A few years ago Cisco coined the term ‘fog computing’ for edge computing in IoT networks. The industry recognised the need for harmonising this component of the IoT ecosystem, the name caught on and the OpenFog Consortium was formed in November 2015 with ARM, Cisco, Dell, Intel, Microsoft and Princeton University as founding members.
One year on the organisation boasts 53 members in 15 countries, but is facing competition, with the formation of the Edge Computing Consortium, led by Huawei. It is predominantly Chinese. However two of the founding members of the OpenFog Consortium – Intel and ARM — are among its founders, along with Huawei Technologies, Shenyang Institute of Automation of Chinese Academy of Sciences, China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) and iSoftStone, a China-based IT services provider listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: ISS).
In the press release — from Huawei — announcing its formation, the ECC said it aimed to “build a cooperative platform for the edge computing industry that will give impetus to openness and collaboration in the operational technology (OT) and information and communications technology (ICT) industries, nurture industrial best practices, and stimulate the healthy and sustainable development of edge computing.”
OT and IT meet in edge computing
The IoT-driven converge of OT and IT seems to be very much its focus. The Consortium’s chairman, Yu Haibin – also director of Shenyang Institute of Automation — said: “In the 13th Five Year Plan, China launched two national strategies, integration of digitisation and industrialisation, as well as ‘Made in China 2025’. This requires much on ICT and OT convergence. Edge Computing is key to supporting and enabling this convergence.”
This theme was elaborated in the launch release, which said: “The ECC is in pursuit of the OICT concept that OT, information technology (IT), and communications technology (CT) resources should integrate and coordinate with each other, and stick to the spirit of consensus, unity and win-win cooperation, to drive forward the ECC’s healthy development. The ECC strives to advance cooperation among industry resources from government, vendors, academics, research, and customer sectors.
“Today’s global digital revolution is driving a new round of industrial restructuring. Through the digital transformation of industries, products are incorporated into intelligent interconnection. In-depth coordination and convergence of OT and ICT help improve industrial automation, meet the customised requirements of products and services, promote full-lifecycle transformation from products to service operations, and trigger the innovation of products, services, and business models. This will have a lasting impact on the value chain, supply chain, and ecosystem.”
The consortium was launched during a 2016 Edge Computing Industrial Summit in China. The organisation said it had also released a white paper that “puts emphasis on the edge computing industry’s trends and major challenges, elaborates on the definition and content of edge computing, displays the ECC’s top-level design and operational model, and formulates the reference architecture and technological framework of edge computing, guiding the ECC’s future development.” However no link to this was given, and the ECC does not yet appear to have a web site.
Fog spreads from edge to cloud
Meanwhile, the fog seems to be spreading from the edge of an IoT network all the way to the cloud. The OpenFog Consortium’s web site carries the following definition of fog computing:
“Fog computing is a system-level horizontal architecture that distributes resources and services of computing, storage, control and networking anywhere along the continuum from cloud to things. It is a:
- Horizontal architecture: support multiple industry verticals and application domains, delivering intelligence and services to users and business;
- Cloud-to-thing continuum of services: enable services and applications to be distributed closer to things, and anywhere along the continuum between cloud and things;
- System-level: extend from the things, over the network edges, through the cloud, and across multiple protocol layers – not just radio systems, not just a specific protocol layer, not just at one part of an end-to-end system, but a system spanning between the things and the cloud.
Meet the ‘cloudlets’
And there is yet another edge computing organisation, which counts both Intel and Huawei among its members: OpenEdgeComputing, initiated by Carnegie Mellon University. It introduces yet another concept: cloudlets, defined in Wikipedia as “a mobility-enhanced small-scale cloud data centre that is located at the edge of the Internet.”
According to Wikipedia, “the main purpose of the cloudlet is supporting resource-intensive and interactive mobile applications by providing powerful computing resources to mobile devices with lower latency. It is a new architectural element that extends today’s cloud computing infrastructure. It represents the middle tier of a three-tier hierarchy: mobile device – cloudlet – cloud.”
According to the OpenEdgeComputing web site “Carnegie Mellon University pioneered early work on cloudlets for cloud computing at the edge. Over time, various research partners gained exposure to this work and decided to participate. In the summer of 2015, with overlapping interests in mobile edge computing, a few parties joined efforts to accelerate and to leverage this research under the open source banner of Open Edge Computing (OEC). For now OEC ecosystem includes CMU, Intel, Huawei, and Vodafone.
OEC lists as it goals:
- leveraging cloudlets as enabling technology; driving the necessary technology and technology improvements as derived from various use cases that involve low latency and computation at the edge (eg extensions to OpenStack, KVM, QEMU);
- driving prototyping of applications that leverage edge cloud computing, pushing the boundaries and demonstrating benefits; driving the eco system development for open edge computing. In particular socialising the concept of open edge computing and benefits with the IT and application software industry.
- Engaging with target service industries/sectors through demonstrators and joint projects. Engaging with the relevant developer communities, seeking feedback and driving acceptance of edge cloud computing. Synchronising work with other efforts incl. ETSI ISG MEC and OPNFV.