One of the hottest technologies in Information Technology is Cloud computing. Every enterprise is embracing the Cloud movement. However, the cloud is in the ether of digital information, located high in the infrastructure. It is currently the best technology for processing large amounts of data, extending the performance of all levels of servers and providing the base for running analytics on data to mine information. It provides a common reference for all devices and users to access.
“The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we’ve redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do. I can’t think of anything that isn’t cloud computing with all of these announcements. The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women’s fashion. Maybe I’m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It’s complete gibberish. It’s insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?” – Larry Ellison, chairman, Oracle
But for all of that, it still is up there away from the base of all the action. Whether it’s for an industrial plant, military site or even a consumer’s home, the Cloud is an abstract entity that is useful but detached from real-time, or critical, access. One way to look at the Cloud is that it is accessed via the Wide Area Network (Internet) and not the local area network where the users are located. This access is controlled by the WAN providers and can be slow at times. There are also many instances of downtime in Cloud server infrastructure, either through human error, equipment fault, or hacking. We’ve also seen many instances of unauthorized access to files and data residing on Cloud systems.
There needs to be a feet-attached-to-the-ground method of providing local support for real-time or critical applications. In a technology that likes names and acronyms a term was formed – Fog computing. If the Cloud is way up there then the Fog is the ground-hugging solution. Fog computing provides a method to bring Cloud computing to the edge of the network. This creates a highly virtualized platform that provides compute, storage, and networking services between end devices and traditional cloud computing data centers.
Fog platforms are critical for supporting the emerging wave of Internet deployments, which require mobility support, real-time interactions, low latency and high security. Another requirement is to support a very large number of nodes in a highly heterogeneous environment. The environment could be a manufacturing floor, a hospital or a military forward base. Features of a Fog platform are:
• The Fog platform supports real-time, actionable analytics, processes, and filters the data, and pushes to the Cloud data that is global in geographical scope and time.
• Data collection and analytics are pulled from access devices and pushed to Cloud
• Data storage for redistribution which is pulled from the Cloud and pulled by downstream devices
• Technologies that facilitate data fusion.
• Analytics relevant for local users such as sensors
• Methodologies, Models and Algorithms to optimize the cost and performance through workload mobility between Fog and Cloud.
While Fog conceptually extends Cloud computing and leverages Cloud’s underlying technologies, Fog, by definition, spans wider geographic locations than Cloud, and in a denser way. Also, Fog devices are much more heterogeneous in nature, ranging from end-user devices, access points, to edge routers and switches.
Cloud in a Case
An example of a mobile device that can be used as a Fog platform is the Chassis Plans Cloud in a Case system shown below. Providing server class processors, high-performance disk storage, network switches and display, the Chassis Plans system is easy to transport and install in any field site. VMware can provide virtualized workstations accessing common data and programs similar to a traditional WAN Cloud environment. The benefit of a local FOG solution as compared to a remote Cloud server is local data control and no dependence on a potentially fragile data path to the Cloud.