Previous Blogs

October 24, 2017
Solving Multi-Device Dilemmas

October 17, 2017
Tech Inevitability Isn't Guaranteed

October 10, 2017
Edge Computing Could Weaken the Cloud

October 3, 2017
The Business Challenges of Artificial Intelligence

September 26, 2017
Microsoft Takes Computing to the Extremes

September 19, 2017
What is the Future of Upgrades?

September 12, 2017
It’s Time for Modern Digital Identities

September 5, 2017
The Autonomous Car Charade

August 29, 2017
The Golden Era of Notebooks

August 22, 2017
The Evolution of Smart Speakers

August 15, 2017
The Myth of General Purpose Wearables

August 8, 2017
IoT Connections Made Easy

August 1, 2017
Smarter Computing

July 25, 2017
The Value of Limits

July 18, 2017
Tech in the Heartland

June 27, 2017
Business Realities vs. Tech Dreams

June 20, 2017
The Power of Hidden Tech

June 13, 2017
Computing Evolves from Outside In to Inside Out

June 6, 2017
The Overlooked Surprises of Apple’s WWDC Keynote

May 30, 2017
Are AR and VR Only for Special Occasions?

May 23, 2017
The Digital Car

May 16, 2017
Digital Assistants Drive New Meta-Platform Battle

May 9, 2017
Getting Smart on Smart Speakers

May 5, 2017
Intel Opens High-Tech "Garage"

May 2, 2017
The Hidden Value of Analog

April 28, 2017
Google’s Waymo Starts Driving Passengers

April 25, 2017
The Robotic Future

April 21, 2017
Sony Debuts New Pro Camera

April 18, 2017
Should Apple Build a Car?

April 14, 2017
PC Market Outlook Improving

April 11, 2017
Little Data Analytics

April 7, 2017
Facebook Debuts Free Version of Workplace Collaboration Tool

April 4, 2017
Samsung Building a Platform Without an OS

March 31, 2017
Microsoft Announces Windows 10 Creators Update Release Date

March 28, 2017
Augmented Reality Finally Delivers on 3D Promise

March 24, 2017
Intel Creates AI Organization

March 21, 2017
Chip Magic

March 17, 2017
Microsoft Unveils Teams Chat App

March 14, 2017
Computing on the Edge

March 7, 2017
Cars Need Digital Safety Standards Too

February 28, 2017
The Messy Path to 5G

February 24, 2017
AMD Launches Ryzen CPU

February 21, 2017
Rethinking Wearable Computing

February 17, 2017
Samsung Heir Arrest Unlikely to Impact Sales

February 14, 2017
Modern Workplaces Still More Vision Than Reality

February 10, 2017
Lenovo Develops Energy-Efficient Soldering Technology

February 7, 2017
The Missing Map from Silicon Valley to Main Street

January 31, 2017
The Network vs. The Computer

January 27, 2017
Facebook Adds Support For FIDO Security Keys

January 24, 2017
Voice Drives New Software Paradigm

January 20, 2017
Tesla Cleared of Fault in NHTSA Crash Probe

January 17, 2017
Inside the Mind of a Hacker

January 13, 2017
PC Shipments Stumble but Turnaround is Closer

January 10, 2017
Takeaways from CES 2017

January 3, 2017
Top 10 Tech Predictions for 2017

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TECHnalysis Research Blog

October 31, 2017
Will the Future of Computing Emerge from the Fog?

By Bob O'Donnell

Many scary movies have at least one scene where someone—or something—emerges from the fog. There’s something about fog that’s both a bit eerie and yet intriguing—we can’t seem to help but want to see what appears from it.

Surprisingly, the future of computing may actually be one of those things. But, in this case, its emergence shouldn’t be seen as frightening, but instead, as a very exciting and intriguing new development. I’m talking specifically about the relatively new, but little understood, concept of “fog computing.”

The basic idea of fog computing is to leverage the key new software technologies, processes, and applications built to take advantage of cloud computing infrastructure, but deployed on computing hardware closer to the edge of the network. Thus, it’s about bringing the cloud close to the ground—hence “fog.”

What’s fascinating about the concept of fog computing is that it brings together just about every major tech buzzword that you’ve likely heard over the last few years into one place. Cloud, edge, IoT, AI, virtualization, blockchain, containers, DevOps, 5G, analytics, autonomous cars, smart cities, and more all come together in fog computing, as do several other lesser-known but critically important concepts like TSN (time-sensitive networking—essentially a time-prioritized version of wired Ethernet), distributed computing (where computing applications are split across multiple environments), and IT-OT collaboration (that is, IT department and operations technology departments working together to solve real-world problems).

In fact, despite its somewhat hazy definition, fog computing leverages, and even unifies, a surprising number of these important and cutting-edge technologies into a comprehensive whole. To be sure, not every kind of computing application is, nor will need to be thought of as a “fog computing” opportunity, but a lot of the most interesting ones in business environments are going to be.

Fog computing isn’t being described and discussed just because it’s an interesting concept, either. Products and services are being built for it because of real-world problems. As I discussed in a previous column a few weeks back (see “Edge Computing Could Weaken the Cloud”), we’re starting to witness a massive shift away from the centralized computing model that enabled the cloud, and towards the distribution of more computing power back out to the edge of the network. The reason for this is that big-picture applications like autonomous driving, smart cities, smart agriculture, smart homes, and even remote medicine all have requirements that can’t always be addressed by the cloud in its current form.

Issues such as latency (small time delays), security, network reliability, performance, privacy, and many others are extremely difficult to completely overcome in centralized cloud computing models. As a result, companies are both reshaping and reworking traditional data center computing components, as well as building completely new types of hardware, to bring computing elements that previously only existed within the cloistered confines of data centers out to new types of devices and new types of environments. At the same time, software is being re-thought, re-architected, and freshly built to bring applications from the cloud out onto the edge of the network.

One of the many fascinating outcomes from this development is rethinking where and in what forms this new distributed computing hardware environment will exist. For example, can and should computing elements be integrated into network equipment (built by traditional network vendors) that sits out at the edge of the radio network? Or, should we start to see new types of micro-sized datacenters (built by more traditional computing companies) get deployed into entirely new types of places? The answer, of course, is that both are likely to happen, leading to some interesting new competitive situations.

From a software perspective, the challenges are figuring out how the kinds of complex workloads traditionally done in big data centers can be broken up and/or simplified. For example, we could start to see things like AI-based inferencing being done on something as simple as a Raspberry Pi circuit board. Doing so would likely leverage Docker-style containers, virtualization, and other complex software advancements in entirely new ways.

Even with all these interesting efforts, we aren’t going to see traditional cloud, network, data center, or common endpoints going away. These new fog computing efforts are typically created in addition to these still-critical infrastructure elements, sometimes through the use of small fog nodes. In fact, several companies have started building proprietary solutions that leverage some of these ideas to create unique opportunities for themselves. As with most web-based initiatives, however, it’s going to take more open efforts—like those being driven by the OpenFog Consortium—to gain more widespread success.

Moving forward, though, it’s becoming surprisingly clear that the future is in “the fog.”

Here's a link to the column:

Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a market research firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.

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