Cisco Launches 'Fog Computing' Platform For Internet Of Things

Cisco is rolling out a new platform it says will help businesses better handle the massive amounts of data being spurred from the emerging Internet of Things.

The new platform, called IOx, leverages what Cisco calls "fog computing," or technology that drives distributed computing capabilities to the edge of the network. The idea, according to Cisco, is that IOx will equip Cisco edge devices such as routers and IP cameras with applications that let them manage and process data themselves, instead of having to push that data back over the network and into a data center or cloud.

"Fog [computing] is a three-layer architecture where we can move intelligence out to the edge," said Todd Baker, head of the IOx framework at Cisco, San Jose, Calif. "IOx is really taking this fog vision that Cisco has had for a long time and making it real."

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Because IOx lets data be processed at the network edge -- or as close as possible to the actual data source -- it helps organizations better manage the mounds of data that are expected to come with the Internet of Things, Baker said. It's also a less-expensive and less-bandwidth-intensive option than moving all that data to an existing cloud environment.

The Internet of Things -- or the growing network of everyday "things" that use an Internet connection to communicate with one another -- is starting to shake up the networking and overall IT market in a major way. Research firm Gartner, for its part, said it expects the Internet of Things to spark "the beginning of a new era" in which billions of smart, connected devices will sprout up from industries ranging from health care to retail to transportation.

The economic implications, Gartner estimated, are enormous, with the total economic value-add from the Internet of Things hitting $1.9 trillion by 2020.

Cisco has been bullish on its Internet of Things projections. The networking giant said it expects there to be 50 billion connected devices by 2020, a number it added is likely "conservative." Cisco CEO John Chambers also said at this year's Consumer Electronics Show that the Internet of Everything -- or a network of not just connected "things," but people and processes, as well -- represents a potential $19 trillion opportunity between the public and private sectors combined.

Bill Smeltzer, CTO of Focus Technology Solutions, a Seabrook, N.H.-based solution provider, said he expects the Internet of Things to drive new opportunities for Cisco partners, especially as "everything under the sun" becomes connected to the Internet. He also said he expects to see a new generation of niche vendors emerge around the Internet of Things.

"There are going to be opportunities for sure," Smeltzer said. "Cisco's examples of traffic lights and other things make sense, but it also appears niche players will create proprietary solutions for specific needs. This ... all falls under the big data future."

The IOx platform, according to Cisco, combines the open-source Linux operating system with Cisco's own IOS network operating system onto a single networked device, allowing applications to run and respond instantly to data created by the Internet of Things.

Cisco highlighted several use cases for IOx, such as running energy load-balancing applications directly on a network edge device that can automatically switch to alternative energy sources such as wind or solar, based on energy availability or cost.

IOx capabilities will first be available on Cisco industrial routers this spring, Cisco said, and the company is working with technology partners to develop other IOx-based solutions down the line.