December 12, 2016

Top 5 technical reasons why the IoT needs fog computing

Fog computing is a system-level horizontal architecture that distributes resources and services of computing and control, storage, networking and communications closer to the data sources.  Through the fog-to-things continuum, fog computing can solve the bandwidth, latency and communications challenges associated with next generation networks that will utilize the Internet of Things (IoT).

Cloud networking is an extremely valuable architecture that has ushered in a powerful new generation of computing for the 21st century. However, the cloud was designed for IT – not IoT.

Distributed IoT networks across a variety of industries – discrete and process manufacturing, power and energy, utilities, connected cars, and so on – are vast in scale and critical to ongoing economic growth. They require operational efficiencies with zero downtime, ultra-low latency. Plus, enormous data loads from billions of streaming devices requires processing power that is closer in proximity to the “things.”

Fog computing fills this gap between cloud and things. Significantly, fog networks are emerging as a powerful architecture for extending cloud services to the IoT in a way that we call the cloud-to-things continuum.

Here are the top 5 technical reasons why the IoT needs fog computing:

  1. Function allocation. Like cloud, fog is an architecture. That means it has function allocation for many applications, not one application domain. Fog efficiently distributes the allocation of functions in IoT networks, as opposed to resources. This helps to simplify and standardize fundamental global IoT network operations such as configuration and management.
  2. Distributed architecture. Fog networks distribute and embed computing, communication, storage, and control flexibly along the continuum from cloud to device.  This provides a common methodology for delivering basic IoT requirements such as computation and storage.  The distributed architecture provides value throughout the network, not just at the edge.
  3. Immersive distribution. The distributed fog network architecture provides “immersive distribution” – as opposed to cloud, which offers centralization. Immersive distribution means that fog resources are available throughout the network.  This enables flexibility of management and ease of integration with existing IoT environments.  Fog is able to do this by interfacing not just with the cloud, but with other fog devices, IoT and 5G devices, and with input from end users.
  4. SCALE is the OpenFog acronym for Security, Cognition, Agility, Latency and Efficiency. These capabilities are perhaps the key differentiators for fog.  The IoT differs from IT in that it has high-value applications but significant network bandwidth constraints and resource-constrained devices.  Interrupted services or intermittent conductivity to the cloud is unacceptable.
  5. Did we mention latency? The desire to slash latency is perhaps the most important reason to embrace fog computing.  Fog services have small and deterministic latency that enables real time systems such as Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, real time control loops, streaming data analytics, and more.


Common Denominator

The common denominator of each of these is that they are all disruptive; each reason, by itself, presents those deploying IoT with an alternative, game-changing computing paradigm.  Fog computing provides unique attributes that increase IoT computing efficiency, enable new business opportunities, and add value to existing cloud technologies.

And finally, by virtue of its standard-based building blocks, the fog network architecture is designed to grow wherever the IoT market grows. For example, many experts predict that routers, switches, application servers and storage servers will converge into fog network “nodes.”  Thanks to immersive distribution, each fog node will be capable of providing a common hardware and software platform that supports computing, networking, and storage – keeping pace with market growth and underscoring the value fog brings in terms of compute efficiency.


About the OpenFog Consortium

This article represents the collective research and real-world work in fog computing of many of the 53 members of the OpenFog Consortium.  The OpenFog Consortium is a global nonprofit formed to accelerate the adoption of fog computing in order to solve the bandwidth, latency, communications and security challenges associated with IoT, 5G and artificial intelligence.  Our work is centered around creating a framework for efficient and reliable networks and intelligent endpoints combined with identifiable, secure, and privacy-friendly information flows in the Cloud-to-Things continuum based on open standard technologies.  For more information, please contact us at