The Linux Foundation has cobbled together a few different technologies with the aim of making it easier for companies to avoid lock-in with edge computing solutions. The technologies run the gamut from a virtualization engine for gateway devices to a smart home hub and will be available under a new organization called LF Edge.
LF Edge includes existing projects such as the Akaino Edge Stack for helping telecom providers compute at the edge; EdgeX Foundry, the Dell-founded open interoperability layer for sharing data from different vendors; and an Open Glossary of Edge Computing, so we can finally agree on what the heck the edge actually is. LF Edge also adds two new technologies, such as the smart home hub tech contributed by Samsung and the edge virtualization layer contributed by Zededa.
Of all of these options, the most exciting ones to me are the Zededa technology and the glossary. Even Arpit Joshipura, a general manager at the Linux Foundation, says, “The edge glossary is important because the marketeers are causing a lot of FUD (fear uncertainty and doubt) around what is actually the edge.”
That’s true. If I talk to a telco, the edge is the base station or a central office where telco gear sits. If I talk to a factory operations manager, the edge might be individual sensors or a process controller gathering data. So far, the LF Edge defines the edge based in terms of latency. If something requires less than 5 to 20 milliseconds of latency, it is happening on the edge.
So let’s talk about the Zededa tech that I’m keen on. The edge virtualization engine, or EVE, is what the LF Edge calls the technology. It’s software that sits on a gateway and allows separate vertical solutions to exist on a single piece of hardware.
For example, if a hospital purchased a temperature monitoring solution for its medicine fridges that came with the sensors, software, and gateway and later purchased a noise monitoring product that also came with its own sensors, software, and gateway while also looking at an IV-tracking product that also came with its own sensors, software, and gateway, its IT department would quickly become overwhelmed.
That’s a lot of dedicated gateways! With the EVE software, the gateways for each vertical solution could exist in software form on a single gateway managed by the IT department. That would allow a company to buy products without worrying about silos. That company could also allow devices from different systems to work together if needed.
“We are now in the business where they want to buy a Facebook app and not a Facebook phone,” says Roman Shaposhnik, the VP of product and strategy at Zededa. Except, for now, many businesses such as the aforementioned hospital still want to buy the “phone” because it’s hard for businesses like hospitals to pull together their own infrastructure for IoT.
If the LF Edge proposal gains ground and adoption it should lead to standardization that makes it easier for companies to pick and choose elements that work together. Then it becomes closer to a sort of app store model for businesses that want to adopt IoT to pick services, rather than an entire set of infrastructure.
The LF Edge has some solid-seeming code and big-name partners in a variety of sectors such as factory automation and automotive, so this could become a reality. It would shift the way that hundreds of companies provide their existing IoT products, but that isn’t a terrible thing.