For the past few years vendors campaigned heavily telling us all the importance of moving data to the cloud. It was such a hard-hitting effort that even some corporate pitches declared that the best CEOs just might find themselves on the chopping block if they didn’t take the necessary steps to move their data to the cloud.

Were they wrong? Is the cloud essential today? Does every company need their data in the cloud? Is the cloud secure? First and foremost, there is no question that cloud computing is very important. The opportunities for the IoT (Internet of Things) are continuing to soar at a rapid pace. Even the analyst firms are forecasting significant growth in the coming years. For example, Gartner states there will be 25 billion connected things by 2020 and IDC says there will be 28 billion IoT devices installed during the same time period.

Cloud computing provides truly low-cost computation power with the uses of large banks of centralized servers provided by such industry leaders as Amazon and Microsoft, and there are more. Typically, these cloud-based services reduce costs by taking advantage of centralized computer maintenance and management. The proliferation of IoT devices will continue and the workload on these computers will intensify and they just can’t handle it. If connected devices grow 50 billion and beyond, no single computer system will be able to manage it all, not even cloud computing.

So we have all heard about what Cisco has coined fog computing. Every time we talk about fog computing we are really talking about paradigm shifts in decisionmaking and how they are brought as close to the data as possible. That means big data solutions bring processing close to the edge of the data’s location. And that means close to where the data is generated and stops it from going to the cloud.

More specifically, we are talking about the data that originates from pumps on the manufacturing floor, sensors on a construction site, or motors on heavy equipment at a refinery, just to name a few. The real difference between the cloud and fog has to do with pushing the intelligence from the node or gateway to the edge. So, in the simplest of terms, fog computing really means that rather than hosting from a centralized cloud, these systems operate at the network ends, the edge.

What this means is everything is expedited and services are provided more immediately. As we all know decisions can be made quicker because the data is bypassing the wider Internet that is largely dependent on the carriers and moving data greater distances. But what we are seeing so far is that the cloud is still posing some data bottlenecks and ongoing security concerns. However, we have come to depend on the cloud. Going forward, more things will be pushed to the fog and the edge. That is proving to be so vital it is making realtime decisions on individual projects, which collected the data and performs higher-level processing and even greater data analysis. Go figure—who knew.

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