Cisco has formed the – ozymoronically named – Open Fog Consortium to garner wider support for its version of edge computing as applied to IoT networks. Founding members are ARM, Cisco, Dell, Intel, Microsoft and Princeton University, through the Princeton University Edge Laboratory. Helter Antunes, senior director of Cisco’s Corporate Strategic Innovations Group, has been named its first chairman.
According to the university, Mung Chiang, Arthur LeGrand Doty Professor of Electrical Engineering and director of the Keller Center at Princeton, is the consortium’s co-fonder. He teaches an online course on fog networks and has led conferences and published in the field.
In a blog post Antunes explains the need for fog computing as follows: “It might take 12 days via satellite to transmit one day’s worth of data to the cloud from a remote oil rig. With fog computing the data is processed locally, and safety or equipment alerts can be acted upon immediately. In manufacturing and transportation, preventive maintenance applications can process a huge amount of sensor data to trigger needed maintenance before there is an equipment failure. In retail, data from parking lot video cameras can not only provide security surveillance, but can also work with fog analytics capabilities to predict store traffic flow and optimise checkout staffing.
“These different industry scenarios require quite different skill sets to implement. We need advanced silicon expertise to provide a wide range of computing power, from high-end to low power. We need software and applications for infrastructure and system management. Cloud technology must work seamlessly with fog computing to provide a seamless end-to-end customer experience. Security has become the critical must-have factor for implementing IoT, and industry and academia must work together to fend off hackers and ensure bulletproof system security. More than ever, fog computing requires a highly scalable and collaborative approach, with deep expertise in a wide range of industries and technologies. No single company can do it alone.
Challenges for Open Fog Consortium
The Open Fog Consortium web site says it has been formed “to solve some of today’s most common challenges, such as high latency on the network, support of endpoint mobility, loss of connectivity, unpredictable bandwidth bottlenecks and distributed coordination of systems and clients,” and that “With an architecture that enables end-user clients or near-user edge devices to carry out computation, communication, control and storage, fog computing can enable rapid innovation, client-centric objectives, pooling of local resources, and real-time processing in cyber-physical systems.”
The consortium promises to “promote an ecosystem to accelerate the adoption of open fog computing by bringing together companies, universities and individuals,” to “define a common framework for distributed computing based on open standard technologies,” and to “identify best practices, liaise with standards organizations and hold industry events to foster interoperability.”
It plans to influence standards development through strategic partnerships, to set up a technology test-bed at Princeton University and to host plugfests with educational tracks.
Why fog and not edge?
As I’ve previously reported, the term fog computing is a Cisco invention (the name derives from cloud and Chiang says: “As we further develop the ‘Internet of Things’ … we have a unique opportunity to bring the ‘cloud’ closer to the edge and users as ‘fog’) and functionally seems to differ little from the concept of edge computing as promoted by Intel and others.
Some initiative to create consensus around fog/edge was probably essential and inevitable. What is not clear is why Cisco’s terminology has been adopted over the more widely used term of edge computing. However, the term edge computing is not specific to the world of IoT, as fog computing clearly intends to be.
Cisco is hosting an IoT World Forum in Dubai from 6-8 December at which further announcements about the Open Fog Consortium will be made.