The Three Layers of Computing – Cloud, Fog and Edge

The terms cloud, fogand edgeare bandied around in conversation in the tech world every day but do you really understand what they are? Here, we break it down. Cloud, fog, and edge computing infrastructures allow organisations to take advantage of a diverse range of computing resources and data storage assets. Although there are similarities, these three computing resources represent different layers of IT; each one builds on the capabilities of the previous layer.  


Most businesses are familiar with cloud computing since it’s now the golden standard in most industries. Put simply, cloud computing stands for storing and accessing data and programs over the internet, rather than on your computer’s hard drive. For it to be considered ‘cloud computing’, you need to access your data or your programs over the internet, or have that data synced with other information over the web. Cloud computing allows organisation to significantly exceed the normal available storage, without having to host extra servers on site. Data can also be collected from multiple sites and devices, accessible anytime, anywhere. Fog and edge computing push both data and intelligence to analytic platforms that are situated either on, or close to where the data originated from. This helps to reduce latency cost and increase user experience. However, there are key differences between the two.  


Fog computing – a term created by Cisco – refers to extending cloud computing to the edge of an enterprise’s network. It pushes intelligence down to the local area network (LAN) level of network architecture, processing data in a fog node or IoT gateway. Simply put, it involves moving your computers closer to the sensors they are talking to. One example of fog computing would be with trains. As part of the rise in the Industrial Internet of Things, trains and tracks are being equipped with a new generation of gadgets and sensors, with trains acting as the central hub for all the data gathered from these sensors. The issue is that because trains move so fast, it’s difficult to maintain a connection with the cloud. By installing some fog computing nodes in the locomotive, you bypass this issue. However, fog computing’s architecture relies on many links in a communication chain to move data from the physical world of our assets into the digital world of information technology. Each of these links is a potential point of failure.  


Edge computing can be defined as the processing of sensor data away from the centralised nodes and close to the logical edge of the network, toward individual sources of data. It effectively pushes the computational functions to the edge of the network. In other words, rather than pumping all the data back up to the cloud for analysis and action, this process takes place much closer to the data’s source.   Edge computing triages the data locally, reducing the backhaul traffic to the central repository. It simplifies fog’s communication chain and reduces potential points of failure. Edge devices can be anything with sufficient compute capacity and capability such as routers, switches and even the IoT sensors collecting the data.  


Cloud, fog and edge have created an abundance of new opportunities for professionals and companies. If your business relies on extensive digital communications, transportation and process management, you are going to need to better understand how these approaches and how they can improve your work. Find out more how SCC can advise you on your cloud infrastructure.

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