Analysis

What is Cloud Edge Computing? OpenStack community tries to explain

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With the explosive growth of IoT across the board, the discussion around edge computing is finally moving to the spotlight.

OpenStack has democratized cloud computing. It continues to expand into new use-cases that the community didn’t even envision. That does create some unwanted side-effects but the community has learned its lessons; it now treads very carefully.

OpenStack pretty much owns the private cloud and it’s now looking at one of the hottest topics these days, edge computing. But edge computing didn’t get the attention it deserved at the foundation, despite the fact that many users were already using OpenStack for their own edge computing. Beth Cohen, new products strategist at Verizon, has been delivering keynotes and sessions around OpenStack and edge computing.

That’s changing. During the press meet at the Sydney OpenStack Summit, the foundation COO, Mark Collier admitted that they need to talk more about edge computing and OpenStack. In the month of September, the foundation organized a two-day workshop to define use-cases and identify tools and architecture needed to support them.

The OSF (Open Source Foundation) Edge Computing Group captured the discussions and challenges around the cloud edge computing in a white paper titled ‘Cloud Edge Computing: Beyond the Data Center’.

“We thought we should put out a paper after the event to inform the industry about what we are working on, what we think about Edge Computing, what we think the terms means for us and what kind of activities we are involved with,” said Idiko Vansca, Ecosystem Technical Lead, OpenStack Foundation (OSF) in an interview.

The white paper aims at achieving three primary goals:

  • Cultivate a conversation around cloud edge computing, including some basic definitions, stimulating interest and engagement from the open source community.
  • Guide both the broader open source and OpenStack communities in developing tools and standards needed for broad adoption.
  • Explore how current tools, standards and architectures may need to change to accommodate this distributed cloud model.

First things first. What’s Cloud Edge Computing?

It’s difficult to define what is cloud edge computing. It’s still evolving. It means different things to different players. The paper didn’t want to give yet another definition of cloud computing. However, the paper did want to clarify the term before starting further discussions about it.

“Whenever I attend any edge computing related session one question that always pops up is ‘what do you mean by edge?”, said Vansca.

According to the paper, the most mature view of edge computing is that it is offering application developers and service providers cloud computing capabilities, as well as an IT service environment at the edge of a network.

The aim of cloud edge computing, according to the group, is to deliver compute, storage, and bandwidth much closer to data inputs and/or end users.

“New applications, services, and workloads increasingly demand a different kind of architecture, one that’s built to directly support a distributed infrastructure. New requirements for availability and cloud capability at remote sites are needed to support both today’s requirements (retail data analytics, network services) and tomorrow’s innovations (smart cities, AR/VR). The maturity, robustness, flexibility, and simplicity of cloud now need to be extended across multiple sites and networks in order to cope with evolving demands,” said the white paper.

edge-openstack

Copyright: OpenStack Foundation

“The “edge” in edge computing refers to the outskirts of an administrative domain, as close as possible to discrete data sources or end users. This concept applies to telecom networks, to large enterprises with distributed points of presence such as retail, or to other applications, in particular in the context of IoT,” said the white paper.

Role of OpenStack in Cloud Edge Computing

Even if the white paper was written by the OSF Group it’s not about OpenStack. The paper itself is not connected to either OpenStack or any other such technologies.

“The paper is really focusing on cloud computing, use cases and the commonalities between the use cases in terms of challenges and requirements that any platform needs to fulfill in order to deliver edge computing use cases and solutions out there,” said Vansca.

To showcase some of the use-cases of Cloud Edge Computing, the group tried to focus on having representation from the wide industry because edge computing is a hot topic in NFV and telecom environment use cases.

“It is really important to show that it’s [Cloud Edge Computing] not just one segment of the industry. We all basically to do similar things. When it comes to use cases and provide solutions there may not be much difference whether we’re talking about a telecom use-case or retail use case at the end of the day,” said Vansca.

The goal is to bring all these players together around common use-cases and challenges so that they can benefit from each other’s experience and work.

Interoperability around Edge Computing

When there are so many players in the industry, interoperability becomes a major concern. Interoperability has been one of the highest priorities in the foundation.

“We’re also always looking for opportunities to collaborate with a standardization body as well,” said Vansca. In the context of Cloud Computing, “ETSI NFV comes into the picture from telecom, NFV, and edge perspective,” said Vansca, “We’re also looking into collaborating with the adjacent communities and foundations to ensure the integration between different technologies to address issues and challenges that come up on the way.”

The white paper can also be seen as a call for action to encourage everyone who’s interested in this area to participate and become a part of the open collaboration.

The white paper was driven by the increasing interest as seen in the previous OpenStack Summit. It’s obvious that the upcoming OpenStack Summit will have more sessions around Cloud Edge Computing. There will be dedicated tracks for edge computing at the event and can expect the topic to appear in other tracks as well.

The OpenStack Summit also started a sub-event called Forum where users and developers gather under the same roof to complete the feedback loop. “We usually have edge related sessions during the Forum. So it’s not only presentations and panel discussions, but also actual working sessions with people who are working on or working with the software,” said Vansca.

The upcoming OpenStack Summit will certainly be the place to network and interact with players and users of edge computing.