Fog Computing : Pushing the Edge of Possibility
I was fascinated recently when I read about the detection of gravitational waves for the first time ever. “With this discovery”, the article states, “invisible objects in the universe may soon become visible”. That’s the exact analogy I use when I describe Cisco’s implementation of Fog Computing, or IOx as Cisco refers to it. IOx opens up a new level of visibility in networking infrastructure and decision-making by pushing application logic and data analytics to the network edge. And, just as LIGO (the ruler used to measure the gravitational waves) changes how we measure gravitational forces, IOx changes how we process data.
Why do we need intelligence at the edge? Cisco forecasts that there are going to be 50 billion connected “things” or “devices” in the “Internet of Things” world by 2020. Most of these devices are at the edge of the network and can generate zettabytes of data. So, a traditional two-layer IoT architecture that connects the devices and things directly to cloud, where the IoT application logic resides, presents two big challenges. The first is these applications have strict latency requirements; the devices, often geographically distributed, are connected through low bandwidth uplinks and moving large data to and from cloud impacts it adversely. Second, it costs to send and receive so much data to and from the cloud.
It is, therefore, more optimal to employ a combination of cloud computing and edge computing to industrial IoT solutions. The application logic residing in the data center or cloud could focus on long-term data processing, central aggregation and historical analysis of data. The application logic residing in the edge, closer to the IoT devices, could then focus on performing analytics at the edge itself, making real-time decisions and optimizing the bandwidth by intelligently reducing the data before it is sent to cloud. The compute capability that is inherent in the edge network devices can itself be used for performing this edge processing and analytics.
In order to provide a comprehensive and customer-focused experience, the engineering team engaged with multiple customers spanning several industries and geographies and derived many forward looking requirements including ease of remote manageability, security, edge analytics, multi-tenancy and the need for a policy based application life cycle. Cisco understands that the IoT market’s growth is mandated upon enabling verticals to develop their own applications in their domains that ultimately help end customers. With IOx, we provide a software platform that helps organization develop, manage and deploy applications to the edges. The platform supports device orchestration and analytics at the edge devices. The platform hides network heterogeneity and complexity from developers, essentially eliminating the mismatch between a developer’s preferred language and the IOx development environment by providing a web-like development experience.
Like with the recently-detected gravitational waves opening up the cosmos in a whole new way, the most exciting aspect about data processing at the network edge is that it opens up a world of new possibilities that simply couldn’t be achieved if all of the raw data had to make a trip to the cloud. The promise of IOx is resulting in a new class of edge applications being built for use-cases as diverse as city governance, retail, heavy industry, mining and transportation to name a few.
The newly announced Cisco Digital Network Architecture, or DNA as we like to refer to it, provides an open, extensible and software-centric platform for all things digital, including IOT. A central element of Cisco DNA is Evolved Cisco IOS XE, which among other things supports application hosting and edge computing, so that IOx-based micro-services can be hosted virtually anywhere in the network, on virtually any platform. IOx accelerates innovation in IoT by enabling BYOI (Bring Your Own Interface) and BYOA (Bring Your Own Application) creating the ability for apps to become “network aware”. Similar to the notion of big data platforms, which brought compute to storage, processing IoT data at the edge is about bringing compute to the network. The edge is pushing the limits of networking excellence and we invite you to join our journey.
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