Just when you’re getting the hang of one bit of jargon, then along comes another. We’re now happy to discuss storing our data in the Cloud with Google Drive, and don’t think twice about using Cloud services such as Salesforce. And now we have….
… the Fog.
It’s not clear where the Fog came from (it just drifted in), but Cisco is a name that keeps popping up in this context (see https://www.cisco.com/web/solutions/trends/iot/docs/computing-solutions.pdf). They tell us Fog computing takes the concept of Cloud computing and moves it to the edge of the network, closer to the end user. This is good for Internet of Things applications requiring rapid real-time response, or where failure of the system when a communications link fails would not be good – applications like industrial automation, or transport. There is still a connection to the Cloud, but Fog computing takes care of the low level processes in much the same way as our bodies respond instantly to an outside stimulus with a reflex action, only telling the brain some time later what has happened.
The advantages of Fog computing include:
To see how this makes sense, consider a security system using multiple cameras. Using video processing techniques the system can recognise the difference between a cat and a burglar, and will automatically alert the operator for one of those and not the other. With a simple Cloud architecture, all of the video from all of the cameras would be transmitted to an application in the Cloud – all the time. The Cloud application would process the information from all of the cameras, looking for events requiring an alarm. With multiple installations, we’re looking at a lot of data and a lot of processing. And of course, if the Internet connection were to fail at just the wrong time, bad things could happen. If we move some of the processing to the Fog, we have an autonomous sensing system which sends very little data to the Cloud, until it detects a threat, at which point it can send an alert and the associated video – all much more efficient and robust.
As with so many new buzzwords, the concept itself isn't new - but it might just be handy to have a simple term to describe it.