Insights 4 min

What the fog?

RZW pasfoto 2020
Ruben van der Zwan
CEO & Co-Founder
pexels photo 531360

I think everyone is now familiar with cloud computing, but have you ever heard of edge or even fog computing? I hadn’t until recently but it turns out to be a new way to use computing resources.

Edge computing

With the advent of IoT we see more and more data being generated by sensors, somewhere in the field [often quite literally]. In some use cases, we want to do a lot of local processing.  Take for instance sensors on a modern-day car.  Processing of the data needs to be done locally and with the increasing amounts of data being sent over it would be impractical to send all of that to centralized location.  But mention the fact that action that needs to be taken is local, an example would be a distance sensor on the front of the car that start registering the diminishing distance between sensor and the car in front.  The action of course is to brake.

Fog computing

Fog computing, fog networking or fogging is an architecture that uses edge devices to carry out substantial amount of computation according to Wikipedia. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines fog computing as follows: Fog computing is a layered model for enabling ubiquitous access to a shared continuum of scalable computing resources. The model facilitates the deployment of distributed, latency -aware applications and services, and consists of fog nodes (physical or virtual), residing between smart end-devices  and  centralized  (cloud)  services

The document from NIST is something that is nice to read and will give you more insight into the concepts of fog computing.  For me it opened up a whole new set of concepts including mist computing (I am not kidding). But what would like to do rather than going to all the technical details is to discuss the use case of these new paradigms and what they mean for you!

Everyone can be a provider

You can see it as an alternative to cloud providers like Amazon, Azure or Google.  Rather than a centralized and massive cloud computing platform you are now creating computing resources at what they call the edge of the network.  You can add your computing resources to a network and start making some money with some spare computing resources that you might have. Together these devices at the edge of the network make up a massive computing platform, very much like the grid computing efforts in the beginning of the 21st century.  One such company that offers such a service is SONM.

SONM is offering general-purpose computing cloud-like services (IaaS, PaaS) based on fog computing as a backend. Computing power suppliers (hosts) all over the world can contribute their computing power to SONM marketplace.  Users will, according to SONM, get cheaper computing power compared to cloud providers. The solution that SONM is offering is Linux and Docker based.  Payment is based on Ethereum smart contracts.

Use case

Although they say it is for general purpose computing some of the examples that they give are for a very specific use case.  For instance, rendering training models in case of machine learning and video rendering.  There are also examples that are more towards the nature of fog computing [the edge] and that is for instance video distribution and CDN (content distribution networks).

Would you use it?

The question is of course: would you use it? Or even would I use it? At this moment it’s hard to say, we get an idea about what fog computing is but the devil is always is in the details.  As a company, we use cloud computing for the services that we offer to clients and we pay for what we use.  We hardly have any spare computing resources that we can add to such a market.  And I’m not sure if we would want to if we did.

The world is changing and we see more and more IoT devices arising as well as the demand for Edge processing.  As a part of a digital transformation, fog computing not necessarily the form that SONM is offering could very well be part of the roadmap.

It’s a question of additional research from our side that is necessary to see if this will be beneficial to use as an alternative to cloud computing, or even to identify if there would be any cases for our clients use for computing.

The world is changing and we see more and more IoT devices arising as well as the demand for Edge processing.  As a part of a digital transformation, fog computing not necessarily the form that SONM is offering could very well be part of the roadmap.

That doesn’t mean that fog computing is useless just mean that we haven’t fully identified the use cases.

In the case that you do have some spare computing power you might want to recover some of the cost associated with that.  If you are on a shoestring budget cheaper computing resources might be beneficial.  So, it all depends on your use case.

What do you think? Is fog computing a hype? A trend? A fad? 

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