Keith Steele, IOTech CEO, EdgeX Foundry Board member and Technical Steering Committee (TSC) Chair gives his views on why the EdgeX Foundry project has generated so much momentum in just six months and spotlighting the importance of credible commercialization partners.
Since the April launch, the EdgeX project has evolved into a growing and vibrant ecosystem of more than 60 companies contributing to the emergence of an open, secure platform to facilitate interoperability at the IoT edge.
The project dropped its first community release, dubbed ‘Barcelona’ in October, as part of a bi-annual release roadmap established by the project TSC and recently announced an alliance with the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) to collaborate on best practices and test beds.
The next release called ‘California’ will focus on security and manageability features as well as very significant performance and footprint improvements driven by the availability of new Golang based microservices. There will be a California preview release in January with a full ‘California’ release in June 2018.
Many large technology providers are spinning up plans to adopt and end users are starting to incorporate EdgeX into their deployment roadmaps. Many POCs are also in progress.
What’s driving momentum?
First and foremost, there’s a market need. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) market is projected to grow to $195B in the next few years (source Markets and Markets) , with at least 40% IoT data stored, processed, analyzed at or near the edge (source IDC).
Secondly, there’s a technology gap as identified by the IIC’s Edge Computing Task Group, the Open Fog Consortium and many other industry-leading companies. Peter Levine from Andreessen-Horowitz has provocatively suggested that the age of edge compute is taking over the cloud.
“The current model of cloud computing is too slow. A small difference in the time it takes to refresh a machine learning model for a drone or car could be the difference between life and death. Computation will move to the edge. The same drones, cars, and IoT devices that need their models updated quickly will form a peer-to-peer network with which to distribute time-sensitive tasks…cloud servers will still be around…responsible for doing offline computation across large data sets.”
The emergence of software platforms is recognized as vital to support this new paradigm at the Edge, having a pivotal strategic role to lowering barriers to IoT adoption to the larger market prize. This means that EdgeX has hit the market at the right time to meet the growing needs for distributed computing to support the sheer scale of devices coming on steam and advanced analytics to produce business value.
The other big attraction is that it is truly open and vendor-neutral. The platform has been carefully architected to enable significant value-add around a lowest-common denominator interoperability framework, enabling companies of all sizes to innovate rather than reinvent.
EdgeX is a loosely-coupled, polyglot architecture, agnostic to silicon and operating system, the enabling microservices can be written in any programming language to run on any hardware; this level of flexibility is very important given the heterogeneous nature of IoT.
Openness is a critical success factor for scale by enabling an ecosystem of plug-and-play components that work together compared to proprietary platforms that further fragment the landscape
The EdgeX partner ecosystem is also a key factor in EdgeX momentum; the community has driven through open collaboration a well-defined roadmap, helping deliver well thought-out and relevant solutions for foundational functionality; the security working group is a notable example of this, with at least ten of the top IoT security companies on the planet working together to define EdgeX platform API requirements.
Vertical Solutions based on EdgeX are also starting to gain traction indeed Samsung is chairing a new Vertical Solutions Working Group in which end users will sponsor industry and use-case focused projects to define requirements for the core EdgeX platform and develop and deploy test beds in their respective industries.
As part of this initiative Samsung is spinning up a project for smart factories and National Oilwell Varco recently proposed one for Oil and Gas. We will see additional projects for use cases spanning Smart Cities to Buildings to Farms to make sure the foundational platform meets the needs of a wide variety of applications.
There’s also another important player in the open source ecosystem: The commercialization partner.
EdgeX is targeted at the industrial segment of the Internet of Things, many applications here are business critical requiring long lifespan, therefore a key consideration organizations face is how to leverage Open Source in a sustainable and risk-free way.
Some companies will choose to take a cut of the open source code and maybe support themselves, but many companies simply want to exploit their value-added applications and leverage EdgeX to sell infrastructure or monetize services around IIoT deployment rather than focus on supporting the foundational code base.
For this reason, many companies are prepared to pay for professional highly proactive long-term support, guaranteed roadmap evolution, influence, and specialized services on top of the open source core.
As a founding member of the EdgeX project, IOTech realized this at an early stage of project development and strived to be the key commercialization partner, helping companies to enjoy the benefits and flexibility of open source, while mitigating the risks of its use.
In addition to taking a proactive role supporting the evolution of the EdgeX open source code, IOTech is creating professionally packaged, commercially supported versions of the core EdgeX software called Edge Xpert and developing complementary licensed IP which will offer through the partner ecosystem.
In summary, the EdgeX ecosystem is growing fast and there’s clear momentum for global adoption. I don’t think that’s an accident. EdgeX has all the attributes: it’s vendor-neutral open source, it meets a real market need, and it has a modern polyglot microservices architecture. At the same time, it is backed by some of the largest IoT players and vendors in the global IoT market. Meanwhile, it has vendors like IOTech that can take the risk out of commercial adoption.