Smartphones and smart sensors constantly transmit and retrieve data from cloud based service providers. The amount of data generated is directly proportional to the usage of one's smartphone apps. In addition, as corporate Cloud Computing initiatives continue to ramp up, organizations and individuals continue to create increasing volumes of corporate. As a result wireless network bandwidth is increasingly the bottleneck when moving data between smart devices and the cloud based data repositories.
If your organization leverages the cloud to simply save the cost and time of storing data yourself, the cloud is great as long as all you need to do is transfer data back and forth via high-speed hardwired networks. But in the world of mass consumer connectivity, organizations and people need to get information on a variety of mobile devices. The bandwidth consumed by these devices is pretty slow.
Any business that sends data to mobile devices struggles with the limitations of wireless networks. Overall, according to the World Economic Forum, the U.S. ranks 35th in the world in terms of bandwidth per user.
This is one reason that mobile apps have become the primary mechanism to transact on the Internet. In smartphones and smart devices some of the data and processing power is handled within your device. The special mobile dedicated processors used by smartphone possess quite a few spare MIPS. The equivalent of many PC computers just a few years ago.
The problem of how to get things done when we're dependent on the cloud is becoming all the more acute as more and more objects become "smart," or able to sense their environments, connect to the Internet, and even receive commands remotely. Devices such as smart cars, trains, jet engines and refrigerators are pushing data onto wireless networks and connecting to the "Internet of Things."
Modern 3G and 4G cellular networks simply aren't fast enough to transmit data from devices to the cloud at the pace it is generated - these wireless networks will rapidly reach their saturation points.
Organizations, especially CIOs and CTOs are struggling with how to store and process the volumes of data being generated by the Internet of Things. One solution has been to try to process the data on the on the devices locally - as much as possible - to eliminate some of the data hops between smart devices and cloud based servers.
Cisco Systems has coined a term name for this phenomenon: Fog Computing. The term Fog Computing makes for a good visual metaphor for what's going on.
The Cloud is in the sky somewhere, distant and remote and deliberately abstracted, the "fog" is close to the ground, right where things are getting done. It consists of smaller processors of the sort that are making their way into appliances, factories, cars, and street lights, etc.
Cisco sells routers and wishes to turn its routers into hubs for gathering data and making decisions about what to do with it. In Cisco's vision, its smart routers will never talk to the cloud unless they have possibly to alert operators to an emergency on a sensor-laden rail car on which one of these routers acts as the nerve center.
IBM has a similar initiative to push computing out "to the edge," an effort to turn the traditional, cloud-based Internet "inside out." Edge computing typically refers to the edge of the network, the periphery where the Internet ends and the real world begins. Data centers are in the "center" of the network, personal computers, phones and surveillance cameras are on the edge.
Just as the cloud physically consists of servers harnessed together, in IBM's research project, the fog consists of all the computers that are already around us, tied together. On one level, asking our smart devices to, for example, send software updates to one another, rather than routing them through the cloud, could make the fog a direct rival to the cloud for some functions.
Cheap sensors will continue to generate lots of "big" data, and it is useful to organizations engaging in predictive analytics type applications to mine the data for trends and business intelligence. Fog Computing can help acheieve these goals.
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