Just when we were getting used to the "cloud" way of things, new buzzwords are emerging to brand solutions that may replace (or more likely enhance) cloud computing. Two of these solutions—"fog" computing (Cisco) and computing pushed toward "the edge" (IBM)—were the topics of an interesting article recently published in The Wall Street Journal called “Forget ‘the Cloud’; ‘the Fog’ Is Tech’s Future” (subscription required). The article emphasizes that although “cloud advocates are fond of declaring that 100% of computing will someday reside in the cloud . . . [h]ere's the reality: Getting data into and out of the cloud is harder than most engineers, or at least their managers, often are willing to admit.”
Although the author seemed to acknowledge that the cloud is here to stay, he did highlight that a major potential downside of cloud computing is slower-than-desirable performance because of networks’ bandwidth limitations. With growing numbers of users transmitting content (whether streaming movies on a tablet while waiting for a flight or transmitting business data via remote sales force), response times may suffer. Think of the time difference when opening a picture that you took on your smartphone (which is stored locally on the phone and may be backed up or synched over a cloud) compared to waiting for an image to load on a smartphone’s browser.
The new solutions, according to the article, intend to keep certain types of data closer to the devices that need to use it on a frequent basis. The article also mentions an IBM initiative to move toward “edge” computing, which is computing that is at the boundary of a network (e.g., a laptop, not a data center). We will watch to see if this possible shift away from a centralized, distant cloud and toward local or end-user devices (hence, the “fog” name) appears in solutions proposed by cloud vendors.
In the meantime, customers of cloud-computing services may want to think more about response times and not just uptime or availability.