On January 31, 2019, the OpenFog Consortium joined forces with the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC). This transaction brings together the two largest and most influential international IoT consortia, creating a business and technological powerhouse. The unified consortium will focus on edge and fog computing, which are techniques through which the computation, networking, and storage capabilities of cloud and IoT systems are driven deeper into networks and closer to the IoT endpoints.
In this blog post, I’ll draw on my history with OpenFog to provide perspective on how the Industrial Internet Consortium, which now incorporates OpenFog, will impact the future of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The OpenFog Consortium was founded in November 2016 by Arm, Cisco, Dell, Intel, Microsoft, and Princeton University. The mission was “to drive industry and academic leadership in fog computing architecture, testbed development, and interoperability and composability deliverables that seamlessly bridge the cloud-to-things continuum.”
OpenFog held significant influence over the path of the IoT, especially in fog and edge computing, advancing use cases, formulating requirements, creating reference architectures, producing whitepapers, and facilitating testbeds. The OpenFog Reference Architecture was adopted in 2018 as the IEEE 1934 standard, giving it the full weight, authority, and staying power of an official industry standard. In 2018, it became apparent that OpenFog needed to broaden its scope to take its work to the next level. That’s why OpenFog agreed to join with the IIC.
The Industrial Internet Consortium was founded in March 2014 by AT&T, Cisco, General Electric, IBM, and Intel, and is a program of the Object Management Group. IIC has grown into the world’s leading organization transforming business and society by accelerating the IIoT. Its mission is “to deliver a trustworthy IIoT in which the world’s systems and devices are securely connected and controlled to deliver transformational outcomes.” The IIC leads the way in industrial testbeds, industry best practices, maturity models, frameworks, reference architecture, and IIoT thought leadership.
OpenFog’s focus was limited to fog computing, which is defined as “a system-level horizontal architecture that distributes computing, storage, networking closer to users, and anywhere along the cloud-to-things continuum.” Let’s look a bit deeper into that.
Fog is a system-level architecture, meaning it guides IoT implementations at high and intermediate levels. It is horizontal, meaning it is applicable to many different IoT vertical markets. These include smart cities, connected transportation, smart grids, manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, and many others.
Fog is also hierarchal. It distributes the computation, networking, and storage resources along the cloud-fog-edge-IoT endpoint continuum. Edge-fog techniques are helpful in managing some of the most difficult challenges facing IoT networks, including latency, security, network bandwidth use, and reliability. In fact, as IoT networks grow in popularity for mission-critical and life-critical applications, edge-fog techniques become essential.
IIC has a strong edge computing program, which is complementary to the work that was going on at OpenFog. IIC defines edge computing as “distributed computing that is performed near the edge, where the nearness is determined by the system requirement.”
The IIC published an Introduction to Edge Computing in IIoT whitepaper outlining the key drivers and characteristics of edge computing. The IIC view of edge is subtly different at the technical level from the OpenFog view of fog. But, these differences are minor and certainly not commercially significant. Edge and fog are really quite similar in the capabilities they implement and the IIoT use patterns they serve. So, going forward, IIC will treat edge and fog computing as essentially equivalent technologies.
So, what does this mean to consumers of IoT technology?
IIC—now incorporating OpenFog—will continue to curate use cases, define edge-fog architectures, publish technical reports and whitepapers, and facilitate testbeds. If you are considering an IoT network or device that could benefit from the latency, security, bandwidth, performance, reliability, and cost advantages of edge-fog computing, I strongly recommend that you research the IIC’s best practices recommendations, and leverage that knowledge to guide your product and network development.
The IIC is working to understand how edge-fog technologies can enhance the IIoT landscape. The combined organization offers greater influence to members, more clarity to the market, and a lower-risk path to the future for end users.
Your industrial or IoT organization may choose to consider joining IIC, if only to have your technical team stay current on the latest developments. At most, you will participate in shaping the future of IIoT networks. The IIC has become the world’s go-to organization for high-performance edge/fog/IoT application, network, and element design.
CHARLES C. BYERS is Associate Chief Technology Officer of the Industrial Internet Consortium, now incorporating OpenFog. He works on the architecture and implementation of edge-fog computing systems, common platforms, media processing systems, and the Internet of Things. Previously, he was a Principal Engineer and Platform Architect with Cisco, and a Bell Labs Fellow at Alcatel-Lucent. During his three decades in the telecommunications networking industry, he has made significant contributions in areas including voice switching, broadband access, converged networks, VoIP, multimedia, video, modular platforms, edge-fog computing and IoT. He has also been a leader in several standards bodies, including serving as CTO for the Industrial Internet Consortium and OpenFog Consortium, and was a founding member of PICMG's AdvancedTCA, AdvancedMC, and MicroTCA subcommittees.
Mr. Byers received his B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering and an M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In his spare time, he likes travel, cooking, bicycling, and tinkering in his workshop. He holds over 80 US patents.
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