Last week I transitioned the position of Chair of ETSI MEC over to Dario Sabella from Intel. Having spent four amazing years serving as the Chair of this group, I am happy to see it in such good hands. For years Dario has been a significant contributor and an enthusiastic advocate of our work. He’s been the driving force behind many of our Hackathons. Moreover, Intel’s support and commitment for the group is a strong signal of our importance. The best days for MEC are in the future and this is where all of us should look. Still, leaving a position such as this, one does tend to reflect on one’s years of tenure and so for my last blog as Chair I am going to do just that.
ETSI MEC remains the leading standardization group in the MEC space. Having pioneered the approach – and in fact the term MEC itself – we continue to drive the conversation and challenge the industry thinking about how a global edge cloud ecosystem can look like in the telco context. Of course, just like for most other SDOs, adoption is an on-going and continuous challenge and staying relevant requires the group to continue to evolve.
However, reflecting on our work in the past four years, it seems to me that another, equally important, legacy of this group is little noticed. Few would dispute that the telco industry is undergoing enormous change. This transformation started before 5G, has fueled the development of many key 5G concepts and is in turn accelerated by 5G and the need to deliver on its promise. As expected in times of change, all business-as-usual approaches are examined and their relevance questioned. Standards are not immune to this – nor should they be. The need for standards in the age of open-source development is frequently questioned. I have written on this subject previously (https://www.etsi.org/newsroom/blogs/entry/do-we-still-need-standards-in-the-age-of-open-source) and don’t wish to rehash the details here. Clearly, I strongly believe that they are.
Yet, just because we still need standards, doesn’t mean standards should continue business-as-usual. Like all aspects of our industry standardization has to adapt to a new environment. And it is in this space that ETSI MEC may perhaps create its most enduring legacy. Early on, we realized the importance of the developer community to our success and that this required us to work with them on their terms. To address this need we pushed ETSI to develop a means to provide our standards in a developer-friendly form. The result is ETSI Forge (https://forge.etsi.org), which is now in wide and increasing use by ETSI to provide standardized APIs in a serialized form: JSON, YAML, Protobuffer. Coincidentally, this is exactly what Open Source projects are in need of as well.
Faced with questions of compliance – and a challenge of claims of compliance without the resulting interoperability – we pushed for development of test specifications in a form (test suites) that can be utilized directly in testing processes. These are now also on Forge. When asked how developers could test applications without relying on an operator provided platform, we developed the ETSI MEC Sandbox (https://try-mec.etsi.org). And for our partners who wish to promote their adoption of our APIs, we have an ecosystem page: https://mecwiki.etsi.org/index.php?title=MEC_Ecosystem. It is becoming increasingly popular with open-source and other community-driven projects that aim to help the overall MEC marketplace.
None of these are things that Standards organizations typically do. And yet, when we found them necessary we did them. Others – both within ETSI and beyond – are noticing and duplicating it. And so, this may then be a lasting legacy of ETSI MEC, no matter what happens to our standards. Faced with the new world, we adapted and pioneered new ways for standards to operate. And so, if you are wondering what a Standards group might look like in the world of 5G, look to ETSI MEC and look out for what we may do next. I am sure a lot more is yet to come.