Frequently-asked questions about the OpenFog Reference Architecture


Q: What is fog computing?

A:  Fog computing/fog networking is an emerging architecture for computing, storage, control and networking that distributes these services closer to end users along the cloud-to-things continuum.  It supports IoT, 5G and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other applications that require ultra-low latency, high network bandwidth, resource constraints and added security.


Q: Why are fog computing and fog networking needed?

A:  The sheer breadth and scale of IoT, 5G and AI applications requires collaboration at a number of levels, including hardware, software across edge and cloud, as well as the protocols and standards that enable all of our “things” to communicate. Existing infrastructures simply can’t keep up with the data volume and velocity created by IoT devices, nor meet the low latency response times required in certain use cases, such as emergency services and autonomous vehicles. The strain on networks from cloud-only or cloud-mostly models will only get worse as IoT, 5G and AI applications and devices continue to proliferate.  In addition, the devices themselves are starting to become smarter, allowing for additional control and capabilities closer to where the data is being generated.


Q: What are the benefits of fog computing?

A:  By extending the cloud closer to the edge of the network, fog enables latency-sensitive computing to be performed in proximity to the data-generating sensors, resulting in more efficient network bandwidth and more functional and efficient IoT solutions. Fog computing also offers greater business agility through deeper and faster insights, increased security and lower operating expenses.


Q: How does fog relate to cloud computing?

A: Fog and cloud complement each other to form a service continuum between the cloud and things, by providing mutually beneficial and interdependent services.  From an architectural standpoint, fog provides computing resources closer to the data-producing things at the edge. Within this fog layer, compute, storage, control, and networking functions can be conducted. As appropriate, data can be received and acted upon within the fog or can continue on to the cloud for consumption. The fog can serve as a standalone architecture or as a fog-cloud system.  For example, fog can operate autonomously in geographically-dispersed areas where there is inconsistent network connectivity; in these scenarios, a fog network can locally process information, sending data to the cloud for additional processing as necessary.


Q: Are fog and edge computing the same thing?

A:  No.  Fog computing always uses edge computing, but not the other way around.  Fog is a system-level architecture, providing tools for distributing, orchestrating, managing and securing resources and services across networks and between devices that reside at the edge.  Edge architecture places servers, applications or small clouds at the edge.  Fog has a hierarchal and flat architecture with several layers forming a network, while edge computing relies on separate nodes that do not form a network.   Fog computing has extensive peer-to-peer interconnect capability between nodes, where edge run its nodes in silos, requiring data transport back through the cloud for peer-to-peer traffic.   Finally, fog is inclusive of cloud, while edge excludes the cloud.


Q: What is the OpenFog Consortium?

A:  The OpenFog Consortium is a global ecosystem working to accelerate the adoption of fog computing and fog networks through an open architectural framework, testbeds, industry-research collaboration and market education.  Its work is centered around creating a framework for efficient and reliable networks and intelligent endpoints combined with identifiable, secure, and privacy-friendly information flows between clouds, endpoints, and services based on open standard technologies.


Q: Who are members of the OpenFog Consortium?

A: The OpenFog Consortium was founded by ARM, Cisco, Dell, Intel, Microsoft and the Princeton University Edge Laboratory in November 2015 to drive industry and academic leadership in fog computing architecture.  It is a global consortium, with regional teams in the Americas, China and Japan.  Members are from universities, communications, technology and industry organizations.  A complete list of members is located at


Q: What is the focus of the OpenFog Consortium?

A:  Its goal is to accelerate the market adoption of fog computing through an open, interoperable standards-based architecture.  This focus is similar to the earliest days of the Internet.  Twenty years ago, TCP/IP enabled a disruptive new platform—the Internet—by creating a standard and universal framework to distribute packets of information over disparate networks.  Fog computing will enable disruptive new applications, such as IoT, 5G and artificial intelligence, through a standard and universal framework to distribute (and manage, orchestrate and secure) resources and services over disparate system.  The OpenFog Consortium is working to create this open architecture framework and facilitate a robust ecosystem to drive innovation.


Q: Is the OpenFog Consortium a standards body?  

A: No. The Consortium’s objective is to influence standard bodies to create standards so that IoT systems at the edge can interoperate securely with other edge systems and cloud services in a friction-free environment. The objective of the Consortium is to establish a framework within which markets can flourish.  OpenFog has an affiliation agreement with IEEE and will be establishing liaisons with other standards organizations, with the objective of collaborating in the creation of standards.


Q: What is the OpenFog Reference Architecture?

A:  The OpenFog Reference Architecture is the baseline to develop an open architecture fog computing environment.  It creates a roadmap and is the first step in creating standards to enable interoperability in IoT, 5G, artificial intelligence, tactile Internet, virtual reality and other complex data and network intensive applications. The OpenFog Reference Architecture creates a common language for fog computing and fog networks, representing a unified framework for providing computing, networking and storage in the cloud-to-things continuum.


Q: Where can I download the OpenFog Reference Architecture?

A:  Visit


Q: What is the significance of this document?

The OpenFog Reference Architecture establishes a common framework for the industry to build or leverage standardized interfaces for the cloud-to-things continuum.  It is the first step in creating standards to enable interoperability in IoT, 5G, Artificial Intelligence and other complex data and network intensive applications.  Without this open architecture, there will be limited interoperability, reliability and security, resulting in slower adoption and limited functionality due to cloud-based closed systems.

The OpenFog Reference Architecture represents an industry commitment toward cooperative, open and inter-operative fog systems to accelerate advanced deployments in smart cities, smart energy, smart transportation, smart healthcare and smart manufacturing.  Its eight pillars describe requirements to every part of the fog supply chain: component manufacturers, system vendors, software providers, application developers.   It is the first step in creating industry standards for fog computing.  The OpenFog Consortium will establish detailed guidance, interface with standards organizations such as IEEE on recommended standards and specify APIs for key interfaces in the reference architecture over the next year.


Q: How are organizations expected to use the RA?

A: Industry / Business Development

The OpenFog Reference Architecture provides unique insights into the scope and direction of the rapidly-developing fog computing ecosystem.  It provides a primer on what fog elements should be developed for the toughest and most critical IoT, 5G and AI use cases and applications.  It can also suggest directions for fog/edge computing-related investments in R&D and partnerships.  In addition, it can provide insight into new business opportunities where fog computing provides additional relevance.


A: Technical Leaders

For technical audiences, the OpenFog Reference Architecture provides insight into how to reduce risk and increase value in solution and product investments, including information on how to implement and apply fog-based hardware and software elements.  Technology organizations can use it to confirm or adjust their direction to be in alignment with where the industry is going.  Technical leaders should study the architecture to anticipate and be prepared to address the elements of the 8 pillars.  The OpenFog Reference Architecture includes valuable insights into topics as diverse as fog network architecture, fog node hardware design, performance prediction/optimization, security, partitioning, communications infrastructure design, the preferred OpenFog software stack, and more.


A: Researchers

The OpenFog Reference Architecture is a blueprint to describe how fog systems will be deployed in the near to intermediate future, including key challenges to their rapid uptake.  It indicates important gaps that require additional research and the key principles of solutions sought by the industry.  Through its use cases, researchers can determine areas for improvements and become more confident about industry needs and perspectives.   In addition, it can be used to teach undergraduates and graduates and to suggest student projects, collaboration partnerships, technological adjacencies, and funding opportunities.


Where can I learn more?

Please visit

Scroll Up