With the ever-evolving technology landscape, it can be hard to keep up with new terminology and capabilities. Most people have a good handle on “The Cloud” and what it can do, but newer terms like edge computing or fog computing aren’t as well understood, even though they are helping drive innovation in many areas. So we wanted to help define these three terms and show how they are being used to power IIoT architectures.
To break it down to the simplest terms, cloud computing means that data is processed and accessed via the Internet, rather than on a hard drive or local server. For businesses, cloud computing reduces cost through metered services and the ability to scale as needed to meet demand. It also allows employees to access documents from wherever they happen to be, as long as they have network access via the Internet. It also enables consumer applications like mobile banking and streaming entertainment. Some drawbacks of cloud computing include latency and limitations in real-time processing.
Edge Computing is a distributed computing model that collects data at the edge of the network, like on a plant floor, and processes that data in real time. The benefits of edge computing include reduced bandwidth use, which saves money and avoids bottlenecks, increased security via encryption at source, and optimizing data performance by dividing workloads between the edge and the cloud. Edge computing addresses the drawbacks of the cloud by reducing latency.
Fog computing may seem very similar to edge computing because both involve moving processing closer to where data is collected. But in fog computing, data is transmitted from the point of collection to a gateway for processing, then sent back to the edge for action. Fog computing uses edge devices and gateways with a LAN for the processing. Combining the ability to run applications at the edge in concert with the capacity of the cloud, fog computing acts as a bridge, bringing together the cloud and the edge.
How Cloud, Fog, and Edge Work Together
Companies have choices about how to implement cloud, edge and fog technologies to best support their needs. To figure out which technology is best suited to the task, workloads should to be categorized into categories like monitoring, analyzing, and execution. Once these are defined, it will dictate the best network structure. It’s a question of the right data in the right place at the right time.