Should You Let the Fog Disappear or Not?

Should You Let the Fog Disappear or Not?

Fog Computing may be a new term for many of you reading this article. Here is Fog Computing as defined by the Open Fog Consortium (OFC):

A system-level horizontal architecture that distributes resources and services of computing, storage, control and networking anywhere along the continuum from Cloud to Things.

I can see you scrunching up your face, rolling your eyes, and thinking what does this mean? It’s simple, the Fog is an extension of the ubiquitous cloud that everyone has heard of by now. The Fog transfers the capabilities of computing, storage, control, and networking outside of the large data centers and into the edge of the network much closer to end-user devices.

A question that might come to mind is, why now? Mung Chiang, co-founder of the OFC, developed four primary reasons and two secondary reasons for Fog Computing in his paper, Fog Networking: An
Overview on Research Opportunities, December 2015.

The four primary reasons for Fog Computing:

1. Time: Real time processing and cyber-physical system control. Edge data analytics, as well as the actions it enables through control loops, often have stringent time requirement and can only be carried out on the edge. This is particularly essential for Tactile Internet: the vision of millisecond reaction time on networks that enable virtual-reality-type interfaces between humans and devices.

2. Cognition: Awareness of Client-centric objectives. Following the end-to-end principle, some of the applications can be best enabled by knowing the requirements on the clients. This is especially true when privacy and reliability cannot be trusted in the cloud, or when security is enhanced by shortening the extent over which communication is carried out.

3. Efficiency: Pooling of local resources. There are typically hundreds of gigabytes sitting idle on tablets, laptops and set-top boxes in a household every evening, or across a table in a conference room, or among the passengers of a public transit system. Idle processing power, sensing ability and wireless connectivity within the edge may be pooled in a Fog network.

4. Agility: Rapid innovation and affordable scaling. It is usually much faster and cheaper to experiment with client and edge devices. Rather than waiting for vendors of large boxes inside the network to adopt an innovation, in the Fog world a small team may take advantages of smart phone API and SDK, proliferation of mobile apps, and offer a networking service through its own API.

The two secondary defensive reasons:

1. Feasibility to operate on encrypted and multipath traffic. A major trend these days is that by the time traffic leaves the edge and enters the backbone network, it is already encrypted and sent on multiple paths to the destination.

2. Implications of FCC Title II Ruling in Unites States. The FCC voted in February 2015 to classify Internet services, including mobile services, as a “utility” under the Title II regulatory mandate, which may further push network innovation to the edge in the US.

In a July 2015 Government Technology article, Is Edge Computing Key to the Internet of Things, research scientist Ryan LaMothe at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory said, “No one talks much about it, but it’s coming.” The transition to edge computing is subtle. But slow shifts in technology are frequently the most pervasive and have the greatest impact on society.

An obvious application for Fog Computing capabilities would be fleet autonomous vehicles, say an Uber-like organization. Picture thousands of self-aware autonomous vehicles scanning the roadway, other vehicles, pedestrians, potential road hazards, mapping software, traffic signs, traffic signals, sending and receiving constant information to/from the fleet servers, and then making decisions within seconds to ensure traffic flow is not impeded. Network latency and jitter could result in catastrophic results for this organization. The closer you place intelligent network nodes to the vehicle, (Fog Computing), the better an experience for the vehicle passengers and others on the roadway.

I’d be remiss in not including an opposing viewpoint in the discussion. A June 2014 blog post at GCN.com titled, The fallacy of ‘fog computing’, is a controversial rebuttal to the concept of Fog Computing. Quoting from the post, Given that most of the search results on “fog computing” are from Cisco, we need to go to the source of this term to get any clarity. Here is Cisco’s definition: “Fog computing is a paradigm that extends cloud computing and services to the edge of the network. Similar to cloud, fog provides data, compute, storage and application services to end-users.” Clear as mud, right?

The author makes the case that Cisco and IBM, 2nd tier players in the cloud computing space, are trying to elevate themselves to the 1st tier by combining cloud + Internet of Things to create a new computing category, Fog Computing.

Both sides of this discussion have rational arguments that deserve further investigation. We recommend that you read the articles mentioned in this post and others related to the topic before you develop long-term networking strategies.

The Internet of Things (IoT) may be the killer App of Fog Computing. It’s inevitable that as more items are embedded with electronic chips sending and receiving signals from a source, bandwidth transport providers will be searching for efficient methods to distribute the computing, storage, and network workload whenever possible. Fog Computing could be a solution to efficiently distribute the workload off the network backbones and onto the edge of the network, thereby reducing the appearance of the enemies of communication technologies, network latency, jitter, and packet loss.

If things like latency, jitter, or packet loss are a concern, you may want to investigate 1stel’s answer for managing your network. 1stel’s bandwidth management tool (BMT) provides you with a daily summary of your network’s average latency, jitter, and packet loss. Click here to find out more.

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Randall Smith – StratoSTACK Product Manager

Illustrations and Copy Edit: Jaime Baldwin- StratoSTACK Digital Media Specialist