At Hannover Messe, the largest industrial automation and technology conference in the world, the Linux Foundation introduced a community of 50 companies working together to build an open framework focused on solving complexity on the edge of IoT networks, aiming to accelerate enterprise IoT deployments.
Given the Linux Foundation’s global standing as one of the largest open source communities in the world, it makes sense that they are the “organizing force” behind an orchestrated effort to make interoperability easier, solving for challenges that have slowed progress in manifesting the commercial value of the IoT industry, predicted to grow faster than it has over the last decade.
While billions of investment dollars have been poured into the development of a broad range of IoT components – from sensors to systems, from applications to clouds, from consumer through industrial automation – it is well known that the race to participate in this high growth market has caused widespread fragmentation and what the Linux Foundation refers to as “paralysis” in today’s announcement.
The project is not launching as a concept alone. Over 40 participants, including tech leaders Dell, Neustar, Analog Devices and Canonical, and many smaller companies and start-ups including ClearBlade, Two Bulls, Beechwoods Software, and NetFoundry, and industry organizations including the Cloud Foundry Foundation, the EnOcean Alliance, Linaro, the Object Management Group and the ULE Alliance, have helped shape this ambitious initiative, and all seem to recognize that, in order to crank up progress, issues at the growing and dispersed edge of IoT networks need to be collectively addressed.
Democratizing the IoT Edge
“The EdgeX Foundry democratizes the IoT edge in a similar manner in which NetFoundry democratizes IoT networking”, said Galeal Zino, President of NetFoundry, one of the project’s associate members. “NetFoundry is excited to partner with the Linux Foundation to help unleash the collective innovation of IoT developers, and simplify their path to deploying valuable business applications. The Linux Foundation has been wildly successful up and down the stack, from programming frameworks such as Node to networking architectures such as OpenDaylight, and we believe EdgeX Foundry will evolve to be a similar vibrant community and powerful architecture.”
Beyond attempting to establish singular standards, which has not traditionally worked in the IoT industry and others before, the EdgeX framework’s vision is to help solve for difficulties getting systems and components to play well together “by making it easy to quickly create IoT edge solutions that have the flexibility to adapt to changing business needs.” When this works, not only will development, engineering and management be simplified, but the business economics should, in turn, improve.
“Success in Internet of Things is dependent on having a healthy ecosystem that can deliver interoperability and drive digital transformation,” said Jim Zemlin, Executive Director of The Linux Foundation. “EdgeX Foundry is aligning market leaders around a common framework, which will drive IoT adoption and enable businesses to focus on developing innovative use cases that impact the bottom line.”
Plug and Play
Designed to run on any hardware or operating system with any application environment, the EdgeX framework is being designed to deliver interoperability between connected devices, applications, and services including community-developed software maintained through a certification program the Linux Foundation will manage.
The largest contribution of software to the project comes from Dell, with its FUSE source code base consisting of more than a dozen microservices and over 125,000 lines of code. Seeding a broader collective foundation, FUSE was developed with feedback from hundreds of technology providers and end users under Apache 2.0.
An earlier project, “IoTX”, is being merged into EdgeX Foundry and includes software contributions from Two Bulls, Beechwoods Software and other members. We expect to see additional announcements of code contributions by other project members over the next few months.
There is no single “standard” being contemplated, or even library of standards according to the project creators. EdgeX Foundry will be as much of a convenient marketplace of certified, interoperable components, supported by a growing community of expert developers, as it will be a project, per se.
According to Philip DesAutels, PhD Senior Director of IoT at The Linux Foundation and Executive Director of EdgeX Foundry, “EdgeX will foster an ecosystem of interoperable components from a variety of vendors, so that resources can be spent on driving business value instead of combining and integrating IoT components.”
Reducing Risk and Speeding Up ROI
“One of the key factors holding back IoT designs in the enterprise is that there are too many choices to safely and easily implement a system that will provide a return on investment in a reasonable timeframe,” said Mike Krell, Lead IoT Analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “EdgeX Foundry will fundamentally change the market dynamic by allowing enterprise IoT applications to choose from a myriad of best-in-class software, hardware and services providers based on their specific needs.”
Founding members include: Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Bayshore Networks, Beechwoods Software, Canonical, ClearBlade, CloudPlugs, Cumulocity, Davra Networks, Dell, Eigen Innovations, EpiSensor, FogHorn Systems, ForgeRock, Great Bay Software, IMS Evolve, IOTech, IoTium, KMC Controls, Kodaro, Linaro, MachineShop, Mobiliya, Mocana, Modius, NetFoundry, Neustar, Opto 22, RevTwo, RFMicron, Sight Machine, Striim, Switch Automation, Two Bulls, V5 Systems, Vantiq and ZingBox. Industry affiliate members include: Cloud Foundry Foundation, EnOcean Alliance, Mainflux, Object Management Group, Project Haystack and ULE Alliance.
Why Computing at the Edge Matters
According to a Gartner report, there will be 20.4 billion connected things in use globally by 2020. The sheer quantity of data that will be transmitted from these devices is driving adoption of edge computing, where connected devices and sensors transmit data to a local gateway device instead of sending it back to the cloud or a central data center.
Edge computing is ideal for deploying IoT applications because it allows for quicker data analytics and reduced network traffic. This is essential for applications which require localized, real-time data analysis for decision making such as factory optimization, predictive maintenance, remote asset management, building automation, fleet management and logistics.
Why Open Source at the Edge Matters
The Linux Foundation’s announcement lists these benefits:
- Enterprises can deploy IoT edge solutions quickly and easily with the flexibility to dynamically adapt to changing business needs.
- Hardware Manufacturers can scale faster with an interoperable partner ecosystem and more robust security and system management.
- Independent Software Vendors can benefit from interoperability with 3rd party applications and hardware without reinventing connectivity.
- Sensor/Device Makers can write an application-level device driver with a selected protocol once using the SDK and get pull from all solution providers.
- System Integrators can get to market faster with plug-and-play ingredients combined with their own proprietary inventions.
The Linux Foundation will establish a governance and membership structure for EdgeX Foundry to nurture a vibrant technical community. A Governing Board will guide business decisions, marketing and ensure alignment between the technical communities and members. The technical steering committee will provide leadership on the code merge and guide the technical direction of the project.
Live demonstrations of the EdgeX platform will be on display at Hannover Messe in Hannover, Germany from April 24-28, 2017. The main EdgeX demo will be at the Dell Technologies kiosk in the Industrial Internet Consortium Pavilion (Hall 8, Stand C24).
Additional EdgeX demos will be in the following member areas:
ForgeRock (Hall 8, Stand F31/1): edge security
Opto 22/Dell/Linaro (Hall 8, Stand F31): integration with Opto 22’s control and I/O system transmitting sensor information from a scale model wind turbine to EdgeX; Linaro demo of an over-the-air firmware upgrade of a wireless sensor
SAP/Dell/IOTech (Hall 7, Stand B4): ingestion of OPC-UA data from a National Instruments CompactRIO
This article originally appeared in IoT Evolution World.