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Fog Computing

Did the sudden switch from the spirited conversation around cloud computing to the newfangled ‘fog computing’ leave you flummoxed as well?

Well, you are not alone.

In this article, we will demystify fog computing and explain why everyone is talking about it and why businesses are suddenly skeptical about cloud computing as a long-term business solution.

What is fog computing?

“Fog computing, also known as fog networking, is a decentralized computing infrastructure in which computing resources and application services are distributed in the most logical, efficient place at any point along the continuum from the data source to the cloud.”

(Source: IoT Agenda, TechTarget)

Let’s simplify that definition:

Fog computing is a straightforward concept that essentially involves moving your computers (and other physical devices producing and acting on data) closer to the sensors they are communicating with. Cloud computing’s core feature is centralization and has sensors talking to “the cloud”, resulting often in bandwidth and connectivity issues. Fog computing, on the other hand, is all about decentralization.

Why “fog”?

The precept behind choosing the word “fog” has mainly to do with the idea that the benefits of cloud computing should be brought closer to the data source.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is producing such an unprecedented volume and range of data and that too at such a high speed, that transmitting this data to the cloud for analysis is not easily done, resulting in latency and the loss of opportunity to act on the data.

Fog computing was born out of the need to improve efficiency and minimize the large volumes of data that have to be transferred to the cloud for various purposes such as data processing, analysis and storage. While this is is done mainly for efficiency purposes, it may also be carried out for security and compliance reasons.

Fog computing offers a new model for analyzing and leveraging IoT data.

Interestingly, Cisco Systems coined the term “fog computing”. IBM insists on calling it “edge computing’, but the underlying concept is the same:

  • In a fog computing environment, much of the time-sensitive data is processed in a data hub on a smart mobile device or on the edge of the network, close to where the data has been generated.  This eliminates the need to send large large amounts of IoT data to the cloud.
  • Acts on IoT data in an extremely short span of time – we are talking milliseconds short.
  • Selected data is then sent to cloud for longer-term storage and historical analysis (Source: Cisco)

Forbes describes fog computing rather eloquently – the idea is to “push computing back out to the edge of the networks, to the devices, routers and sensors where the Internet ends and the real world begins, blanketing our world with a fog of devices with the computing power to handle much of the data and processing we request of them on their own.”

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Cloud computing Vs Fog Computing

Cloud computing is essentially the ability to store data and access it from off-site locations. An easy example is the intuitiveness of smartphones. Phones don’t come along with sufficient built-in storage to manage all the information they require to run apps and process functions. This means that data is constantly being transmitted and received in order to provide you with the services you want.

However, as you may have already noticed, if you’re stuck with a slow data connection (even the fastest one can seem excruciatingly slow in critical situations), the lack of bandwidth can wreak havoc when you’re trying to access certain applications. This right here is the biggest problem with cloud computing.

This problem will only intensify further as Internet of Things expands resulting in a growing number of physical objects connecting wirelessly to transmit and receive data. For example: routers, switches, embedded servers, industrial controllers, and video surveillance cameras.

We are gathering more data than ever every single minute. This also means we have far more of it than we can manage to analyze or utilize. And then comes the bigger problem of storing and accessing this data in an easy way.

According to an estimate by IDC, the amount of data analyzed on devices that are physically close to the Internet of Things is close to 40 percent.

Could fog computing be the answer?

Fog computing manages to resolve the issue of latency by extending the cloud to be closer to the physical objects that produce and act on IoT data. Keeping data close to its source, rather than redirecting everything through the central data center in the cloud, improves efficiency and speed.

We have tremendous amount of computing power around us all the time. At any given time, we have multiple laptops, smartphones, and various other devices. Now imagine, if you could download software updates onto one laptop and then simply communicate internally to allow other devices to utilize the computing power, how much more efficient that would be!

That is the power of fog computing.

Fog computing allows for data to be processed and accessed far more rapidly and efficiently, and from the most logical location, thereby mitigating the risk of data latency.

Latency can be more than just an annoyance, when you realize its implications on important applications, such as a vehicle-to-vehicle communication system or rail travel systems. Transmitting all of the data that IoT devices create to the cloud for processing and analysis is quite inefficient.

Fog computing offers greater business agility, better security, exceptional insights, and privacy control. You will have the opportunity to analyze sensitive data locally rather than sending it to the cloud for analysis.

Businesses will find the security and privacy benefits especially relevant. You can have your IT teams closely monitor and control the sensors/devices that collect, analyze, and store data. Furthermore, you can also limit your usage of network bandwidth by processing selected data locally, while transmitting the rest to the cloud for analysis.

Would you like to discuss further about whether fog computing might be a prudent business decision for you? Do get in touch with one of our IT experts.

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Fill out a 3 question survey and receive a $10 Starbucks Gift Card. At IT Buyer's Resource we match your I.T. initiative with the industry’s best solutions and partners.
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