3 min read

From the Cloud to the Fog

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Scan through virtually any article or post involving technology and you’re sure to quickly find some mention of Cloud computing. The concept has been quickly accepted as a way to expand resources while controlling costs. But there’s more to come. We’re already on the move from the Cloud to the Fog.

The basics of the Cloud are well established – shared infrastructure, scalable storage, services cloudtofogand applications accessed on demand and paid for when consumed. The idea of centralized, flexible computing without the burden of significant capital expenditures has proven beneficial, but as adoption has grown widespread, issues have begun to crop up. Specifically, as more and more data is stored and processed in the cloud, overall performance has begun to degrade. The problem is bandwidth – or lack of it – which is causing “data traffic jams” resulting in latency issues. Users of the Cloud are bound by the limits of wireless networks, and the more traffic on the networks, the slower the response time.

A Wall Street Journal article noted that the World Economic Forum ranked the U. S. 35th in bandwidth per user. The Internet of Things – where everyday devices and appliances are now automatically accessing the Internet on a regular basis – is dramatically increasing traffic to the Cloud and causing further data transfer delays. According to data from Cisco Systems, in 1992 there were about a million devices connected to the Internet, a number equivalent to the population of San Jose. Today there are more than 14 billion devices hooked up, more than the number of people who exist on the planet. By 2020, Cisco projects that more than 50 billion devices will be exchanging data online.

Getting to the edge

What’s the solution? Cisco and IBM, among other technology companies, have come up with the idea of relieving the stress to the networks by moving some of the computing, processing and storage out of the Cloud and closer to the actual devices. Since this will reduce transferring data back and forth from the Cloud, end user response would be much quicker.

IBM refers to this approach as moving computing “to the edge of the network.” Cisco Systems has coined the term “fog” to describe this new concept. As the WSJ article explained, computing in the Cloud is done “up there” as opposed to distributed computing on smaller devices at the point of action closer to the ground – like the fog. The idea is that the workload is handled by distributed computing clusters using smartphones or routers as hubs rather than Cloud based data centers composed of centralized server farms.

According to Cisco, the resulting characteristics of such a Fog-based system include:

-        Low latency

-        Wide spread geographic distribution

-        Mobility

-        Large number of nodes

-        Predominant role of wireless access

-        Strong presence of real-time applications

-        Heterogeneity


Adapting to the Fog

The impact of the Fog to IT professionals can be significant including the need to develop new hardware and software to support the distributed computing model. IT Operations teams will also have to deal with ways to manage these new distributed resources. Finally, they’ll have to incorporate the new services that will inevitably rise and be supported by the Fog.

Has the “Fog” crept into your organization yet? What are you doing to prepare for it?


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