Industry Specification Group (ISG) on Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) Activity Report 2021

Chair: Dario Sabella, Intel

Developing specifications that allow the hosting of operator and third-party applications in a multi-vendor Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) environment; and accelerating the development of edge applications across industry to increase market scale and improve market economics.

A key enabler for 5G, Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) shifts processing away from remote data centres and closer to end-users at the ‘edge’ of the network. MEC enables a wide range of IoT and mission-critical vertical solutions, from gaming and Virtual Reality to Intelligent Transportation Systems and the industrial Internet. Supporting increasing QoS requirements for these applications and use cases, it also offers improved privacy and security.

MEC offers developers localized, low-latency resources to create innovative solutions which are essential to many vertical markets of the 5G era. ETSI’s ISG (Industry Specification Group) MEC is standardizing an open environment to enable the integration of applications from infrastructure and edge service providers across MEC platforms and systems. This work features the development of a standardized solution that enables seamless integration of applications from vendors, service providers and third parties across multi-vendor MEC platforms in a distributed cloud environment. Crucial to this is the creation of a consistent set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for developers to build services and applications.

As MEC deployments gain momentum, inter-MEC system communication is a key requirement in today's and tomorrow’s edge computing ecosystem. A federated model of MEC systems enables shared usage of MEC services and applications. However, to unlock the full potential of federated environments, an effective signalling framework is needed at both a system and host level.

Anticipating widescale industry adoption of MEC solutions, in 2021 the group maintained its focus on ‘Phase 3’ activities that consider a complex heterogeneous cloud ecosystem. This work embraces MEC security enhancements, expanded traditional cloud and NFV Life Cycle Management (LCM) approaches, and mobile or intermittently connected components and consumer-owned cloud resources.

Published in June 2021, a Group Report GR MEC 0035 presents a study of inter-MEC system deployment and MEC-Cloud system coordination. The report analyzes eight use cases requiring inter-system coordination, including those in multiple Mobile Network Operators’ (MNOs) environments. Recommendations, evaluations, and possible technical solutions to solve key issues are presented for each use case.

ISG MEC has continued to revise its specifications where needed and delivered part of them, like General principles, patterns and common aspects of MEC Service APIs, UE Identity API and WLAN Access Information API. The rest will be published in 2022.

In June ETSI also published White Paper No.46, titled ‘MEC security: Status of standards support and future evolutions’. Authored by several participants in ISG MEC and related ETSI groups, the paper identifies aspects of security where edge computing leaves typical approaches to cloud security insufficient. Providing an overview of ETSI MEC standards and current support for security, the paper also describes other relevant standards (including ETSI TC CYBER, ETSI ISG NFV, 3GPP SA3) and cybersecurity regulation potentially applicable to edge computing.

During the year development started on two further new white papers with the input of ISG MEC members. ‘MEC Support towards Edge Native Design’ and ‘MEC Federation – Deployment Considerations’ are both scheduled for publication in early 2022.

A successful ETSI NFV&MEC API Plugtests™ 2021 was conducted remotely in February. The month-long event allowed participants to self-evaluate the conformance of their API server implementations with network function virtualization and multi-access edge computing API specifications. It also allowed participants from more than 30 organizations to gather feedback on ETSI NFV and MEC API and Conformance Testing Specifications and associated Robot test suites. A second NFV&MEC Interoperability Plugtests™ event followed in October 2021.

The ETSI MEC Hackathon 2021 took place during the Edge Computing World from 12-15 October. The winner was the “A Team” from Optare solutions who presented a ‘flex drone’ concept, featuring edge AI autonomous drone flights compliant with ETSI MEC standards, and using MEC APIs offered by the MEC Sandbox.

January 2021 also marked the official launch of the ETSI MEC Sandbox. Available at it allows application developers to experience and interact with an implementation of ETSI MEC APIs while testing their own applications. Hosted virtually by ETSI, the Sandbox offers users a choice of scenarios combining different network technologies (4G, 5G, Wi-Fi) and terminal equipment such as vehicles, pedestrians or connected objects. Combining these simulated assets in a geolocated environment, developers can experience the behaviour of ETSI’s Location API, Radio Network Information API and WLAN Information service API.

Focused on accelerating development of the MEC ecosystem, ISG MEC Working Group DECODE (Deployment and ECOsystem Development) has continued to be highly active in 2021. For instance, the WG managed all MEC STFs, Proof of Concepts (PoCs), Deployment Trials (MDTs), MEC APIs, Testing and compliance, and Hackathons as well as MEC Sandbox. The MEC Ecosystem wiki continues to attract considerable interest. In 2021 it was renewed, re-styled and enriched with more content, including previous successful MEC events.

ISG MEC has maintained its collaboration with other organizations including 5GAA, GSMA and 3GPP groups. In December, ETSI MEC attended a webinar organized by GSMA OPG, that paved the way for a collaboration on MEC Federation.  

As in previous years, since January 2021 MEC officials have been present at quite a number of events to deliver presentations or attend panels. These include: Edge Computing World Europe, IEEE Healthcare conference Blockchain/AI and Telecom TV DSP Leaders World Forum 2021 in March; 360° Network Automation Congress (Joint session "ETSI Perspective day" with ZSM, NFV, INT and MEC) and IoT and Edge Computing Strategy Forum organised by the European Commission in April; 6G Symposium and KUBECON Europe (LF) in May, IEEE WOWMOM (World of Wireless, Mobile and Multimedia Networks) and ETSI Security week (for the first time) in June, and Workshop IoT and Edge Computing Research and Standardization Convergence in September. 

See the full list of MEC APIs and other deliverables published since January 2021 here.

See the current list of ISG MEC Work Items here.

Watch the ETSI MEC video: ‘MEC – Close to the user, at the EDGE!