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What is multi-access edge computing (MEC)?

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Multi-access edge computing (MEC) is a type of network architecture that provides cloud computing capabilities and an IT service environment at the edge of the network. The goal of MEC is to reduce latency, ensure highly efficient network operation and service delivery, and improve the customer experience.

Multi-access edge computing (also known as mobile edge computing) is now more broadly defined as an evolution in cloud computing that uses mobility, cloud services, and edge computing to move application hosts away from a centralized datacenter to the edge of the network, resulting in applications that are closer to end users and computing services that are closer to application data. Technical and architectural standards for multi-access edge computing have mainly been developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).

Edge computing is computing that takes place at or near the physical location of either the user or the source of the data. MEC is an edge computing use case for service providers. 

As service providers move away from physical appliances and towards a service-based architecture the result is a decoupling that allows for a broader ecosystem where mobility workloads can run. When a mobility workload is placed further out in an environment, such as at the base station or access layer, and paired with the user-initiated workload, the resulting computing transaction is closer to the user than has been previously possible.

Many service providers are moving workloads and services out of the core network (in datacenters) toward the network’s edge, to points of presence and central offices. When a service provider moves mobile workloads closer to the end user, to increase throughput and reduce latency, the result is multi-access edge computing.

For example, when a 4G connected device attaches to a telecom service provider's mobile network, most of the mobile applications or, "the core," are centrally located in large, on-premise datacenters further away from the end user. Multi-access edge computing is what allows a service provider to move mobile workloads closer to the user.

Apps perform better and processing tasks happen more quickly when they are able to run close to where they are being used. The multi-access edge computing environment enables ultra-low latency and high bandwidth, along with data and radio network information that can be used by applications in real-time. 

Radio access networks (RAN) are crucial connection points between end user devices and the rest of an operator's network. RAN connects end user devices to services enabled by the operator, such as voice, data, and over the top (OTT) services like video streaming or healthcare services such as telemedicine that generate revenue for the service provider. 

MEC implementations make RAN accessible to authorized application developers and content providers, which allows them to use edge computing at the application level, as well as at the lower level of network functions and information processing.

5G can be considered a use case for edge computing, and it also enables other edge use cases.

As part of 5G deployment, service providers will need to virtualize network functions, which will simplify network operations and improve flexibility and availability, allowing them to create new services and capabilities. MEC is a way to meet the performance and latency requirements of 5G networks and improve the customer experience.

MEC and 5G can work together to deliver new applications and services. An MEC platform is where value-added services or "smart" applications delivered over 5G are run. For example, the MEC platform is where an AI/ML application would be deployed. 

The Red Hat portfolio of edge products brings the familiarity of our enterprise open source platforms out of your datacenter to the devices at the edges of your network.

Red Hat® Enterprise Linux® is an operating system that’s consistent and flexible enough to run enterprise workloads in your datacenter and make low-latency decisions on edge devices. It puts a consistent layer on inconsistent edge environments, helping you adapt to the challenges of deploying edge devices in harsh operating conditions all over the world.

Red Hat OpenShift® is a development platform with features to meet the limited space and power requirements of edge sites, and advanced cluster management tools that can manage every deployment—no matter where it is—with a single, consistent view that simplifies scaled-out edge architectures.

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