Cloud computing is currently one of the most inescapable topics in IT, and for good reason. On-demand compute, storage and network resources enable highly scalable businesses and, in many instances, substantial savings over traditional infrastructure. An April 2014 report by IHS estimated that more than $174 billion would be spent on cloud solutions this year.
From the cloud to the fog: Internet of Things requires a new model for device intelligence
The Internet of Things, one of the other overarching trends in current IT, may also unlock new use cases for the cloud in general and for cellular remote site management in particular. Vendors such as Cisco have proposed "fog computing" as a bridge between the actual "things" of the IoT - IP-connected sensors and appliances out in the field - and the faraway data centers that gather and process all the IoT big data.
According to Gartner, the IoT could encompass 26 billion connected units by 2020, generating $300 billion in annual incremental revenue. However, given the quantity of input data coming from globally distributed sources, central processing in a single site - the preferred approach in recent years for reducing costs and enhancing application security - won't be feasible. Some processing will have to be handed off to small data centers and field devices and then relayed to a cloud as needed for additional handling.
"The enormous number of devices, coupled with the sheer volume, velocity and structure of IoT data, creates challenges, particularly in the areas of security, data, storage management, servers and the data center network, as real-time business processes are at stake," according to Joe Skorupa, Gartner Vice President and distinguished analyst. "Data center managers will need to deploy more forward-looking capacity management in these areas to be able to proactively meet the business priorities associated with IoT."
Fog computing presents a solution to these issues with backhaul and data handling that loom over the IoT. Cisco's vision here calls for industrial-strength routers that would combine open Linux and JVM platforms embedded with their proprietary IOS. The use of open platforms is notable since it would allow teams to port applications to Cisco's infrastructure in a familiar programming environment supported by multiple vendors.
These hardened gateway devices would in turn take on some of the processing that would otherwise be performed in full in the cloud. The gateways would connect to the cloud via service provider access and edge networks, hence the name. So the cloud is essentially extended all the way out to the edge of the network (hence the notion of "fog" and the gateway devices there become much more sophisticated than the routers that have supported the Internet edge to date.
"With this new paradigm the cloud can delegate an array of tasks out to the smart gateways and access systems at the edge, as it often makes more sense to localize analysis and decision making," explained Opengear Chairman Bob Waldie. "Where there are response time constraints the Fog model enables the IoT to deliver a quick response at the edge, without being burdened by network latency. Where there are traffic volume constraints the Fog model allows smart filtering and selective transmission. So smart edge gateways could process millions of status messages from a plethora of monitors and sensors - and only transmit summary and exception data to the cloud."
How remote site management makes fog computing more efficient
Fog computing is emerging as a promising model for IoT connectivity, however to take advantage of this shift does not require a swap out of all the existing edge routers and other field equipment. Remote site management solutions from Opengear, such as the ACM5500 Management Gateway, offer a path to smartening the edge, with 3G and 4G LTE cellular connectivity, automatic detection and recovery from outages, and military-grade FIPS 140-2 security.
As Chairman, Bob Waldie helps steer Opengear and manages key strategic partnerships. Bob has a track record of successful entrepreneurship with open source ventures, and prior to co-founding Opengear, he chaired SnapGear, a developer of embedded Linux security appliances. In 2003 SnapGear was acquired by CyberGuard. Before this Bob was CEO of Moreton Bay Ventures which developed Internet messaging products. In 2000, Moreton Bay was acquired by Lineo Inc, where Bob served as COO. Bob has participated in other startups, and served on the board of private and public technology companies, as well as government and industry bodies.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi