5G requires a scalable, secure edge to support new possibilities for enterprise, consumer markets

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Source – EgdeIR

The demand for 5G solutions is accelerating. Both businesses and consumers want faster, high capacity networks that provide reliable, ultra-low latency connectivity. Fast broadband is no longer a nice-to-have. With remote work, distance learning, and online health an everyday reality for the foreseeable future, high-speed connectivity is now woven into our everyday lives and has become essential infrastructure in the way we work, live, and play.

5G also enables high-bandwidth applications like augmented reality, vehicle automation, precision robotics, indoor positioning applications, camera and occupancy security applications, and real-time AI. Today, these applications are not practical because they are immersive, real-time, and too data intensive. 5G makes it possible to move large amounts of data across the last mile in real-time, with local edge computing required to process all that data for applications.

The opportunity for new revenue creation for telcos comes from these types of real-time services that require the combination of 5G and edge computing.

These new services will only happen if the industry uses edge-processing capacity as an addition to core cloud capacity – not as a replacement. Just as SaaS eclipsed on-premise software, applications running at the edge will shift the cloud-computing paradigm from a centralized model to a more balanced, distributed model that combines the strengths of hyper-scale cloud-based processing with the responsiveness of edge-based processing.

This new model provides developers the best of both worlds. It also means software architects will have to design orchestration capabilities to use the combined processing capacity of both core and edge as a whole, allocating and partitioning where their applications run to take advantage of the unique and complementary benefits.

However, adding more compute capacity at the edge does not just mean building many smaller datacenters. The scale economies that drive the central cloud’s hyper-scale datacenter implementation, with racks and racks of servers contained in a single massive facility, do not exist at the edge of the network where user’s devices connect.

For an effective edge cloud, separate routers, IoT gateways, security systems, and processing servers from multiple different vendors – and the infrastructure and human support they require – are not the answer. Separate hardware elements create more failure points and require more support.

The hardware platform needs to be an integrated, multi-function hybrid of all of these different elements, designed to fit into the spaces where people live and work.

Since processing needs to be as close as possible to where devices connect, and we need to keep things manageable, it makes sense to integrate processing resources into the locations currently hosting cellular access points, Wi-Fi routers, and IoT access points/gateways. This new, essential integrated “connectivity + computation” hardware for mobile edge architectures is the Smart Edge Node or SEN.

Beyond connect and compute elements, SENs must also have security built into their DNA; in the interfaces, processing, and overall system and software architecture. This embedded security is critical since the additional nodes in this distributed computing architecture offer a larger attack surface for bad actors. In fact, by embedding security as a core SEN capability from the start, the increased number of distributed edge elements shifts from being a potential liability to a position of strength against many kinds of cyber-attacks. Rather than trying to block a DDOS attack at the target, you can block it at the sources, before it ever grows into a problem.

So, what do SENs require to meet all of these needs?

– Robust wireless and wired connectivity. For LAN connections, dynamic, auto-configuring/self-healing mesh Wi-Fi is essential. It provides the reliable connectivity needed to create the edge cloud’s application mesh, as well as the Wi-Fi access for the end-user devices. Also, given that IoT devices are everywhere, SENs need to offer wireless IoT connection technologies: Zigbee and Bluetooth/BLE for short, high-speed data transfer, and LoRa for long-distances and locations where Wi-Fi struggles. Physical Ethernet LAN ports supporting Power over Ethernet for IoT devices such as smart cameras. For WAN connectivity, both physical Ethernet ports as well as wireless 4G or 5G cellular connectivity is required, both for persistent backhaul and WAN failover connectivity.

– Server-grade processing capabilities. Beyond enterprise-grade switching and routing capabilities, SENs must offer easily accessible processing capacity for customized applications. As new applications move to the edge, an application processing mesh is needed to support fluid resource and data allocation between core and edge cloud processing resources, potentially allowing them to merge into a tightly integrated logical processing system. Microservices in container-based architectures will be an essential part of a successful edge computing strategy, offering this required fluidity.

SENs must also have the ability to become part of a scalable multi-SEN application mesh so that the processing capacity of all of the SENs in a given local edge network can be abstracted as a single aggregated resource. If this application mesh can be created wirelessly and cellular WANs are used, the SENs need only have a physical connection to power. All other connectivity may be achieved wirelessly, making SEN deployment incredibly simple. And adding additional edge cloud processing capacity is as easy as powering up another SEN.

– Built-in Security. SENs must also have security built into their DNA. It needs to be built-in to the interfaces, processing, and overall system and software architecture, especially since additional nodes deployed offers a larger attack surface for bad actors. They must be clone-resistant. And the software application architecture must be secure – secure application sources, secure containers, and secure APIs, to name a few. With this ingrained level of security, the increasing number of distributed edge elements required for edge computing shifts from being a potential liability to a position of strength against many kinds of cyber-attacks.

Because 5G’s higher radio frequency and shorter reach demand more physical access points than prior cellular technologies such as 3G and 4G/LTE, SENs must be easy to deploy and manage so that we can upgrade existing sites and add new ones.

Having a scalable edge computing environment that minimizes support and is capable of delivering new services will drive service providers to offer immersive, real-time services to both consumers and enterprises. A distributed edge built on widely deployed and wirelessly SENs is the only viable and practical way to scale the edge.