Can Cisco’s Fog Computing See Through IoT?

by Sohini Bagchi    Oct 17, 2014

fog computing

The internet of things (IoT) is becoming a powerful, world-changing force, something that cannot be ignored and IT major Cisco Systems intends to be a leading player in the space. The IT giant is looking to leverage its “fog computing” initiative to drive IoT. Fog computing is based on the idea of putting applications, storage, analytics and other distributed computing capabilities at the edge of the network.

High optimism

While industry watchers believe it is too early to predict the success of fog computing and whether it can power IoT, CEO John Chambers, is highly optimistic. At the recent Cisco Internet of Things World Forum, Chambers explains Fog computing enables a new breed of applications and services, and allows a fruitful interplay between the cloud and the fog, particularly when it comes to data management and analytics.

“There’s a lot of data coming off the various sources, but a lot of limited connectivity to the cloud. Companies can use the fog to process the data and send only the most unusual or remarkable events back to the cloud,” he says.

As a key part of its Fog Computing strategy, Cisco introduced its IOx platform in January - that allows organizations to build, manage and run applications and operating systems directly on Cisco network devices, like switches, routers and IP video cameras, putting the computing capabilities closer to where the bulk of IoT devices will be housed. The company now expanded its IoT efforts with the introduction of the second phase of IOx and has also created an IoT business unit.

On the flip side

Some in the industry however believe Cisco may not see an instant success with this initiativw. “The company has not turn routers into massive data-crunching server centres any time soon. The routers will instead be used to carry out simple tasks by processing the signals between the cloud and the “Thing” that is operating within the Internet of Things,” points out IT analyst Lee Brian. However when Cisco combines Linux with its Internetworking Operating System (IOS) to create a distributed infrastructure, users can seamlessly connect to industry-specific systems, he says in a recent interview.

There are other areas of concern. According to analysts, although IoT has already creatied a buzz, on the flip side, as devices and data become interconnected, it can give rise to increased security challenges. In an IEEE survey, nearly 50% of respondents state that privacy and security are the biggest concerns in the adoption of IOT.

Andrew Rose, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research states that there is an increased risk of data to be stolen or compromised when deploying IOT solutions. Moreover, companies should have a security policy in place to identify targets, evolve key security control, add newer delivery mechanisms and review their security scenario frequently, he says. It is here that Cisco has to gear up and offer a greater security to make its newly created fog Computing efforts a success, say experts.

Apart from the ongoing challenges of trust and security, Roberto Aiello, technology adviser at Itron highlighted in his blog that connectivity requirement could prove problematic in the real world, as even a well thought out mesh network could eventually be impacted by environmental changes like a tree growing in a park.

While the challenges can be daunting, Cisco is set to accelerate innovation in the IoT space by delivering IOx. “We believe that this turns the network into the fourth platform for computing, which will unleash new applications in manufacturing, transportation, smart cities and many other industries,” Cisco’s IoT vice president, Guido Jouret, said in a video interview earlier this year.

Cisco says that by 2020 there will be over 50 billion devices connected to the Internet, The connected devices will be not just computers, tablets or smartphones, but sunglasses, watches, cars or vending machines that will be able to guess your tastes. The IoT will generate revenues of $19 trillion dollars and will have five to ten times more impact on society than had Internet.

In “the next seven years, we think half of Internet traffic is going to come from things… And you can’t bring all that data back to the cloud, you have to process it closer to the edge, and hence the importance of Fog to IoT,” he explains.