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Cloudlets and MobiledgeX

Cloudlets are modern, virtualized (container) infrastructure that provides standardization, resource allocation and security to operators and developers.

Graphic representing Cloudlets and MobiledgeX

We describe our edge infrastructure as “Cloudlets,” perhaps not a broadly used term. That leads to all kind of interesting (and often distracting) questions: Is this something new a developer needs to learn about? An operator? Why aren’t you using standards? Let’s see if we can unpack this and put to rest those worries.

MobiledgeX and Infrastructure

At first blush, we’re just using modern virtualized (container) infrastructure (Kubernetes). To partner with MobiledgeX, an operator needs to provide access to standard servers, either in bare metal or virtualized form, and share those resources with MobiledgeX (enable us to find them over the Internet and deploy and manage workloads on them). To our developer and builder partners, we present what looks likes a cloud infrastructure (nothing new and mysterious there). And to the degree that standards exist, we’re using them. Our architecture is fully compliant with ETSI MEC and we’re building a blueprint with Linux Foundation Akraino. And our software will be open source to boot.

The Limitations of Standard and Cloud Computing

OK, if everything is standard, why did we have to invent new terms? That’s simple too, It has to do with our business model (which is different and new) and with the cellular edge functionality we expose. We sit between mobile operators and cloud computing and we bridge the gap, that’s at the heart of the business model innovation. Technically we are offering something new — a multi-user, on demand platform that runs code much closer to a cellularly connected device than has been possible before, as measured in the quality of the network connection (latency, bandwidth, …). But largely that’s just cloud computing in a different location and that part is standard.

With conventional cloud computing, you care where your application executes and can choose between different regions around the world. Then, within regions, there are availability zones for constructing highly available applications. But beyond a region, you can’t specify where the code runs, and you don’t have much control over the location chosen.

The Edge

The edge is very different because the goal is to be as close to a specific user or device as possible and to take advantage of that locality. Typically you don’t know where that is until the moment comes. In today’s cloud context, being able to run in the “Australia Region” has to suffice. For a mobile user on a specific cell in Brisbane, it most certainly does not. To enable new edge experiences you also need to use detailed local context and intimately collaborate with other users or devices nearby. Being in a region isn’t enough; you need to be much closer and often understand where you are and who is nearby. None of that is part of today’s cloud orchestration.

Although we’re sort of just familiar Kubernetes to both our mobile operator partners and our developer and builder partners, we do some difficult and tricky stuff in between. The MobiledgeX platform has to operate at the scale and speed of the global cellular service. If you turn on your phone in a foreign country (that isn’t aware that you’re coming) you can use the local phone service (“roam”) essentially immediately. Building a global distributed system to coordinate all of that (connectivity and business) was quite an accomplishment. MobiledgeX has to operate at the same scale and speed. To the builder, we just deploy application code, on demand, at an optimized location near a specific user in a largely transparent (to the builder) way. But under the covers…

Application Mobility

Finally, we provide these precise deployment services in as workflow and application structure agnostic form as possible. A developer declares how the code should be deployed; we don’t tell the developer how to structure an application in order for that to happen.

Summary

To summarize: Fear not, a Cloudlet isn’t strange new stuff that you have to learn about and will break existing application design. At the highest level, it’s just the kind of virtual/cloud tech you would expect. It’s different because of the additional functionality we provide and the integration with the cellular infrastructure that requires. Specifically Cloudlets run on mobile operator hosted servers and then used and managed by MobiledgeX on behalf of the developers and builders that use our services. Mobile operators host the edge resources; MobiledgeX aggregates them on a global scale, harmonizes use, and exposes exciting new edge functionality. But it isn’t weird new tech. It’s standard tech with new functions and features available at the edge.

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