3GPP standards architectural principles for enabling edge applications

The 3GPP has defined a layer that enables communication between Application Clients and Edge Application Servers.

The most recent revisions of 3GPP standards emphasize support for edge computing, a distributed computing framework that brings computation and data storage closer to the data sources. Edge computing has the potential to usher in a fundamentally new era of low-latency data communications, enabling new use cases in industries such as healthcare, retail, and manufacturing.

Regarding edge application layer architecture, the 3GPP TSG SA WG6 (SA6) has begun work to define an enabling layer to facilitate communication between Application Clients (ACs) running on user equipment (UEs) and Edge Application Servers (EAS) deployed on the Edge Data Network.

“This includes aspects of service provisioning and EAS discovery. In addition, the work aims to provide support services such as application context transfer between EASs for service continuity, service enablement and capability exposure APIs towards the EAS.”

3GPP Working Group SA6 Chair Suresh Chitturi.

Architectural principles for edge application enablement

Chitturi also explained that the application architecture for enabling edge applications is based on five architectural principles: application client portability, edge application server portability, service differentiation, flexible deployment, and interoperability with the 3GPP network.

Portability of the Application Client and Edge Application Server

3GPP defines Application Client portability as the avoidance of changes in logic of ACs when interacting with EAS, relative to existing cloud environments, whereas Edge Application Service portability is the avoidance of changes in logic of Application Servers when resident in an Edge Hosting Environment, relative to existing cloud environments.

According to IBM, these networks will be able to operate at scale due to the increased portability of workloads being considered for edge computing localization. “Workloads can be prioritized based on a variety of factors, including the benefit of migration, its complexity, and the amount of resources and time required to migrate. Numerous network and application partners are already in the process of migrating capabilities to container-based approaches, which can aid in overcoming this obstacle, according to IBM engineers Jason Gonzalez, Jason Hunt, Mathews Thomas, Ryan Anderson, and Uttam Mangla.

The IBM team indicated that modifying workload size, standardizing the management of the entire application lifecycle, and decomposing workloads into subcomponents will all contribute to delivering enhanced edge application portability.

Service differentiation

This principle refers to the fact that mobile network operators can provide differentiated services and deliver the consumer and enterprise capabilities promised by advanced cellular networks by enabling or disabling edge computing features on a network.

Flexible deployment

Because multiple Edge Computing Service Providers (ECSPs) can exist within a single public land mobile network (PLMN) operator network, flexible deployment is a fundamental aspect of edge architecture. In addition, as pointed out by Chitturi, providers from the entire communications industry, from Mobile Network Operators (MNO) to Application Service Providers (ASP), will be involved in the deployment of edge computing.

Collaboration with 3GPP network

Lastly, interoperability between edge applications and 3GPP networks is a crucial design principle. Chitturi asserts that the application architecture supports interworking with 3GPP networks using existing capability exposure functions such as NEF and PCF.


Release 18 and beyond

According to Nokia, 5G-Advanced is inextricably linked to 3GPP Release 18, as this is the standard that will enable 5G to enter its next phase.

“5G-Advanced denominates the evolution of the 5G standard with 3GPP Release 18 and beyond,” stated Nokia’s Senior Standardization Specialist Yannick Lair, adding that despite being several years away from the final 5G-Advanced standards, the proposals made at the Release 18 workshop, have allowed the companies to “predict what shape those networks will take.”

Lair highlights a heightened emphasis on edge computing as one of the features of the Release 18 proposal, stating that 5G-Advanced “will enrich edge computing by quickly and efficiently exposing device-traffic-related information to edge application servers [and] will optimize the allocation and relocation of edge application servers among various users.”

Source: RCR Wireless

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