With the growth of mobile broadband data traffic and the Internet of Things (IoT), connecting devices through the cloud is now commonplace. Though the cloud computing architecture works well today, it is uncertain whether or not the current infrastructure will be capable of adding billions of latency sensitive devices in the future. This expected surge in connected devices has innovative mobile operators on the hunt, searching for ways to complement the cloud.
In its latest report, ABI Research, a leader in technology market research, explores the benefits of fog networking techniques in the rise of telecom cloud services.
“The increase in connected devices presents two main challenges: the potential for unreliable communication due to network congestion and poor network connections for short-range wireless devices,” says Sabir Rafiq, Research Analyst at ABI Research. “Fog networking is a means to combat these challenges, with various telecom vendors developing their own architectures to ultimately bring the cloud closer to the end user.”
A distributed architecture, fog networking consists of multiple end-user clients or near-user edge devices that manage and operate on vast amounts of storage instead of using cloud data centers and wide area networks (WANs). It does this by enabling computing services to reside at the edge of the network as opposed to on servers in a data center.
The idea is not to replace the cloud, but rather to rely on fog networking to enhance the cloud experience by managing user data at the edge of the network. Administrators are then able to tie in analytics, security or other services directly into their cloud model.
“Fog networking leads the way for mobile operators to support a distributed telecom cloud computing market,” continues Rafiq. “At the ground level, fog networking is an excellent choice for applications in which there is a high amount of real-time data, fast turnaround results are crucial and sending large amounts of data to the cloud is seen as unnecessary and expensive.”
Fog networking affords mobile operators the opportunity to bring rich content to the end-user faster and more efficiently. Key benefits include:
- Better Data Access: Removes the need to shuffle large quantities of data to the data center
- Enhanced End User Experience: Creates an edge network that sits at numerous points around the end user, positioning services and applications closer to the end user
- Geographically Dispersed Infrastructure: Enables real-time processing of big data and analytics and offers administrators the ability to support location-based mobility demands without traversing the entire WAN
Additionally, vendors are pushing computing to the edge of the network as they step up to meet mobile operators’ performance needs. Nokia is an early adopter in this market, offering distributed edge computing via its Radio Application Cloud Server (RACS) and Liquid Applications. The company also launched its AirFrame data center solution, with the vision of providing a more flexible and distributed cloud architecture.
While some may worry that fog networking opens up its own set of security worries, research shows that this is not the case.
“Some mobile operators assume that moving services closer to the end user presents additional security concerns,” concludes Rafiq. “The reality is that more security layers are employed. This is because, instead of the data moving between the network nodes, the data moves from the Internet into the servers and onto the nodes. This means that extra firewalls and checkpoints are in place to search for malicious activity, typically making it harder for anything to sneak into the network and cause a problem.”