Written by Gavin Lu, LF Edge member, EdgeX Foundry China Project Lead and R&D Director in the VMware Office of the CTO
Exploration and Practices of Edge Computing
Cloud computing and edge computing
After nearly ten years of rapid growth, cloud computing has become a widely accepted and widely used centralized computing method in various industries around the world. In recent years, with the rise of “new infrastructure construction” such as big data, artificial intelligence, 5G and Industrial Internet, the demand for edge computing has soared. No matter from the perspective of telecom carriers, public cloud service providers, or enterprise users in various industries, they hope to create an edge computing solution that is most suitable for their scenario in some form.
Cloud edge collaboration
Whether it is Mobile Edge Computing (MEC), Cloud Edge, or factory-side Device Edge, users want to be able to have an edge computing platform that cooperates with the cloud platform. Cloud edge collaboration is not only about opening up the data channel at run-time, but also the overall collaboration from the perspective of the entire life cycle management and the full-stack technology. In addition to the highly fragmented edge computing field of various industry platforms, it is undoubtedly more challenging to get through full-stack integration with multiple cloud computing platforms.
The dilemma of edge computing
At the bottom of the edge computing platform is the part about infrastructure, or device management. Due to the natural characteristics of the edge computing model, available device resources usually have considerable constrains. Whether it is from hardware specifications such as CPU, memory, storage, network, accelerator, or from OS, application framework and other software specifications, they are far from comparable to cloud computing platforms or even ordinary PCs. On the other hand, edge applications running on devices often have very different requirements for CPU and OS due to historical reasons and vendor heterogeneity. No matter from the cost of space, time, capital and other aspects, it adds more pressure.
Containerization and virtualization
In order to achieve cloud-edge collaboration, solve the problems of device management and edge application management, the most common practice in various industries now is to run containerized applications on devices and managed by cloud platforms. Its advantage is to make full use of the proven technology, platform, personnel and skills in cloud computing. The disadvantage is that it is more suitable for modern edge applications, and it is more difficult to implement containerization for legacy systems with different OSes. The representative of containerization is the EdgeX Foundry edge computing framework hosted under the LF Edge umbrella.
For legacy systems with different OSes, the realistic way is to package the application in a virtual machine and run it on the hypervisor platform on the device side. Virtualization platforms for edge applications may be further integrated with containerized platforms to create an unified operating mechanism across OSes. For example, the ACRN project under the Linux Foundation, and the EVE project under LF Edge are virtualization platforms specifically for devices.