In Cisco CEO John Chambers’ opening keynote at Cisco Live 2014 in San Francisco last week, he talked about “fog computing.” Subsequent keynotes and sessions throughout the week also used this term. So, what is fog computing?
To understand this term, you first need to think about the “Internet of Everything” (IoE), which is an extension of the “Internet of Things” (IoT). The idea of IoE is that everything will be on the Internet. This of course includes things like your phone, tablet, laptop and so forth, as well as your car, thermostat, smoke alarm, fridge, stove, jewelry … it’s endless. For enterprises and governments, “everything” includes sensors, cameras, pumps, lights, drills, gauges … everything.
We’ve probably all heard of cloud computing — the idea of an organization’s core software and computing services hosted elsewhere: in the Internet cloud. But the devices that supply the data needed by the cloud, and that do whatever it is the organization needs to be done, are by definition far away from the cloud. Yes, they are in the fog! So, fog computing really is computing at the other end of the spectrum from cloud computing.
In order for a device to be on the Internet, it has to have an IP address (which may be IPv4 now but definitely will have to be IPv6 very soon). And, it has to be able to send, receive and process packets, which means it has to have some computing capability. But we don’t want every device to send all of its data to the cloud — that would consume way too much bandwidth. So, the fog will also include local networking devices — routers and switches — that could process much of the data locally.
For example, your car could send updates about fuel consumption, brake wear, distance travelled and so on to a local router. That router could have an application that records and processes all of this information. If it notices a problem, for example, that your brakes are in need of service, it could schedule an appointment at your local garage for you via the cloud.
A lot of devices already have embedded computing capabilities. But, according to Intel’s Doug Davis (at another Cisco Live keynote), 85 percent of industrial integrated computing devices are not connected to the Internet yet, so there is a lot of work to be done. How many devices are we talking about? Well, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion “things” on the Internet by 2020. That’s a lot of fog!