Linux Foundation Creates Umbrella Group for Edge Computing
Everything old is new again. In recent years, ‘80s- and ‘90s-inspired fashion has become hip again as has the concept of distributed computing, which gained in popularity in those same decades, with the rise of PCs, client-server architecture and mobile computing devices.
While cloud computing helped re-establish the notion of centralized computing, the pendulum is swinging back toward distributed computing with growing interest in edge computing. The problem with edge computing, however, is that deploying edge computing is often challenging, requiring new architectures and collaboration among an array of technologists.
The Linux Foundation unveiled today a new initiative with more than 50 founding members dedicated to using open-source collaboration to address such hurdles. Known as LF Edge, the initiative will use a shared framework to help drive edge computing adoption. “We are really excited about simplifying this edge space,” said Arpit Joshipura, general manager, the Linux Foundation.
The umbrella project harmonizes five initiatives:
- Akraino Edge Stack, an initiative AT&T helped launch to create an integrated edge infrastructure that is stable enough to support critical infrastructure requirements including high-availability, fault management and performance management. The Linux Foundation-backed stack has a broad set of potential use cases owing to its focus on application and network provisioning and orchestration. Other companies contributing to Arkraino include Arm, Dell EMC, HPE, Huawei, IBM, Intel and Qualcomm.
- EdgeX Foundry, initially a Dell initiative, is a vendor-neutral project dedicated to building an interoperable open-source framework for IoT devices and applications. The EdgeX Foundry has been a Linux Foundation initiative since 2017.
- Home Edge Project is a new project dedicated to creating a robust edge computing framework for domestic applications. Samsung Electronics contributed the seed code for the initiative.
- Open Glossary of Edge Computing is a Wikipedia-like lexicon of terminology for edge computing. The vendors Vapor IO and Packet worked together on the glossary and collaborated with The Linux Foundation to transform the initiative into an open source project.
- Project EVE (Edge Virtualization Engine), an initiative from ZEDEDA, aims to develop an open-source, versatile standard edge architecture.
“This umbrella gives you a collaborative platform for the community to spur IoT and edge applications across enterprise, cloud and carriers,” Joshipura said.
When asked how transformative edge computing will be compared to other high-profile technology trends, Joshipura said: “We expect edge to be really, really big, right?” Edge computing can complement cloud computing, as Gartner has noted. While cloud computing can be used to support centralized control of computing resources, edge computing excels for applications, for instance, that are otherwise remote, disconnected or have low-latency requirements.
The challenge, he added, is that the marketing surrounding new technologies can get ahead of the actual software. “Setting up these kinds of foundations and umbrella where real code happens is really the only way to move the agenda forward,” Joshipura added.
The Linux Foundation initiative to harmonize open source edge computing initiatives follows a December joining of forces of the Industrial Internet Consortium and the OpenFog Consortium. Those organizations will also collaborate to help standardize terminology such as fog and edge computing, which are often used in an overlapping manner. OpenFog will leverage IIC’s Time-Sensitive Networking testbed in conjunction with the IEEE 1934 standard, a reference architecture it created with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Other standards organizations focused on edge computing include the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, Open Edge Computing and the Automotive Edge Computing Consortium.
In any event, edge computing is poised to become an increasingly important technology trend, as Peter Levine, a general partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz noted in a 2016 presentation titled “The End of Cloud Computing.” “You think about a self-driving car — it’s effectively a data center on wheels,” Levine said. The same principle applies to robots, drones, factory floors, oil wells, AR and VR headsets and a growing array of devices and environments imbued with sensors and computing.
The rising popularity of open-source methodologies could free IoT adopters from data silos and platform lock-in while also centralizing visibility and control of edge devices.
“Any technology trend or any market develop in silos,” Joshipura explained. Such technologies tend to spur eager experimentation among early adopters, but silos tend to form around them that slow adoption at large. “Edge is no different, right? We, we started off with silos on IoT, silos in enterprise, silos in connected things, silos in telecom etc and then, very quickly, people realized that they are solving common problems.” The open source movement enables organizations to focus on differentiating their apps and services while enabling the community to help tackle shared deployment challenges. “The plumbing and lifecycle management is all a common problem, so [the community ultimately decides to do open source for that,” Joshipura said. “And that’s kind of where we are for edge.”