Welcome to Fog Computing: Extending the Cloud to the Edge

There's a new buzz word in distributed computing - Fog Computing. The idea of fog computing is to distribute data to move it closer to the end-user to eliminate latency and numerous hops, and support mobile computing and data streaming.

Bill Kleyman

August 23, 2013

5 Min Read
Welcome to Fog Computing: Extending the Cloud to the Edge



(Photo by Mike Behnken via Flickr)

It’s been far too long since we’ve had another hot tech buzz term. But new conversations are beginning to emerge around Fog Computing. Closely resembling the concepts of cloud computing, the Fog aims to take services, workloads, applications and large amounts of data and deliver it all to the edge of the network. The goal is to provide core data, compute, storage, and application services on a truly distributed level.

Fog takes the data and workload technology to a new level. We’re now talking about edge computing – the home of the Fog.

Data is now being delivered in large quantities to many more users. To optimize the concept of the cloud, organizations need a way to deliver content to end users through a more geographically distributed platform. The idea of fog computing is to distribute data to move it closer to the end-user to eliminate latency and numerous hops, and support mobile computing and data streaming. Already, we’re seeing “everything-as-a-service” models. The user is asking for more data access from any device, any time, from anywhere. This means that the future of the cloud must support the idea of the “Internet of Everything (IoE).” That’s where Fog Computing comes in.

Applications and use-cases

The term "fog computing" has been embraced by Cisco Systems as a new paradigm to support wireless data transfer to support distributed devices in the "Internet of Things." A number of distributed computing and storage startups are also adopting the phrase. It builds upon earlier concepts in distributed computing, such as content delivery networks, but allows the delivery of more complex services using cloud technologies.

Before you get confused with yet another technology term, it’s important to understand where Fog Computing plays a role. Although it is a new terminology, this technology already has a place within the world of the modern data center and the cloud.

  • Bringing data close to the user. The volume  of data being delivered via the cloud creates a direct need to cache data or other services. These services would be located closest to the end-user to improve on latency concerns and data access. Instead of housing information at data center sites far from the end-point, the Fog aims to place the data close to the end-user.

  • Creating dense geographical distribution. Fog computing extends direct cloud services by creating an edge network which sits at numerous points. This, dense, geographically dispersed infrastructure helps in numerous ways. First of all, big data and analytics can be done faster with better results. Then, administrators are able to support location-based mobility demands and not have to traverse the entire WAN. Finally, these edge (Fog) systems would be created in such a way that real-time data analytics become a reality on a truly massive scale.

  • True support for mobility and the IoE. As mentioned earlier, there is a direct increase in the amount of devices and data that we use. Administrators are able to leverage the Fog and control where users are coming in and how they access this information. Not only does this improve user performance, it also helps with security and privacy issues. By controlling data at various edge points, Fog computing integrates core cloud services with those of a truly distributed data center platform. As more services are created to benefit the end-user, edge and Fog networks will become more prevalent.

  • Numerous verticals are ready to adopt. Many organizations are already adopting the concept of the Fog. Many different types of services aim to deliver rich content to the end-user. This spans IT shops, vendors, and entertainment companies as well. Let’s take Netflix for example. With so many users all over the world, centralizing all of the content within one or two data centers would make the delivery process a nightmare. To deliver large amounts of streamed services, Fog Computing can be leveraged by placing the data at the edge; close to the end-user.

  • Seamless integration with the cloud and other services. The idea isn’t to replace the cloud. With Fog services, we’re able to enhance the cloud experience by isolating user data that needs to live on the edge. From there, administrators are able to tie-in analytics, security, or other services directly into their cloud model. This infrastructure still maintains the concept of the cloud while incorporating the power of Fog Computing at the edge.

As more services, data and applications are pushed to the end-user, technologists will need to find ways to optimize the delivery process. This means bringing information closer to the end-user, reducing latency and being prepared for the Internet of Everything. There is no doubt that IT consumerization and BYOD won’t increase in consumption. More users are utilizing mobility as their means to conduct business and their personal lives. Rich content and lots of data points are pushing cloud computing platforms, literally, to the edge - where the user’s requirements are continuing to grow.

With the increase in data and cloud services utilization, Fog Computing will play a key role in helping reduce latency and improving the user experience. We are now truly distributing the data plane and pushing advanced services to the edge. By doing so, administrators are able to bring rich content to the user faster, more efficiently, and – very importantly – more economically. This, ultimately, will mean better data access, improved corporate analytics capabilities, and an overall improvement in the end-user computing experience.

About the Author(s)

Bill Kleyman

Bill Kleyman has more than 15 years of experience in enterprise technology. He also enjoys writing, blogging, and educating colleagues about tech. His published and referenced work can be found on Data Center Knowledge, AFCOM, ITPro Today, InformationWeek, NetworkComputing, TechTarget, DarkReading, Forbes, CBS Interactive, Slashdot, and more.

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