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Hybrid Edge Cloud: A pragmatic approach for decentralized cloud computing


The massive growth of connected devices including sensors and machines is revolutionizing every aspect of human life. The socioeconomic impacts are significant and have already transformed many industries. In this paper, we discuss some of the challenges of the explosion of devices and exponential growth in personal digital content and machine generated data.

The centralized cloud architecture adopted in the early days of mobile internet was designed primarily to allow access to data stored on the world wide web. Today, use cases have evolved significantly. Humans and devices are now producing most of the data consumed on the internet. As a result, the existing centralized cloud infrastructure is no longer efficient nor sustainable.

There is significant waste of network bandwidth to send terabytes of data to server farms that may be hundreds of kilometers away from the source and/or destination of data. The prevalent centralized cloud architecture does not adequately leverage massive amounts of computing resources on smart devices which are idle most of the time.

Moreover, despite all the efforts to reduce network latencies, communication to server farms is a major bottleneck for latency in many applications. We introduce a novel architectural approach to cloud decentralization called Hybrid Edge Cloud (HEC) that minimizes network bandwidth usage, reduces communication latencies, and leverages resources on smart devices to reduce the burden on server farms and other centralized computing resources.

HEC combines the benefits of new network technologies such as 5G and WiFi 6 in private and public clouds to leverage computing resources on smart devices to build a sustainable decentralized infrastructure for the hyper-connected world.

We first review the client/server software architecture and its evolution to microservice architecture. We will then illustrate the benefits of the new approach where all connected nodes on the network can act as cloud servers. This new approach keeps the separation between network, service, and application layers while providing each layer with contextual awareness of other layers for efficiency and optimization.

For the purpose of this document, we refer to the existing ETSI’s MEC and 3GPP’s SA6 architecture as “network-MEC”. We also introduce the concept of “hybrid-MEC” where enddevices are included as server nodes as an integral part of MEC.

We will show that hybrid-MEC makes MEC more scalable, efficient, and financially feasible. We will also show that it can help improve data privacy and user experience when building cloud-native applications.

Originally published in IEEE Communications Magazine – Sept 2022

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