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VMblog's Expert Interviews: Edgeworx Talks Edge, The Eclipse ioFog Project, and Security

As more enterprises and startups look for ways to increase revenue, reduce costs and help customers, the edge is becoming a strategic focal point; however, many are challenged to find methodologies and solutions that support these edge focused initiatives.

To dive in deeper, VMblog reached out to Farah Papaioannou, the president and co-founder of Edgeworx, a startup that enables people to run and develop applications at the edge. Edgeworx made building for the edge as easy as building for the cloud, solving the most critical challenges faced when attempting to deploy secure applications at the edge, without reinventing existing cloud applications. 

VMblog:  Where is the edge?  People have many opinions, but it is certainly interesting to hear from somebody who talks to customers all the time.

You are right. We see many definitions of the edge, as more and more companies are trying to find their place in the market and as customers are doing their research to find the right solution. Here is what we see. The recent market migration towards centralized cloud solutions has resulted in a pattern where applications are required to push their data to the cloud for processing. This is not scalable at the rate of data growth generated by the Internet of Things (IoT). Also, the pattern of use of data is changing. Traditionally, data storage was expensive, deriving insight and making decisions the purview of the database or data warehouse. The advent of big data changed all that, ushering in a new era of mass data storage where decisions are now made in real-time on massive fuzzy data sets by machine learning algorithms.

Even if there was enough storage in the cloud [there isn't!] to store all the data, there is not enough network to transport all the data to the cloud. The advent of 5G will only increase the amount of Things creating data, while also creating a further imbalance in the network. The hop from phone or Thing to the cellular-base station will be faster than the hop from cellular network to cloud.

Inherently then, existing cloud architectures exhibit a set of limitations:

  1. Inefficient use of bandwidth, as not all IoT data needs to be streamed and stored in the cloud, given that only a limited subset of it has actual business value
  2. Network latency, as the interaction of IoT devices with the cloud is delayed, and, therefore, inappropriate for real-time applications (like autonomous cars)
  3. Waste of storage, since excess data without essential business value is stored in the cloud (e.g. in cases of sensors recording values that do not change frequently)
  4. Limited privacy-friendliness, as IoT/cloud deployments provide no easy way to isolate private sensitive datasets

These factors all lead us to examine the need for a new architectural strategy to support the data and application requirements of tomorrow. Collectively, this architectural shift has been termed edge computing. Rather than attempt to pull all of the data back to the cloud, it makes much more sense to process the data at the point of creation. Instead of moving the data, move the compute, harnessing the processing power and resources of all of the Things.

VMblog:  Tell us about your open source solution.  I know that it is part of the Eclipse Foundation and you have gotten a lot of traction with their audience. 

The Eclipse ioFog project has been in development for close to four years. It was initiated and contributed by Edgeworx, and is being used extensively by many companies across many industries such as the cloud, healthcare, oil & gas and telco industries, to name a few. ioFog is a universal Edge Compute Platform, providing a standardized way to develop and remotely deploy secure microservices to edge computing devices. ioFog makes deployment simple, by abstracting the underlying hardware to provide a common compute platform that enables the same software to run on any device. This is achieved by allowing developers to package and deploy their applications to each device using containerization technologies such as Docker and Unikernels.

ioFog is optimized to run on constrained hardware that is most commonly found at the edge. With a one-line install, ioFog Engine can be downloaded onto any piece of hardware that runs Linux (from Yocto to RedHat). Built with constrained resources in mind, ioFog can run on devices as small as a Raspberry Pi Zero, smart cameras, autonomous vehicles, LTE base stations, Wi-Fi routers, cable boxes, smart lighting, and IoT gateways.

Developers are able to easily deploy advanced AI and machine learning algorithms at the edge, to perform tasks such as real-time video streaming analysis, natural language processing, streaming analytics, etc.

VMblog:  Most of your users have more than one device, right?

Yes. ioFog makes it easy to deploy and manage multiple devices (or nodes) at the same time as an Edge Compute Network (ECN). Since your ECN is likely distributed - composed of many different nodes across multiple networks, each with potentially differing microservices - ioFog manages them all automatically, even across complicated network configurations, and can be used to maintain and optimize the entire fleet of devices. Using a protocol-agnostic MIME-type-like approach to describing data, ioFog applications and nodes are able to handle and route any data type, even if they don't understand the actual payload of the data. ioFog also supports native Geofencing of data, nodes, and routing.

VMblog:  Let's talk about security.  Security at the edge.  That must be something that concerns many of the users out there.  How is Edgeworx handling that?

When dealing with the edge, cloud-based PKI security just doesn't work. Cloud-based PKI presupposes that devices are out of reach and that physical security at data centers assures only authorized personnel have access to the computing devices. The edge provides no such guarantee. ioFog's security model is inspired by blockchain. Each node in your ECN is a member of a distributed trust network. Each node is constantly validating a comprehensive set of security rules with all the other nodes, looking for minor deviations or signals of rogue nodes. When a rogue node is found, they are automatically quarantined from the ECN. If rogue nodes do not pass stringent security checks to re-enter the network, they can be remotely wiped of all software and data. All communication and data transfer between nodes happens via session based MicroVPNs that are created on the fly by ioFog, making it easy for developers to focus on their application and automatically take advantage of the inherent capabilities of the ioFog platform.

VMblog:  Where can our readers learn more about ioFog?

If you want to learn more about ioFog, build ECNs and start developing microservices for your edge devices, you can find out more at the ioFog website. Or check out the Getting Started guide and learn how to deploy one of the many prebuilt microservices from the ioFog Catalog. If you're more inclined to learn from the code, you can browse the repository or get involved in our forums.

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Published Tuesday, March 05, 2019 7:31 AM by David Marshall
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