We are seeing technological advances in leaps and bounds through the years. The Internet promises making the world a connected place and will see 75.44 billion total amount of Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices worldwide by 2025, a fivefold increase from its 2015 figures. In 2020 alone, there will be 30 billion IoT devices, according to Statista.
All these devices will generate large quantities of data that will have to be processed quickly and sustainably. As consumers opt more and more for smart devices, appliances, vehicles, and the like, the demand for quick, real-time computing has exponentially grown. To meet the increasingly growing demand for IoT solutions, the Internet put Cloud Computing into action, which is simply a centralized data management system for different services across the internet. To meet the demands for real-time connectivity, we now see Fog computing working at par with Cloud computing. What’s the difference between the two, and how do they work together in collecting, translating, and transmitting data to end-users and manufacturers?
Cloud Computing and Fog Computing Defined:
Cloud computing is a vast trillion-dollar market of delivering hosted services across the Internet. It is a vast and increasing network of computers, multiple devices, and servers connected through the Internet. Cloud computing is a two-part system that involves frontend client devices and backend data storage and servers that can be located remotely from the users, communicating directly through wireless connections. That is why the integration of IoT with the cloud is a cost-efficient way of doing business. It gives developers and manufacturers the power to create IoT apps with less investment and overhead costs in both hardware and software.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines Cloud computing as a model for convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable resources. These on-demand resources—networks, services, storage, applications, services, and the like—requires minimal management effort or service provider interaction. Cloud computing is, therefore, anything that involves centralized hosted services. Examples of cloud computing are services like Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).
Rapid advantages in IT have allowed manufacturers to embed sensors and microchips into their products and services. For example, you can now control Smart Homes systems via smartphones, Smart Master House Monitors can now calculate your energy use, and smart home appliances are monitoring consumption and can now place orders to replenish groceries. Outside our homes, self-driven vehicles are revolutionizing travel, and Smart Buildings are improving building efficiency by reducing energy consumption anywhere between 5% to 35%. Further development is being done on these smart devices to instantly interact with wireless networks and bypass the need to store information in the cloud.
The term for this new process is Fog computing (or fogging). Cisco coined this term in 2014. In the natural, fog is closer to earth than clouds, and it is similar in the world of technology. Fog is closer to end-users and brings Cloud capabilities closer to the surface. Fog is the extension of Cloud computing through multiple edge nodes physically connected to digital devices. This technology revolutionizes and promotes a new connected way of living and working. While Cloud computing centralizes data storage, Fog Computing brings computer and storage close to the application as possible, using decentralized, local network architectures to speed up the analysis and retrieval of data as near to its local source as possible. Fog computing is a platform that is Cloud-like in terms of having similar services for data, computation storage, and application, but in decentralized operations. It can process large amounts of data locally and is fully portable and installable on heterogeneous hardware. Fog computing platforms are highly compatible with time and location-sensitive apps and bring four times more computing capacity than Cloud technology.
The Emergence of the Cloud: How the Cloud Changed Everything
It may be unthinkable for younger users now to imagine a time when people can only access data, messages, and systems from a physical terminal linked to other computers via physical cables, and each software installation was done manually on each computer, physically connected to enormous machines that occupy well-ventilated spaces prevent catastrophic loss of data or device failure. The Cloud took us all out of those dark times into a streamlined computing system that introduced the following benefits:
As applications and data are no longer tied to a device, Cloud computing enabled real-time collaboration by remote teams that are accessible from anywhere.
Flexibility & Scalability
Cloud-based technology can be customized endlessly according to users’ needs or the latest digital trends.
Cost-Effective and Hassle-Free
Businesses can adopt a ‘pay-as-you-go’ system by paying only for services based on their needs and budget. There is no investment needed for hardware or overhead costs to be paid like rent, utilities, and labor to keep and maintain physical servers. Web-based software is also constantly improved and upgraded by vendors to maintain the performance of their devices, applications, and services.
Fast & Secure
Service is on-demand on a global network of secure data centers. Information is not vulnerable to flood, fire, natural calamity, or hardware malfunction. Security protocols and infrastructure are set in place and continually monitored to combat threats.
That is why the emergence of the Cloud has improved by miles on end the way we do businesses, run apps, provide services, and much more.
The Fog Rolls In: The Benefits of Fog over Cloud Computing
Cisco estimated that the amount of data collected and analyzed by the end of 2019 was at 500 zettabytes (500 trillion gigabytes). As with any system, the cloud faces technical and security risks like downtimes, data loss and leakage, and hardware failure. The most significant risk for hosting IoT systems is in business, as sending data to the cloud, doing analytics, and sending back actions to implement is not efficient for microdata transactions that cannot afford any latency. Fog computing or networking is not a separate architecture from the Cloud and does not replace Cloud computing but complements it as it gets as close to the source of information as possible.
The main difference is that the Cloud is a centralized system, while the Fog is a distributed decentralized infrastructure. Fog computing has three benefits over cloud computing: latency, security, and capacity.
Fog nodes are geographically closer to devices and users in the network, so this provides much lower latency, no downtimes, and offers instant responses to end-users. Loss of connection is also impossible due to the diverse, interconnected channels.
Fog provides heightened protection because the data travels a shorter distance in a distributed network. You also do not encounter problems with bandwidth as information is not sent all together via a single channel, but divided into portions and aggregated in various process points. High security is ensured in Fog computing because it processes data through a vast number of nodes in a complex distributed system. With Cloud computing, it is crucial to monitor your system consistently against security threats. It must be the protocol to implement increased protective measures to secure data and processes from the design, development, and maintenance of all kinds of hosted apps and services. Most cloud vendors provide added service and support, and there are also several paid and free antivirus and security products available to keep Cloud end-users at ease.
Fog computing is the go-between hardware and remote servers. It determines which information it will send to the server and which it will process locally. Fog is an intelligent gateway that offloads the Cloud by a great deal, enabling more efficient data storage, processing, and analysis. Fog also supplements the storage capacity of the cloud. Smart vehicle prototypes around the world created to secure a blueprint for the future vehicles currently generate 35G of data per hour. The secure processing of this big data can only be done locally through a safe fog computing network.
There are some drawbacks to Fog Computing as well, just like any system. For instance, it makes the system more complicated with the addition of another layer to the data processing and storage system. Added expenses come with the addition of this layer, as companies purchase edge devices, routers, hubs, and gateways. The Fog system is not scalable like the Cloud, but the convenience of having this extra layer that brings better services to end-users makes manufacturers take the extra step of investment, in the hopes of leaps in consumer satisfaction, digital dominance, and market profitability because of this technology.
The IoT industry is still continually improving and will continue requiring more excellent ways of data management, transmission, and processing. Seeing the benefits of Cloud and Fog computing, we see that both technologies do not compete with each other but complement one another greatly. End-users can get enjoy faster, better, and more secure services with this ‘marriage-made-in-heaven’ that combines, for example, the best of the Cloud’s scalability and high availability with the Fog’s low latency and zero-bandwidth issues. In the end, when end-users win, then everybody wins.