Public vs. private MEC explained
Understanding the differences between public and private MEC, and what each means for the future of business.
If you think things move fast now, better hang onto your hat.
Widespread demand for instantaneous information delivery is being made possible in large part by mobile edge computing (MEC), an application architecture that brings cloud compute resources to the edge of the mobile network. We see MEC in two general categories: public MEC and private MEC. Public MEC can be broadly defined as a service that’s available to any customer. With private MEC, specific MEC services are located on-premises at a business customer’s campus, factory, fulfillment center or other site.
Before we clearly outline the differences between these two choices for MEC, we have to clearly define MEC.
MEC brings cloud computing closer to the action.
There’s no debate that the cloud has changed modern computing by delivering new levels of agility and flexibility. But the cloud’s distance from users or applications could make response times too slow for emerging innovations that need to respond in near real time—think self-driving cars, virtual reality, artificial intelligence (AI) and some business automation. Here’s why.
With cloud computing, a request for information from an application or device has to travel to a cloud server and back again. Along the way, that request can be slowed down by a number of factors, including the distance to the server, the number of routers and switches encountered, other network traffic, and so on. Each of these can cause delays, lag or latency, resulting in slower response times.
MEC helps solve this problem by bringing cloud computing and resources much closer to what’s known as the network “edge”—typically where the requesting application or device is located. This could be either at a telco’s network edge or a business’s location. Doing this helps reduce what causes lag or latency and greatly improves overall response times. In fact, when used with a superfast millimeter-wave-spectrum 5G network, MEC has the potential to produce ultralow latency—many times faster than the blink of an eye—which means almost real-time compute capabilities.
While online gamers are no doubt jumping for joy, MEC may prove to be absolutely critical in more high-stakes use cases such as remote surgery, public safety emergencies, self-driving cars and trucks, AI/machine learning apps, the Internet of Things and more.
For a list of 10 ways that 5G and MEC can change how businesses work, click here.
So what, then, is public MEC and private MEC? And how do they differ? Let’s take a brief look at each of these.
Comparison of public and private MEC
Location of compute
Cloud computing and storage embedded within the cellular network edge
Cloud computing and storage on-premises
Lag or latency
Extreme low latency
Amazon Web Services® (AWS®) Wavelength
Amazon Web Services® (AWS®) Outposts
An overview of public MEC
Public MEC puts cloud computing resources at the edge of a cellular network, closer to where businesses and developers can use them. And since these resources are public, anyone can subscribe to use them. In general, public MEC solutions are well suited for organizations that need broad geographic coverage, particularly if they are working with time-sensitive applications that require ultrafast response times such as public safety, smart health and autonomous vehicles.
Public MEC in the real world
So what does a public MEC solution look like in the real world? One innovative company is using advanced indoor analytics to help create a safer venue experience while helping fans make smarter decisions.
To improve fan experience, venue operators need a deeper understanding of how their patrons experience events in their venues. One company uses a 5G network and public MEC to help operators gather customer experience insights by mapping patron movements inside a venue in near real time. Using precision lidar sensors and cameras, the company captures patron movements throughout a site and sends that data through a 5G network to an AWS Wavelength zone for computing. There, artificial intelligence analyzes the data and rapidly sends back insights to the venue operator, helping manage crowd flow and improve customer experience.
Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength is a public MEC offering. It brings the resources of the world’s leading cloud provider to the edge of the Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband and 4G LTE network. Verizon’s customers are already testing their 5G Edge solutions in AWS Wavelength Zones in multiple locations. These solutions are impacting numerous industries, including healthcare, entertainment and connected vehicles.
An overview of private MEC
For businesses that need near real-time insights, decision-making and operations—or just additional data security—a private MEC solution might make the most sense.
Broadly speaking, private MEC can be defined as edge computing infrastructure and radio access network (RAN) installed on-premises. This integration of MEC with a private 5G network gives enterprises a secure and dedicated computing platform that delivers ultralow latency and other MEC benefits to specific areas within large campuses, warehouses, factories and more.
This ultralow latency can help businesses tap into near real-time data analysis and delivery. Technologies like computer vision, augmented/mixed/virtual reality and machine learning can be enhanced with 5G and MEC on the customer premises to help revolutionize the way industries such as manufacturing and logistics operate.
Private MEC in the real world
What does a private MEC solution look like in the real world? Currently, a large logistics and supply chain services company is automating and improving its quality-control process through computer vision. Using high-definition cameras connected to the 5G network, the company is able to monitor product pick-and-pack lines by comparing customer and order details with the actual products that are being packed, detecting and correcting errors in near real time.
This AI-driven process eliminates the slower, human-performed quality control step while increasing pick-line accuracy. Using a private MEC solution, the company hopes to improve onsite quality assurance and save 15% to 30% in potential processing time.
Verizon 5G Edge currently offers private MEC services to business customers through one of two cloud partners: Microsoft® Azure® or Amazon Web Services® (AWS®) Outposts.
Hybrid public and private MEC
In addition to these examples, there are some use cases where it would make sense to have a combined public and private MEC solution.
For example, a pharmaceutical company might choose to run a private MEC solution inside its production facility to enable more efficient round-the-clock precision manufacturing processes. This private MEC solution could help enable the capture, store and compute of data in near real time, potentially shortening how long it takes to develop a new drug and get it to market.
As the company looks at distribution of that treatment outside of its facility, it may need to monitor temperature and humidity for quality control purposes. A public MEC solution could help enable the end-to-end visibility the company needs throughout its supply chain.
The importance of having the right MEC partner
The world is rapidly moving toward a real-time economy where consumers expect instant computing and content, and 5G and MEC will be the technologies that make this a reality. Having the right MEC partner is critical for building and powering near real-time use cases or applications.
When it comes to choosing a MEC partner, there are a few things businesses need to keep in mind. An ideal partner should offer:
The right partnerships with leading cloud providers
Connectivity to a 5G network that uses high-band, ultrawide millimeter-wave spectrum to deliver the best 5G experience
Access to the computing resources and storage needed to deliver real-time experiences at the network edge
With the right partner in place, a business can harness the powers of MEC and turn big ideas into realities.