The new EdgeX Foundry project aims to unify the IoT marketplace, but with so many groups already having tried and never quite succeeded, could the backing of the Linux Foundation really make a difference?
IoT: The struggle is real
Foundries, open computing frameworks, Special Interest Groups (SIGs), industry bodies and coalitions come and go, but if the proliferation, fragmentation and confusion that has beset the growth of cloud computing has taught us anything, it is that even the best-laid plans for interoperability can end up in a bit of a pickle.
Aiming to bring some unification to the still-fragmented IoT landscape this month is the Linux Foundation, with its new EdgeX Foundry open source software project.
As the non-profit consortium dedicated to fostering the growth of Linux and promoting standardization and collaboration around it, the foundation is (arguably) well-practiced in driving the adoption of higher level technical standards.
Out on the edge
Aiming to build a common framework for IoT computing, EdgeX Foundry is setting out to build a community of companies offering plug-and-play components that can, in theory, be combined to create IoT software engineering systems for the coder/programmer community working on IoT edge computing projects.
In terms of form and function, EdgeX Foundry is described as a vendor-neutral, open source project, dedicated to sharing an ecosystem of interoperable ‘components’.
Solution engineering shortcuts
Crucially here, we are using the term ‘components’ to refer to discrete, distinct and defined sub-application blocks of computing code that can be classified into smaller sub-application chunks and then segmented further for onward reuse, automation and post-production deployment.
In terms of software codebase architecture planning, components can provide faster ‘solution engineering’ options, where custom-tuned functions (or additional security layers) are not necessarily needed.
If a total ‘solution build’ requires a repeatable function, such as a calculator, data-stream capture class or computational algorithm, then component-centric computing options can provide an efficient means of total system development ahead of final software delivery.
The Linux Foundation has said that it is developing EdgeX Foundry to use existing connectivity standards together with a marketplace of interoperable developer value-add elements.
According to Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin, widespread fragmentation and the lack of a common IoT solution framework are hindering broad adoption and stalling IoT market growth.
“The goal of EdgeX Foundry is to build a flexible, platform-independent, highly-scalable and industrial-grade open source edge software platform supported by a rich ecosystem of community-developed components,” said Zemlin.
“Designed to run on edge hardware such as routers, gateways and servers, the EdgeX platform can quickly and easily deliver interoperability between connected devices, applications, sensors and services, across a wide range of use cases.”
Dell contributes Project FUSE
Although coming from a historical base of hardware specialism and with little following among the developer community, this particular project also welcomes Dell.
For its part, Dell is contributing its Project FUSE source code under Apache 2.0, consisting of more than a dozen microservices and over 125,000 lines of code.
Started in July 2015, Project FUSE was built to attempt to enable developers to build proprietary products and value-added services on top of an open foundation.
“One of the key factors holding back IoT designs in the enterprise is that there are too many choices to safely and easily implement a system that will provide a return on investment in a reasonable timeframe,” said Mike Krell, lead IoT analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.
“EdgeX Foundry will fundamentally change the market dynamic by allowing enterprise IoT applications to choose from a myriad of best-in-class software, hardware and services providers based on their specific needs.”
Read more: Interoperability is the lifeblood of the IoT
Will this project make a difference?
This is a tough one to call.
Looking at it one way: No, upbeat platitudes from analysts promising a ‘fundamental change’ are almost certainly unfounded at this stage.
Looking at it another way: Yes, the industry needs a new platform-agnostic, wide-ranging governance and technical steering committee to drive home solution sub-componentry of this kind as it seeks to start creating IoT software that connects to the back end a whole lot better.
Maybe, because the EdgeX platform is architected to operate on any hardware, operating system or application environment for maximum scale, it can provide enough application-level device drivers (within each chosen selected protocol) to mean that developers start to see plug-and-play ingredients actually emerging and ready to deploy within proprietary IoT software solutions.
So, for now at least, let’s imagine the IoT glass is potentially half full and drink to this news.
Read more: Why the IoT needs ‘open & exposed’ devices