, network and context awareness, and more can provide the opportunity to increase the quality of experience of end users and make network operations more cost-effective and competitive.
In addition, Brocade is working with leading Mobile Edge service and application developers to integrate their technology with Brocade mobile edge virtual infrastructure capabilities. Specifically, Brocade is working with ACS, PeerApp, Saguna Networks, and Vasona. We’d like to take a moment to let each of these vendors tell you about themselves, in their own words.
PeerApp provides software-defined solutions for acceleration, monetization and visualization of video and Web content delivery, today deployed across more than 500 service provider networks world-wide.
PeerApp’s MEC product allows MNOs to deploy and manage content-rich mobile edge, delivering popular video and Web content in high proximity to mobile subscribers.
The Edge Caching capabilities of the platform address the following mobile network pain points:
Offload backhaul capacity by 20-30%, resulting in CAPEX and OPEX savings and relief of backhaul capacity constraints
Boost subscriber QoE leveraging ultra-local content placement in the mobile access network
Enable scalable delivery of live and on-demand streaming video
The CDN Extension capability enables virtualized multi-tenant hosting of 3rd party CDNs and content services at the content-rich mobile edge.
Finally, PeerApp’s Online Monetization framework protects MNOs’ revenues by integrating the mobile edge content delivery into existing Policy Control and Charging infrastructure in an integration-free, fully 3GPP compliant way.
By joining forces with Brocade, PeerApp expects to benefit from Brocade’s best-of-breed New IP platform capabilities - shortening time to RAN footprint insertion, while demonstrating a practical path towards realizing broader MEC vision of standard-based multi-service mobile access cloud.
Saguna Open-RAN is the most advanced MEC platform in the market today. Based on the ETSI MEC standard, the virtualized software platform offers services to MEC applications such as Virtual Probes, IoT Backend Gateways and Content Delivery Networks (CDN).
MEC services provided by Saguna Open-RAN:
Traffic steering - High granularity Traffic Offload Function (TOF) service steers individual packets to the relevant MEC applications.
Content acceleration & optimization - DNS caching and Radio Network Information Service (RNIS) improve web content delivery by reducing latency, providing real-time cell congestion status and Radio Access Bearer information.
MEC application management - The registration service onboards MEC applications. It ensures that only certified applications are allowed and allocates the required MEC services to each application.
Mobility service – support ‘follow the user’ delivery to provide continuous local service to users on the move.
Geo targeting – Indoor and outdoor location service promotes personalization
Core Functionality –Support seamless integration with the Charging and Lawful interception systems
Since its founding, Vasona Networks has developed and provided solutions for better mobile user experiences, capacity and resource utilization, now deployed with Tier1 mobile network operators benefiting millions of users. Vasona key principles include:
intelligent support across the growing volume and diversity of mobile data applications in use
leveraging the mobile network edge for extensive and efficient access spanning all live traffic
confidence in an emerging era of open platforms and NFV driving infrastructure innovation, breaking away from more proprietary legacies
Vasona recently announced our SmartAIR Edge Services Platform (ESP), which provides essential platform functionality available to 3rd party and Vasona network applications. We are active participants across multiple industry initiatives, speeding the pace of innovation and and virtualization along with our partners and customers. 2016 is a momentous year of expanding mobile flexibility and opportunity. Key platform functionality, like location mapping of UEs to cells, traffic classification and steering, and real-time congestion detection by cell and by app, will become available for incorporation by third party network application developers.