How fog computing could replace cloud computing

Joe Svetlik

Thursday 20 July 2017

Fog computing uses a similar principle to cloud computing, but it’s more secure and uses less bandwidth. Here’s why it will become big in the coming years.

Cloud computing has many advantages, but it’s about to be usurped by an even more advanced way of working. It’s called fog computing, and while it uses the same principles of cloud computing, it’s far safer and more secure.

Moving from the cloud to the fog

Cloud computing uses a network of remote servers instead of a local server or personal computer to store, manage and process data. It has many benefits – not only does it allow companies to outsource their storage capability, freeing up physical space at their offices, but it’s also more secure than storing data locally. So should your local storage facilities be compromised, you’ll have a backup stored in the cloud.

It frees up bandwidth, as you can email a link to recipients instead of emailing the file itself (which can be huge in terms of size). And it also allows employees to work from anywhere, as the files are always accessible from any internet-connected device.

No wonder the cloud services market is set to grow 18 per cent in 2017, according to Gartner.

However, cloud computing does have its disadvantages, the most serious of which is security. If the server housing all your computing power is compromised, employee and customer data could be exposed. Depending on the size of the company, this could mean the data of thousands or even millions of users is compromised.

Thankfully, fog computing offers a solution.

Spreading out the data

Fog computing – or edge computing, as it’s also known – uses the same principle as cloud computing, in that it outsources the majority of storage and computing power instead of housing it all on-site. However, fog computing differs in one major respect: it spreads data across many servers rather than storing it all in the same place.

Thanks to virtual buffers, fog computing can endlessly relocate data packets without a file ever being complete in one place – it’s a form of encryption that means even if the server is compromised, no one can steal your data.

Rosario Culmone and Maria Concetta De Vivo, two computer scientists from the University of Camerino in Italy, recently published a paper on fog computing.

“Our article proposes a protocol that uses the network in an unconventional way to make a document fully immaterial,” they write in the International Journal of Electronic Security and Digital Forensics. “By immaterial we mean that it is not localisable anywhere in its entirety.”

“The files are distributed on a public or private network and only the injectors and extractors can access them.”

In other words, your data is safe from prying eyes.

Increasing efficiency

Fog computing is also much more efficient than cloud computing. This is because certain application processes or services are managed at the ‘edge’ of the network by a smart device, instead of being transmitted all the way to the cloud for processing. This is why it’s sometimes referred to as edge computing, because it extends cloud computing to the edge of the network.

This not only adds process and memory resources to edge devices like smart lights and other internet of things (IoT) tools, but it also pre-processes collected data at the edge and sends aggregated results to the cloud.

At present, only about a third of all data collected by IoT sensors is analysed at source. As the IoT expands, however, that proportion will need to increase. Hence, fog computing is expected to become big business.

Realising the benefits of 5G

Fog computing is just a concept at the moment, so it’s not clear exactly how it would work. In an ideal world, you would be able to seamlessly shift the computing legwork from the cloud to the edge (or fog) as and when the workload dictates. But that depends on having the resources to dynamically assign data processing in real-time.

As well as the previously mentioned benefits, fog computing could save money on data transfers, as it would mean sending a lot less data to the cloud.

5G data speeds are set to arrive in Europe over the next few years, with download speeds of up to 10Gbps. This will enable more devices to connect to the IoT, which means more data needing to be processed and analysed. Fog computing can help make this possible in order to realise the many benefits of 5G.

As the IoT continues to grow, fog computing will play a vital role in ensuring businesses are as efficient and effective as they can be.

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