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March 20, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 11:13am

Everything you need to know about Cisco’s Fog Computing Platform

Five things you need to know about Cisco’s IOx operating system.

By Amy-Jo Crowley

Cisco rolled out a new operating system it claims will help businesses better manage larger amounts of data collected from the Internet of Things (IoT).

Released in January 2014, the IOx platform equips Cisco devices including routers, switches and IP cameras with applications to store and process data closer to where they are connected (sensors on an oil pipeline, for example) instead of having to push that data back over the network and into a data centre.

CBR tells you five things you need to know about it.

1. The aim

Cisco is hoping the kit will attract customers from all segments across industries as well as app developers looking to develop industry-specific applications and interfaces for the utilities, manufacturing and transportation sectors at reduced costs.

As 50 billion objects become connected worldwide by 2020, it’s often a waste of time and bandwidth to process large quantities of data in the cloud, according to Guido Jouret, VP and general manager at Cisco’s Internet of Things Unit.

The IOx platform aims to deal with this by delivering it to the edge of the network instead.

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"The network edge is really saying instead of back in the home office, the headquarters, the data centres, it’s right on the lorry, close to your home, right on a street corner with a pulled up router that is the network edge," he explained in an interview with CBR.

"The more decisions that get made there, the more the applications become intelligent."

2. The benefits

The IOx architecture integrates the Linux operating system with Cisco’s own Internetworking operating system (IOS) onto a single networked device, allowing applications to operate and respond to data created by IoT.

"All of our routers essentially run two operating systems, one for communication and one for computation. By adding Linux to our routers, we turn them into small computers that essentially have the ability to run these third party applications easily," said Jouret.

Fog promises to help devices handle critical data in places where access to the internet is difficult, slow, expensive or suddenly lost.

In particular, it would monitor vital sensors in real time but transmit only select or all of the data over the satellite connection.

"It’s a simple application that would say, depending on the priority of the message, I’ll either send it via 3G or I’ll buffer it," said Jouret, pointing to a few example of how IOx could work.

"Things on oil rigs, out in the fields or moving in trains, they will be spending part of the time in a disconnected mode. So you need to create the capability for it to intelligently store it until such a time that it’s connected and then transfer it," he explained.

He added that IOx could also help IoT devices speed up data analysis at reduced costs.

"You have to pay to send data over 3G or a service provider connection, and if something urgent has been detected, like a lorry breaking down, then it’s worth bringing up that 3G connection and sending the data across even if it’s going to cost you a couple of pennies. But if something uninteresting needs to be recorded then keep it."




3. Competitors

The platform could put Cisco in competition HP, which has routers with cloud-based solutions on servers, according to Gartner analyst Akshay Sharma. The firm recently announced a partnership with Intel subsidiary Wind River to create carrier-grade servers that could help telecoms handle similar demands.

Alcatel Lucent also has an edge router in the 7750 and an SDN controller in Nuage, with Cloudband for network-function virtualisation (NFV), and has also virtualised many mobile core functions such as VoLTE (voice over LTE) applications.

4. Challenge

Sharma said there are areas of concern about interoperability across the multiple vendor solutions, as well as privacy and security for various players.

He told CBR: "The interplay between Cloud and Fog…a newer term called Cloudbursting will occur as people dynamically ‘drag-and-drop’ between closer to the edge clouds (Fog) and the large megaplexes (Cloud)…and how this is managed, controlled, made secure, billed for, and have service assurance to see SLAs are adhered to is a challenge"

5. The business model

Cisco IOx will be available at the end of April as a software upgrade for Cisco’s 819 and 1240 routers. Additional new features and support will be added over the next few years.

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