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Fog is clearing up

Fog is progressively seen as a complement to Clouds that will become a de facto architecture in areas where low latency is required and where significant storage and computation power is available by clustering many devices. Credit: Prismtech

Yesterday I spoke in a panel on fog, the shift of clouds to the edges of the network. The panel focused on the business drives and consequences.

The four panelists, although came from different sectors, agreed that fog is inevitable from a business viewpoint. For some it will be a game changer (meaning it will disrupt their current business) for others it will be a natural way of doing biz.

Tao Zhang from Cisco emphasized fog business as the natural complement to the cloud business with the difference that Clouds requires huge investment in infrastructure and there are just a few players in that business whilst many can “afford” to enter the fog business and they will enter by connecting their fog piece with others and with Clouds. Hence the Clouds extend their pervasiveness by interacting seamlessly with the fog at the edges. He also made the point that fog may turn out to be the solution addressing security issues in the IoT domain, something that is of high importance in manufacturing.

Joe Weinman, author of Cloudonomics, gave a presentation showing many areas where fog is already making business sense, from the management of UPS delivery van to management of containers in ports.  He is actually proposing the term “Fogonomics” to emphasize the economic space and opportunities in this area where we are likely to see different sort of players, much smaller ones than those operating in the Cloud space and many more of them. An interesting question, of course, is what will be the aggregator (the seed) that may create an avalanche effect, what role devices manufacturers (smartphones’ as well as trucks, cars, robots) will play, whether they will see fog as a natural extension of their business or if it will be someone else to leverage on the capacity (processing and storage) provided at the network edges by these devices.

I made the point that a potential “seed” could be the deployment of 5G in the next decade and specifically the possibility provided by 5G of having the terminals selecting the desired resources and becoming network nodes at the edges. Meeting some requirements, such as latency in the order of units of ms, will require the terminal to take control of the session and of resource allocation. This might create a driver in some part of Industry 4.0, like in cooperating autonomous robots. It may also become a de facto situation as autonomous vehicle will populate the urban environment.

In fact, as I mention in a post few days ago, the transformation of the communication landscape from being reliant on an infrastructure to one made up by a communication fabric has fog as one of its main component (both physical and architectural).

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. He's currently the Chair of the Symbiotic Autonomous Systems Initiative of IEEE-FDC. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and up to September 2018 he was the Head of the EIT Digital Industrial Doctoral School. Previously, up to December 2011, he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books. He writes a daily blog,  http://sites.ieee.org/futuredirections/category/blog/, with commentary on innovation in various technology and market areas.

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