The Internet of Things (IoT) has been a huge topic for the last few years. The number of devices connected to the IoT continues to grow. It was predicted that the number of devices connected to the IoT would outnumber the world’s population in 2017, at 8.4 billion, and increase to 50 billion by 2020. This includes many types of devices that were never connected before, such as kitchen appliances, cars and watches, all equipped with sensors and peripherals that generate massive amounts of data.
To give you an idea of how much data is generated: Nearly 500 million photos are uploaded on Facebook and Instagram and about 500 thousand hours of video is uploaded to YouTube daily. More video is uploaded to YouTube in one month than the three major US networks created in over 60 years. This is just social media use, which is only a drop in the data bucket.
So where will all this data be processed and stored?
The huge growth in the number of computing devices is not the only issue facing the central cloud computing model. There is also a shift in production and consumption of data to the edge of the network. Sending all the data generated at the edge to the central cloud, processing and analyzing it on servers in remote data centers and then transporting it back to the edge devices is not feasible and scalable. Also, big picture applications all have requirements that can’t always be addressed by the cloud in its current form. Issues such as latency, security, network reliability, performance, privacy, bandwidth and many others are extremely difficult to completely overcome in centralized cloud computing models.
Is fog computing the answer?
The basic idea of fog computing is to fully utilize new key software technologies, processes and applications built to take advantage of the current cloud computing infrastructure, but deployed on hardware closer to the edge of the network. It’s about bringing the cloud closer to the ground, or “fog”.
We are now forced to rethink where and in what forms this newly distributed computing hardware environment will exist. Should computing elements be integrated into network equipment that sits out at the edge of the network? Will we start to see new types of smaller data centers get deployed into entirely new types of places? Both are likely to happen. Hopefully the partnership of these elements will work in improving the issues of the current model. The challenges are figuring out how the kinds of complex workloads traditionally done in big data centers can be broken up and/or simplified.
Even with all the changes the future holds, traditional cloud, network, data center and common endpoints will remain critical infrastructure elements. The new fog computing efforts are typically created to supplement the current structure using small fog nodes. In fact, several companies have already started building proprietary solutions that leverage some of these ideas to create unique opportunities for themselves.
In the future, don’t be afraid of “the fog”.
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