High-Tech comes with many buzz words. Remember Al Gore’s ‘Information Highway’ in the early days of the world wide web? Fast forward to now and most people are familiar with terms such as the Cloud, Big Data, the Quantified Self, Shadow Computing and the Internet of Things. But recently, a new concept has been introduced: Fog Computing. What the Fog is that?
First let’s start with the Internet of Things (IoT), because it’s developing rapidly and is one of the strongest trends in technology. IoT is about Big Data Analytics, Cloud Computing and Mobile Computing. The IoT brings connectivity to the physical world right around us, coming into our homes, vehicles, clothes and workplaces with smart, Internet-connected devices. But IoT will burden the current internet and data center infrastructure. Gartner predicts that the IoT may include 26 billion connected units by 2020. Cisco even forecasts about 50 billion sensors by that same time.
The typical approach in computing is to centralize data processing in a single site, preferably in the Cloud. This results in lower costs, better control and strong application security. Most enterprise data nowadays is pushed up to the Cloud, stored, analyzed, and then a decision is made and action taken. But this approach has it’s limits: because decisions need to be made as close to the action as possible, and the immense volume of data that will be generated by IoT will force this central processing structure to break up.
Here’s where Fog Computing to the rescue! Fog Computing allows computing, decision-making and action-taking to happen via IoT devices. Only data that are relevant for Advanced Analytics will be pushed into the Cloud. Cisco coined the term ‘Fog Computing’ and gave this definition: “The Fog extends the Cloud to be closer to the things that produce and act on IoT data. These devices, called Fog nodes, can be deployed anywhere with a network connection: on a factory floor, on top of a power pole, alongside a railway track, in a vehicle, or on an oil rig. Any device with computing, storage, and network connectivity can be a Fog node. Examples include industrial controllers, switches, routers, embedded servers, and video surveillance cameras.”
Fog Computing is a close kin to Cloud Computing. But instead of being “out there” somewhere like the Cloud, the Fog is all around us in the numerous smart objects we interact with every day. It happens
at the edge, closer to the ground, where the data is generated. Fog Computing will minimize latency, conserve network bandwidth, and move data to the best place for processing. It works in conjunction with cloud computing, optimizing the use of available resources. It balances two challenges: the real-time processing and action of incoming data, and the limitation of resources like bandwidth and computing power.
Moving the intelligent processing of data to the edge only increases the need for the availability of these smart gateways and their communication path to the cloud and to each other. As the IoT allows people to manage their daily lives by doing everything from locking their homes, to checking their schedules, and cooking their meals — gateway downtime, connectivity and latency in the Fog become critical issues. Additionally, resilience and failover solutions that safeguard those processes will become as essential.
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