Telecom edge vs. enterprise edge: With MEC, who should control what?

Shared risk and shared responsibility as public and private MEC are deployed

Under the shingle of mobile edge computing (MEC), there are a lot of edges and a lot of ways to describe them. Here we’ll focus on the distinction between the telecom edge operators use to deliver a variety of consumer and enterprise services as compared to an enterprise-owned edge infrastructure that’s connected to a network.

According to Dell Technologies’ Douglas Lieberman, senior director, Global Solutions Co-creation Services, “The interesting part is who is controlling the management, orchestration of the edge—is that a telco or an enterprise? With 5G being the enterprise G, the standards and the way it’s being implemented is enabling a much tighter integration between what an enterprise needs and what the telco is delivering…The enterprise has the ability to integrate with the telco backend and provide services in a new way they haven’t thought of before.” 

For operators, the opportunity is to deploy MEC in a way that simultaneously makes the network more efficient by distributing a management and orchestration layer while also supporting enterprise workloads. “They’re setting themselves up for success there because they will be able to get a chunk of that revenue through services or partnerships with SIs [system integrators] or directly with the enterprise by hosting higher level services on the same MEC.”

The struggle, Lieberman said, is around end-to-end integration and it’s a challenge facing the entire telecoms industry. He likened it to the slow and long-underwhelming development of the internet of things (IoT). “For 20 years everything was going to be IoT and companies–telcos, SIs, tech companies–invested billions of dollars building ‘build-it-and-they-will-come’ frameworks and foundational systems that never really returned monetization. They never really got a one-size-fits-all platform and you could just buy one thing. There’s a great deal of momentum in the industry behind the need for MEC. But what everyone is kind of doing at the moment is figuring out how do I bring it together end to end?”

Integration of network, management, security, application, support, and maintenance into MEC-as-an-appliance that can run video surveillance, healthcare diagnostic, or industrial automation workloads on a customer premise is something carriers are delivering with partners today. The next step to monetization is “how do we monetize the base of a cellphone tower or monetize the real estate that we own?” Lieberman said. 

He continued: “If the telco really wants to capitalize and maximize the return on that MEC investment, they’re going to have to be able to do the same thing every cloud service provider does…work with all these different ISVs to prove or have pre-defined solutions. No one has solved that.” But the work is going on in earnest, as shown by a solution led by Lieberman’s team at Dell Technologies. 

To read more about how mobile edge computing is creating new revenue opportunities for smart manufacturing and other areas, read the report, “Monetizing MEC: What’s the value in the edge?” And check out the companion webinar featuring speakers from Google Cloud, Inseego and VoltDB. 

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