5G architecture is essentially designed to take advantage of cloud-native as well as edge-computing concepts – the ability to leverage self-contained functions within or across the data centers as well as in the cloud, communicate in a microservices environment, and work cohesively to compute and deliver services and applications right at the edge of both the enterprise and IIoT networks. Disaggregation, multi-access edge computing (MEC) and virtualization are the three key elements of a 5G cloud-agnostic or cloud-friendly architecture.
MEC is emerging as a key pillar for IIoT and mission-critical, vertical solutions, helping to satisfy the demanding requirements for 5G at the edge of the enterprise and IIoT networks:
ETSI’s Industry Specification Group (ISG) for MEC has defined a set of technical standards in this regard. Network slicing is expected to play a critical role in expanding the footprint of MEC. Network slicing is a specific form of virtualization that allows multiple logical networks to run on top of shared physical network infrastructure resulting in significant cost efficiency. With network slicing, enterprises have access to highly customized networks tailored to their specific security and SLA needs in a cost effective, timely, and efficient way. For example, enterprises could use a network slice to run massive IoT devices dedicated exclusively to the healthcare vertical. However, the purpose of network slicing is defeated if enterprises are given no option but private dedicated wireless networks.
5G driven by MEC and network slicing will facilitate strong revenue growth across many verticals, especially in the dispersed critical infrastructures within IIoT. Many enterprises will look to rely heavily on network slices driving mission-critical IIoT applications instead of investing in building their own or relying on leased private networks for stringent security and connectivity needs. Alternatively, many enterprises may not want to invest in building internal skill sets to maintain and manage such massive services, and will turn to outsourced security service providers to assist them with their unique security requirements. For example, an enterprise might look for a globally agreed network slicing type with a stringent security requirement that works seamlessly across both the local and the visited networks providing uniform and end-to-end policy enforcement, identity and access management, tracking and visibility.
Security is a critical component of successful 5G service delivery driven by MEC and network slicing. Instead of being forced to build out their own dedicated private networks or depend on costlier private wireless network services, enterprises must be able to rely on outsourced security network slicing based security services that seamlessly scale with increasing interconnectedness and deployment of dispersed industrial IoT.