Moving to a More “Open” Environment

Discover how edge computing and open source software are important contributions to the successful implementation of IoT at your company.

Dick Slansky, senior analyst, ARC Advisory Group
Dick Slansky, senior analyst, ARC Advisory Group

The expansion and proliferation of open source organizations such as the Linux Foundation and the OpenStack Foundation attest to how much open source projects have become mainstream.

The overall architecture of the digital transformation and the technologies, products, services, and business strategies that define it are gelling. ARC observes some distinct delineations in this digital transformation environment:

  • The cloud enterprise infrastructure of platforms, servers, and networking;
  • The edge computing environment of private cloud servers, networked appliances, gateways, and firewalls;
  • The far edge of IoT endpoints, intelligent devices, and automation and controls.

Much of the openness in these areas is being accomplished through open source projects and by the suppliers and users that are developing solutions for the Industrial IoT.

To operate successfully in this landscape, industrial organizations require an understanding of open source software’s benefits, limitations, and how to leverage the value proposition of an open source development environment. For the most part, open source software and the Industrial IoT development community adhere to the open standards movement that evolved along with the software. Open standards are often a requirement for doing business; open source, in turn, is a choice made by users. 

Edge architecture and open source frameworks
An IoT solution is an amalgamation of hardware, software, and networking capabilities. Edge computing is required for virtually any IoT solution to succeed. Various open source frameworks are available in the IoT space. Cloud service providers also offer rich services for IoT solutions and edge computing.

Data is the heart of an IoT system and should be processed as quickly as possible to allow the system to operate efficiently and as designed. The huge amounts of data generated from IoT devices or sources can easily consume the available network bandwidth and require excess data storage. It is crucial to aggregate and digitize the data at the periphery of the system, which can then be communicated to back-end systems. Today, with the emergence of AI (artificial intelligence) algorithms embedded in computing hardware, processing can take place at the edge, significantly reducing the need to transport data to edge computing server layers.

Edge computing handles this, helping reduce the amount of data transported across cloud computing infrastructure. These edge computing systems reside close to the IoT devices/data sources and enforce the required security. A major benefit of edge computing is that it improves the time to action, reduces response time, and optimizes the use of network resources. It also helps reduce latency and network bottlenecks. 

Driving IoT implementation 
Unlike proprietary software, open source technologies are completely customizable and scalable. Because the code is open, it can be adjusted and modified to the business’s needs. Assuming the necessary toolkit is provided, open source software (OSS) allows developers and enterprises to move between different frameworks without complications.

With a great number of automated protocols and functions, open source frameworks can save time for IoT engineers and tech professionals. While data privacy and security are primary concerns of any business, companies need to be aware of some remaining challenges when using OSS. These include: 

  • “Open” means free access, i.e., contributors are not always specialists;
  • Maintenance security can be vulnerable;
  • Data privacy can involve legal issues;
  • Some of the better open source development platforms can be expensive;
  • The set of available standard features don’t always fit all business needs; and
  • Open source IoT platforms are not for the casual developer.

Computing at the edge
Currently, the Linux Foundation and the OpenStack Foundation serve as umbrella groups for a wide range of OSS industrial IoT projects. Taken together, the Linux Foundation and the OpenStack Foundation OSS market is huge. The development cost of the top 100 Linux Foundation projects exceeds $16 billion with one million developers enrolled in OSS training. The OpenStack market is projected to reach $7.7 billion by 2023. Computing at the edge will drive much of the OSS market, with IoT architectures, edge devices, intelligent edge processors, and edge computing server layers defining the edge environment. OSS will provide the flexibility, the broad developer base, and a single purpose to improve and enhance the software. The goal of the Linux Foundation is to bring all edge computing players under one umbrella with a single technology to create a software stack that unifies a fragmented edge market around a common, open vision for the future of the industry.

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