5G Meditation: Collaboration Between Edge and Slicing to Build the Foundation for the Internet of Everything


Foreword: What are the requirements of IoE for operators?

The essence of the Internet of Everything (IoE) is that all things can be turned into computers before being connected. This is the basic prerequisite. In the 5G era, terminals are no longer limited to mobile phones, but will break through mouse/screen sliding operations, and be presented with more man-machine interfaces.

Recently, Google's Jacquard project worked with Levi's product innovation department to invent conductive textiles (conductive fibers), which can be made like ordinary textiles. Based on this conductive textiles, Google has released a new jacket. Just like a common jacket, it has more terminal control functions, such as touching clothes to control music. It is believed that this is the beginning of various types of terminals.

In the 5G era, a large number of diversified terminals will not be able to process data locally, and the edge cloud will become the main battleground for terminal service processing.

How to enable the IoE to fuel up 5G industrial applications

In the 4G era, operators have been involved in the cloud computing market and have established mature business models, such as equipment room lease, rack lease, host lease, and virtual host lease. Before 5G, for industry customers, operators essentially provided two types of services: One type was to provide resource pools supporting industry services. The other type is to provide an Internet connection for these resource pools.

Can the IoE continue to use such two types of 4G services to develop industry customers? We believe that 5G-oriented 4G-like services can still continue, but these two types of services will not be the main channel of 5G.

Due to terminal fragmentization caused by the changes of terminal forms, you cannot determine where a terminal is located, because 5G terminals are split into various forms, such as terminal hardware, terminal local processing, terminal near-end processing, and terminal remote processing, and cloud resources will become a part of terminals. When a terminal is changed from an all-in-one computer (for example, a mobile phone) to a distributed system, it strongly depends on network connections and cloud resources.

The dependence on network connections will be far more than in the 4G era, because terminals form a distributed system. Once network connection fails, only part of terminals are available. Like a robot without a brain and limbs, it has only one shell. Therefore, 5G network connections must be highly reliable and highly secure. In addition, 5G also prepares a highly-matched technology: Network Slicing. We can regard 5G network slicing as a ubiquitous or enhanced version of 4G network connections. Network slicing not only provides a connection, but also ensures the security and reliability of the connection by means of resource isolation, NE isolation, and network isolation.

The dependence on cloud resources is essentially different from that in the 4G era. 4G mainly serves people-to-people communication. Demands on cloud are optional in many scenarios, which are used to optimize service experience. In the 5G era, cloud resource pools become mandatory, and it is impossible to launch massive demands of industry customers without cloud resource pools. After the cloud becomes mandatory, there will be further requirements for the cloud construction mode: Simple rental mode cannot achieve the highest efficiency for commercial use. The introduction of IaaS/PaaS/SaaS construction modes will be mandatory for 5G network.

Weapon 1 for IoE: Network slicing, ubiquitous connection in the 5G era

Traditionally, an operator only provides an interface for industry customers to access the Internet, or provides a dedicated VPN to help industry customers form dedicated network connections. In essence, these dedicated connections are invisible to the network, cannot accurately perceive and control the QoS of each network node along the path, and cannot have dedicated NE services (except for expensive physical dedicated networks). This traditional service mode really meets the requirements of industry customers in the 4G era and before, because industry customers think that operators can only do these things.

In the 5G era, industry customers introduced everything into the network. Previously, people-to-people communication had the same requirements for network models, because communication subjects were all human beings. In the IoE era, network models are required to be fragmented. Meter reading connections and IoV (Internet of Vehicles) connections have totally different requirements for network models, such as service time, bandwidth requirements, latency requirements, and terminal quantity scale. If the 4G service mode is still used, the requirements of industry customers cannot be met. In this case, connection services of industry customers need to be refined. It needs to carry out end-to-end control on wireless, bearer, and core networks to form a logical dedicated network for serving the industry. The logical dedicated network provides dedicated connections for customers, so that end-to-end service quality can be guaranteed for industry customers from terminals, RAN, BN to CN. In addition, key NEs are logically independent and can be used by customers exclusively.

Using network slicing to enhance connection services for industry customers, operators play more important role in the industry, and promote the consumption upgrade of industry customers. Extensive services evolve into refined and customized services in the 5G era.

Weapon 2 for IoE: Edge computing, the cloudified core of 5G era

In the 5G era, the fragmentation of terminal forms makes the boundary between terminals and edge cloud networks increasingly blurred. On the one hand, IoE causes great changes in terminal forms and costs, and services can be completely operated only with the assistance of edge cloud. On the other hand, near-end service requirements of industry customers are greatly enhanced in the 5G era. In the large-bandwidth and low-latency scenarios, edge computing resources are required for optimal deployment.

Currently, applications of 5G industries are not mature. In the long run, edge computing is indispensable and is a strategic highland for operators. What can operators do at the edge? The analysis is as follows:

(1) Continuity of 4G Services

In the 4G era, the Internet of Human has reached its peak, and the accompanying traffic explosion caused the forwarding plane of the core network to move to the edge, greatly improving user experience, especially video experience. In the 5G era, this idea will continue in the eMBB scenario. Operators can drive the edge computing layout by moving the user plane to the edge.

(2) Exploration into 5G industries

Requirements for 5G enabling all industries will be tens or even hundreds of times more difficult than the Internet of Human. Exploring the industry's accurate network model for 5G will be a long-term process that requires in-depth participation of operators, vendors, and industry customers. For industry customers, enterprises that take the lead in 5G exploration will have the first-mover advantage to cope with traditional enterprise competition with 5G efficiency. This is similar to dimension-reduction attack, which greatly increases the probability of taking the lead in the industry. For operators, the technology essence of the future competition in industry markets is the competition of industry network models. The operator who understands the industry most accurately and has the earliest and best network model data will lead the 5G enabling industry market.

Conclusion: Edge and Slicing Collaborate to Build the Engine for IoE

Based on the two weapons of IoE, we can see that both certainty and uncertainty exist in the future. Certainty is that the coordination of edge and slicing is inevitably the core technical solution for the construction of IoE. However, it is uncertain that how edge and slicing can be operated in a collaborative manner, and how to select the collaborative mechanism. At present, ZTE has provided a complete set of commercial edge and slicing solutions for certainty. For uncertainty, extensive and in-depth pilot cooperation is being carried out in the communication field and various industries. It is believed that a clear response mechanism will be developed soon to enable better 5G IoE.